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Rural UK Full Fibre Altnet ISPs County Broadband and Truespeed Likely to Merge

Monday, Jul 1st, 2024 (9:30 am) - Score 2,080
Truespeed-2023-Van-on-Rural-Road

Several credible sources have now informed ISPreview that two well established alternative network providers – County Broadband and Truespeed, both of which have been rolling out gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) lines across remote rural parts of England for several years, are allegedly preparing to announce a merger agreement.

At present Truespeed, which is mostly focused upon serving rural premises in parts of Devon, Wiltshire and Somerset, has already covered over 100,000 premises RFS (up from 75k in May 2023) and they’re home to over 21,000 customers. The operator originally held an “ambitious” overall target of reaching 500,000 properties by the end of 2026, but that may have taken a backseat after last year’s job losses and build slowdown (here).

NOTE: Truespeed is funded by a total investment of £175m from Aviva Investors, most of which has already been committed to physical builds. County Broadband is similarly supported by an investment of £146m from Aviva.

Meanwhile, County Broadband has been busy rolling out their own FTTP network across rural parts of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk in England (i.e. they’ve been building to over 250 villages, but we haven’t had any detail on premises passed or customer totals). The operator once held a similar ambition of reaching 500,000 premises by the end of 2027, but that too suffered a setback last year after they confirmed redundancies (here).

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Both network operators are thus known to have been under many of the same strains as other players in the wider UK market, which typically stems from issues related to rising build costs, high interest rates (i.e. harder to secure fresh investment) and the difficulties of growing consumer take-up in such a competitive market. The situation has already resulted in a fair bit of consolidation among rival networks, with more expected to follow.

Suffice to say that we’ve long been hearing industry whispers that Truespeed and County Broadband would be the next to merge, although the volume has recently increased, with several credible sources now indicating to ISPreview that a formal agreement may have been reached. This is certainly plausible since both operators lack any physical network overlaps with each other and share the same investment partner in Aviva.

Back in April 2024 we asked the operators about this and both declined to comment. We did the same against last week and the response was the same. But the difference today is that we’ve now got enough credible sources, all saying the same thing, to be able to report the news with some confidence.

The deal itself is alleged to have been reached a while ago, although working out the formal details of such things can take a bit of time and question marks remain over what this deal will mean for their future plans.

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NOTE: Network operators building in rural areas often have to strive for a higher level of customer take-up because the cost of network build is significantly higher, which makes for a more challenging environment when operating under a commercial model. Higher retail prices are another way of balancing against this.
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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
7 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Aaron says:

    The great merging of alt nets is upon us, may competition stay fierce, speeds high and their poles erect

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Just waiting now for the big players to start merging with each other e.g. CityFibre, Netomnia-Brsk, Hyperoptic, Community Fibre e.t.c.

  2. Avatar photo Some Edinburgh Guy says:

    I’m going to make a prediction, which may leave me with egg on my face: 2024 is going to be filled to the brim with news of various local altnet ISP’s merging and consolidating to create larger entities. By the end of this year, we’re likely to see a lot less altnets than we do now [or even from the start of this year].

    For some, this would be seen as terrible, but for me, i think this is just the logical outcome to all the rising build costs, overbuild and decreasing take-up of the new service, because no matter what people say, altnets will never reach 100% customer take-up in a locstion, because many will stick to known entities like Sky, BT, TalkTalk and so on; those kind of customers are far less likely to move to a less-known entity that might not be around in a year or two.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I think the merger of the various altnets should be regarded as a good thing. Merging all the altnets into a single national wholesale network will offer serious competition to Openreach and may encourage ISPs like Sky onto the network the closer they come to full national coverage and with VMO2/Nexfibre going wholesale there would be 3 national networks competing for wholesale business.

  3. Avatar photo John Francis Nolan says:

    See my updated thoughts on UK fibre (as of last year) – note that this “paper” is an ongoing one which I have produced since 2019. I like to think that I am more than a pretty boy.

    https://shorturl.at/bxMOP

  4. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    By merging County Broadband and Truespeed into one, Aviva can consolidate two small fires into one massive bonfire of their cash.

  5. Avatar photo Somerset says:

    Truespeed were building round here last year and still not live. Their website says will be available in next 3 months. Meanwhile VM have built and OR have in parts and continuing.

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