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Rural UK Broadband ISP Gigaclear Sees Exit of Top Directors UPDATE

Thursday, Mar 7th, 2024 (9:06 am) - Score 7,080
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Abingdon-based broadband provider Gigaclear, which has so far deployed their gigabit speed full fibre (FTTP) network to cover 500,000 rural premises (430k RFS) in 26 counties of England, yesterday saw the surprise termination of both their CEO, Gareth Williams, and CFO, Ian Wade, as Directors. But there was also a new appointment.

Gigaclear, which is also home to 80,000 customers, is principally owned by Infracapital, together with Equitix and Railpen. The company previously had investment commitments estimated to be worth up to around £1.1bn (here), but at the end of last year they also secured a new £1.5bn debt facility (here) and have since won the £16.6m Project Gigabit rollout contract for East Gloucestershire (here).

NOTE: The network operator currently holds an ambition to cover “over” 1 million premises with their FTTP broadband network by 2027. Meanwhile, Infracapital also owns or has stakes in WightFibre, Neos Networks, Fibrus and Ogi.

However, it’s not unusual for major investment deals (like that debt facility) to be followed by changes of senior leadership, which might help to explain what happened yesterday. A quick look at Gigaclear’s records on the Companies House website show the termination of two long-time (since 2019) Directors, Gareth Williams (CEO) and Ian Wade (CFO), on 6th March 2024 (the resignations themselves occurred on 28th Feb 2024).

Companies often issue a public statement before major changes of senior leadership occur, so this one came as a bit of a surprise. The records also show the appointment of Nathan Rundle as Director, which apparently took place on 14th February 2024 (only reported via companies house yesterday). Nathan is currently Gigaclear’s COO and the documentation for his appointment states his “occupation” as “CEO” (i.e. the newly promoted boss).

ISPreview reached out to Gigaclear for a comment earlier this morning and hope to report back soon.

UPDATE 2:15pm

Gigaclear has just sent us information that outlines the details of a planned CEO transition that is intended to take place by the start of April 2024. Nathan Rundle is confirmed to succeed Gareth Williams as CEO of Gigaclear, and Gareth will remain as an advisor to the business until the end of June 2024 to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities.

Ian Wade, CFO of Gigaclear, will also leave the business on the same timescale and Paul Evans, currently Financial Director, will continue to lead the company in the next stage of its growth supported by Ian through to end June 2024. An external search for Ian’s long term successor has commenced. The update also mentions that the operator is now close to 100,000 customers.

Stephen Nelson, Chairman of Gigaclear, said:

“On behalf of everyone at Gigaclear and its shareholders, I’d like to place on record our thanks and appreciation to both Gareth and Ian for their dedication and leadership over the past five years. Both of them have played a key role in shaping our plans for future growth, and they leave a business that has been transformed from an early-phase player into the leading rural fibre-to-the home operator. They have achieved this with unfailing professionalism and deserve our sincere thanks. I am also delighted that in Nathan, who has been the architect of the company’s construction and roll-out capacity over the same period, we have the natural and planned successor as CEO.”

Gareth Williams, CEO of Gigaclear, said:

“I am so proud of the team we have built and the position Gigaclear is in today. We have achieved a great deal and now is a natural time to move on. Having worked closely with Nathan, I have complete confidence in him to lead the business into the future.”

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
36 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    500k premesis, 430k RFS, 80k customers are some interesting numbers. Gigaclear doesn’t seem to be in rapid build so the 70k build to RFS lag seems quite high.

    I’d hope for more customers, early build Gigaclear should have extremely high take-up where the only other option is BT ADSL, later builds typically had at least VDSL as an option.

    Integration into another ISP will be interesting, early builds are P2P with remote cabinets while later ones are Adtran XGS PON.

    Directors all leaving suggests takeover (nexfibre again?) or being sold off to another investor like Trooli.

    1. Avatar photo anon says:

      Expecting an infra capital portfolio merger in the near future; Fibrus struggling, Ogi suspended builds and made redundancies. All likely to be bundled up with Wightfibre and Gigaclear and sold off / merged. So many duplicate network operations and back offices, each building out national networks to pick up peering & transit in London DCs when this could be centralised across the group. At least Fern seem ahead of the game in terms of mergers, waiting for infra capital to make their next move.

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The £1.5bn debt facility could certainly support such a move.

    3. Avatar photo Matt says:

      I guess the RFS to premises passed bit requires some level of interpretation. I know that Gigaclear are actively building in my area but their build partner is noticeably slower than Openreach. I don’t know if this is because of planning, PIA difficulties or something else but it would indicate a lag between RFS and premises passed, if they’re included committed addresses in their total premises count.

      Anyway, can’t wait for them to go live at my address so I can ditch Openreach!

    4. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @anon possibly, I’d expect Fibrus (in Northern Ireland) and WightFibre (relatively self contained) to remain independent. Ogi looks to be doing somewhat OK with Gigaclear being the problem child.

      @Mark I don’t think a merger would beed much debt.

      @Matt a lag is normal but a substantial one is an altnet struggling to complete builds, suggesting managerial or cash flow issues.

    5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Less than 20% take up when they are (like Alex A says) the only show in town seems quite poor, especially when their build cost (due to the rural areas they specialise in) is likely to be relatively high. You would have to question the accuracy of that 430K RFS number, especially in the light of these recent departures.

  2. Avatar photo Roger says:

    Alex A – how is Gigaclear the problem child?

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      It had a few expensive builds in early years, some were as high as £3000 (yes, thousand) per prem. Gigaclear will still be saddled with this debt.

      Their lag between built and RFS is a lot and doesn’t include what’s current in build. Altnets really need to complete their builds ASAP so it starts paying off, too long and customers who were interested have gone back into Openreach contracts or another altnet (or Openreach FTTP) has showed up.

  3. Avatar photo UK failure says:

    I wouldn’t enter into a 24 month contract with these alt net cowboys. I would hate to thing of the build quality and the audit of these networks.

    way to many hands involved! this should have been an national roll out mirrored across the country.

    [admin note: removed offensive words]

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Should have done what France did. Lines back from the premises to the cabinets as a regulated monopoly with fixed pricing, then the various networks cabled to the cabinet and when a customer changed supplier it was a matter of unplugging from 1 companies network and then plugging into the new network.

    2. Avatar photo Roger says:

      Uninformed nonsense @alexA but thats what we come to expect from the comments section.

    3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @Roger wrong reply but anyway, care to explain what is nonsense?

      The RFS numbers are publishes in thsi artie. I’m not saying the £3000 per prem is every build (it’s a small amount of their network) but its still their debt and is public knowledge as published here https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/02/gigaclear-to-complete-unfinished-builds-in-devon-and-somerset.html

      @Big Dave agreed.

    4. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      *published in this article

  4. Avatar photo John Irvine says:

    ISP Review really should not be allowing anonymous commentary, especially when it is derogatory. @UK Failure, Altnets are no shit show and you have them to thank for BT Openreach begrudgingly rolling out full-fibre having lobbied government for years promoting G.Fast as the best solution.

    Gigaclear’s customer numbers are actually very good at this stage in the company lifecycle. It takes time to acquire customers and they are acquiring customers at a rate of knots. As are all Infracapital’s companies.

    Fern’s companies, on the other hand, with their wholesale focussed model, were maybe not. On someone’s comment on Fern’s integration of their assets – ask them now if they still think the integration of their various assets was a good idea as they now realise the true cost of integration – it costs more in the short term to integrate and integration activities are a huge distraction for management and employees from the job in hand.

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      John Irvine of Wightfibre I presume? Nice to have you here 🙂 .

      I think ISPr’s comment section is good and it can be a good place for discussion. Though posts should avoid comments like “cowboys” and should have some substance behind them, preferably hard numbers.

      Gfast was a complete waste of time, remember when BT was proposing FTTdp? Running fibre to the pole and putting a micro-dslam on top, its madness to me.

      I presume through the Infracapital link you have a better breakdown of takeup. I’m still skeptical of it, Gigaclear’s early builds should have very high takeup so more recent ones I’d expect to be bringing the average down.

      I can’t see integration between all of the Infracapital companies, Wightfibre is going great and is successful as a separate unit, and Fibrus is mostly Northern Ireland though with a small UK patch. Ogi and Gigaclear have very different access technologies so I can’t see many (or any) savings.

      Fern Trading’s companies all used Adtran gear and made a lot of sense for their goal of a single wholesale platform, though with the recent Cuckoo customer sell off it doesn’t look like its going brilliantly for them.

    2. Avatar photo Sam says:

      Did Nikki Haley end her shambolic presidential run yesterday in order to censor UK internet

      As wrong as BT fanboys are, they should be allowed to say whatever they want. This way people can see how wrong they are and provide counter arguments. Nothing even wrong with a cowboy, certainly infinitely better than the modern day soyboy

      Integrating is the better solution if done correctly as it allows for more specialist staff (or for the existing one to be less idle), better systems (rumors about a company using pen and paper to plan in 2024…), less overhead, etc.

      Although only time will tell if the companies that merge perform better than the ones that are separated

    3. Avatar photo UK Failure says:

      Very nice John, your opinion greater than everyone else’s is it then? then proceed to point the finger at BT? Everyone gives BT and the rest a hard time but can’t talk about alt nets, get over yourself.

      If UK government wanted something done they would have simply as that. Look at HS2. I don’t think BT should have been privatised myself but
      everything in this country it has.

      Alt nets are just poor from what ive seen working at them. just living off the dream someone will buy them out and if dominate an area, then we have an asset…

      Some questionable build networks which can’t seem to deliver true stability and speed, tech support… let’s send out another router… lol.

      and the VOIP services lol.. don’t get me started.

      The consumer is the one losing out unfortunately or in my opinion being lied to. But it’s not my money so who cares.

    4. Avatar photo Vince says:

      @John

      Back in the real world, there are many altnets who are a total shambles, and just because you are CEO of one doesn’t mean you can speak with authority for the industry as a whole. It is a complete fiasco and a mess.

      It’s also total nonsense that you think altnets ‘pushed’ Openreach to roll out fibre – they had plans to a long time ago and had been – it was going to happen regardless.

      One of the biggest problems now is that we have many varying options, but not at once typically – so if only an altnet has rolled out, your choice might be ‘fast but without some functionality, features, services, and expensive’ or ‘slower services and lots of choice’. That isn’t actually a great end result for consumers.

      For all the faults of Openreach (and there is a very very long list), the one advantage of having a model where you have commonality of infrastructure and then a choice of providers and thus pricing, services etc is that consumers have more real choice on a level playing field.

      As I’m sure you know, other than niche players – for example B4RN, I expect the vast majority of the altnets to disappear (complete with the relentless hassle it creates in time and we’ll end up with a consolidated setup – much like the cable days where we ultimately ended up with Virgin Media.

      Since you mention Fern, I will agree with you there – but they were never really ‘wholesale’ focused – they wish – they are at least in the Jurassic and AllPoints versions, a complete shower to deal with. Unreliable, half-arsed at everything, and don’t offer anything close to a wholesale model – no proper way to have connections that don’t use them for the peering/transit and just handover etc, no IPv6 support on most of the brands, very limited resilience, very limited peering and transit, very disorganised on any faults or customer service issues… the list goes on.

      Actually, they’re a really good example of a bad altnet setup – or as is, multiple altnets that are now desperately trying to consolidate which is just another mess happening in front of us.

      Altnets are not some magic fix to a problem, they didn’t create the tidal waves you think – but they did and are creating them – but just not all for good reasons.

    5. Avatar photo Anon says:

      @AlexA – Just to say not all Fern’s altnets use Adtran – Jurassic is Nokia (OLTs, ONTs and DWDM), having started off with Huawei.

      Though this may change….

  5. Avatar photo Jan says:

    Personal experience has been poor. Kept pushing the blame back to kellys on the install when it was gigaclear at the cabinet that had the problem. Then a further 3 days downtime for a failed change at the cabinet. If the competition to the altnets wasn’t so expensive they’d need to up their game.

    1. Avatar photo Mars says:

      In my area I know one of the contractors was rubbish, because the other contractor (NOT Gigaclear) stated so. They had to get a whole new team in to carry on and fix the previous work. So it isn’t always Gigaclear who are at fault, they don’t hire contractors to mess it up.

    2. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      Thing is, managing your contractors properly is a key part of doing a build. “Nuffink to do wiv us guv” won’t wash.

      Especially to your Investors.

  6. Avatar photo Danny says:

    I worked for Gigaclear for just over three years and found them to be a great company to work for. Gareth was a very personable CEO too, I wish him well, same with Nathan as he steps into the role too.
    They have some really talented people and everyone there wanted to do the right thing and had great values instilled. I certainly never met any cowboys there.

    Some comments around the speed of build may not take into account that GC build predominately to rural locations – up until recently – so this would be expected. They were really challenging locations, against the issues with conservation areas, long runs between properties too.
    The cost per prem past that was high (c3k mentioned in a previous post) was due to BDUK agreed contracts that predated Gareth in the business too. I am sure that they have addressed this with the commercially funded builds since completing the BDUK works. If they had their time again, they may have read the small print better! That being said, it gave GC area’s to build into and also gave me a road back into this sector.

    They always came across as a well backed company that knew what they wanted to achieve in the alt-net space. I can only go on how I found the company as an employee, but for me they have a team of people that work really well together and want to provide an excellent service.
    I am sure some may disagree, however the rural build was in such a challenging environment, with all the other utilities being served overhead or not at all – septic tanks for waste – to get ultra fast broadband took a huge effort!

    I know my post is on the human side of GC and not so much the commercial, but that is what made it a great place to work.

    1. Avatar photo anon says:

      great well balanced comment Danny!

    2. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Great comment, sounds like they are good bosses. Hopefully the new CEO and company does well.

  7. Avatar photo Ian Williams says:

    I wouldn’t touch these charlatans with a bargepole. They dug up all the roads and pavements in my village, added their infrastructure – in several places on people’s property they had no permission for – then refused to connect half the village. We had to get the local MP involved to try and force them back, to which they replied “we have no plans to return and complete the connections”. Even people who signed up on day one were shafted. They have the monopoly on fast internet here, but refuse to connect the people that want it, while the rest of us have to struggle with sub 10mb speeds. The lucky few report speeds of 900mb.

    1. Avatar photo Dave Webster. says:

      What are you doing?
      If everything you put is the truth, then just setup a tower and start putting up microwave links.

      Or stop messing about with red tape and run your own last mile cabling.

      So many reasonable cost options available to you if you get creative.
      And especially if people can turn a blind eye to Saturday morning workers running cables to your “GC pop”.

    2. Avatar photo Me says:

      Perhaps your first sentence highlights why they left. Consumers making official complaints about them building on their properties, I’d love to know in what way, without permission. So to save the legal hassle they can and have just left. No laws forcing stay and install a network to the rest of the village.

  8. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    “Take your partners for the merger and takeover waltz” . . . who would have guessed this would be the likely outcome of following the “One-man-and-his-dog” schema for initial (Under) capitalisation . . everybody, apparently, apart from OFCOM and HMG that granted the licenses.

    Boardroom golden hellos and Goodbyes first,(As things are scaled-up the hard way to the correct sizing) with the customer paying, and customer service last. Well played the corporate class.

  9. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    “Light Regulation” is rubbish . . utilities, central and local government contracting, Post Office and now telecoms.

    The argument (Blackmail) the financiers use is “If regulation isn’t light we’re take our capital elsewhere” . . from the various reports posted above . . . the UK consumer should notice the difference ?

    And they were worried about Huawei kit in the UK telecoms system . . . . .look again . . . the enemy’s within.

  10. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Just another way of maintaining Inequalty UK well enough into the 21st Century… From “Sick man of Europe” to “Laughing stock of the World” in 50 years… What an achievement.!

    I suppose this penny-ante method of introducing FTP was deliberately adopted so as to keep the Foreign Competition big boys out and deny them the abundant fruits…. It being the only UK utility privatisation where long-term assets would outweigh liabilities and where income growth was forecast to well exceed inflation.. And that it also completes the social control pentagon…

  11. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Some of the installation cock-ups might be avoided if more of the contractors’ men had complete mastery of the English Language and intended to become permanent residents… But that seems to be out-of-fashion at the moment on these projects, HS2, the new nucleur power station in Somerset etc .. There’s more chance of finding an English national in Pret-a-manger

  12. Avatar photo 1000XP says:

    There will be a consolidation of the different alt-nets, it’s inevitable.

    However, this does not mean it’s all going tits up immediately, Alt-nets occupy about a 1/3 of the UK fibre market. Gigaclear are a big part of that market share and they are particularly niche with a lot of their premises being rural ( areas your beloved Openreach did not give a F to cover ), they 100% have value regardless of what you guys say.

    So many in this comment section are riding Openreach so hard it’s actually pathetic, a monopoly/duopoly is NEVER good for consumers. Stop being bitter and saying how much better you would be able to run things because if push came to shove you would not have the slightest clue.

    I for one would not root for a companies demise, what a pathetic life.

  13. Avatar photo Mhoam says:

    In my village Gigaclear’s contractors are ripping up the pavements, not finishing them off properly and closing roads affecting the important bus services. All this is leaving a bad impression with its potential customers. This is exacerbated by being nearly two years behind OR with their FTTP offerings.
    If they are following OR into many other rural areas that would explain their take-up numbers as those villagers who were ready to invest in FTTP would have already done so

  14. Avatar photo Afourteen says:

    In my home village GC are ‘Cherry Picking’ doing only easy fits having come in with big promises to connect every property in the village. A group of 5 houses outside the village envelope where 4 out of the five signed up with them as soon as it was offered have been conveniently forgotten about. The ground works they have done outside of the OR duct work has been finished off competently; The most difficult to deal with was their groundworks people working in holes overnight waking or disturbing residents sleep. The customers that did sign up and have been supplied with service seem to be happy apart from being 4 to 6 months later than promised for service. Whether those customers will be as happy in 18 months time when the price goes up to similar to BT/OR levels be interesting to see.

    1. Avatar photo Lee B says:

      We’ve seen this in our villages as well. Their surveyors are doing digital surveys (looking at Google Maps) and are guessing the pot to DP routes and getting it all wrong and blocking many installations at the survey stage. It really needs them to bolster their surveying teams to speed up rollouts.

      They quoted me £5000 to install at my property because of the cement driveway, however the pot was in the middle of the lawn to allow for the cable to be dug into the turf in a straight line, delayed the installation by 45 days and was only changed when I provided images directly to the Gigaclear HQ as their 3rd party surveyor wasn’t attending the property, just kept insisting that they couldn’t install.

      Once installed the service is as advertised, only set back is their constant delay of rolling out their IPv6 network, which was supposed to be live early in 2024, however it’s now looking at the Summer at the earliest, yet Squirrel Internet that use Gigaclear already offer it.

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