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UPD Former UK i3 Group Holding Company Earlstown Technology Enters Administration

Posted: 08th Jun, 2011 By: MarkJ
fibre optic cable i3groupfibrecity dundee uk broadband logoEarlstown Technology Limited, which until very recently had been the holding company for the i3 Group Limited, officially entered administration on 24th May 2011. The outcome follows a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation (here) into the alleged misconduct of Total Asset Finance (TAF), which had been the principal funding source for i3's subsidiary H20 Networks and its stalled rollout of 100Mbps FTTH fibre optic broadband ISP services around the UK.

According to publicly available company records (Companies House No. 06587286) - Earlstown Technology had £1,429,794 cash in the bank during 2010, which compares with £7,798,699 in 2009 and just £933,658 in 2008 when it first began. The firm has also gone through several previous and somewhat recognisable name changes.
Previous Company Names

I3 GROUP LIMITED - Changed 10 May 2011

H2O NETWORKS GROUP LIMITED - Changed 04 Feb 2009

H2O GROUP LTD- Changed 22 Oct 2008
Administration occurs when a company, specifically one that is in financial difficulty, is put into the hands of an administrator. The administrator decides whether or not they can help the company to continue running or sell it off for a good price. Insider Media notes that Grant Thornton UK LLP has been appointed to the role.

Grant Thornton's Rep, Matt Dunham, said:

"Following on from residual creditor pressure from within i3 Group, Earlstown Technology was placed into administration on 24 May. It's the latest of a number of dominos as a result of the funding issues with Total Asset Finance. A number of the other trading businesses in the i3 Group were sold prior to our appointment."

Readers may recall that the i3 Group sold off its UK subsidiaries (Fibrecity, H2O Networks, Opencity Media and Wireless Network Systems) to CityFibre Holdings UK, which is led by i3's own former President and COO (Greg Mesch), in January 2011 (here).

CityFibre Holdings, which now holds the contract for deploying a 100Mbps+ Fibre-to-the-Home ( FTTH ) fibre optic broadband ISP network in the English south coast city of Bournemouth, promised last month that work on the development would resume imminently and 20,000 NEW homes will be connected before the end of 2011.

The CEO of CityFibre Holdings, Greg Mesch, said last week:

"The first step, is that between now and the end of the year we will focus on the full reinstatement and stabilisation of the network that has already been built. What this really means is we will make good any remaining roadworks and make sure that technically, the network works. This testing phase will include a number of households trialling it before service providers can make their services widely available. By the end of the year, the network will have passed in the order of 24,000 homes which will be ready for service. Our longer term plans are to pass all the remaining homes in Bournemouth by mid 2013.

Our networks will guarantee minimum speeds of 100Mbps up and downstream, some twenty times the average UK speed of around 6Mbps. What is more, our network will allow service providers to deliver speeds of 1Gbps with an average of 2ms of latency. We know a lot of companies are throwing numbers around the broadband space but what we mean is that service providers using our fibre to the home network will be able to deliver world-class, ultra high speeds with no perceptible time delays when you do something online – a good example of where less latency is important is in online gaming and the financial sector.

We appreciate that you will have felt frustrated by the halt to works last autumn and lack of communication in the past. I am keen to assure you that CityFibre Holdings will pursue a responsible and proactive approach to ensure that Bournemouth soon becomes the finest example of how a town can enjoy and reap the benefits of next generation access."

CityFibre claims to be an entirely new company and recently pledged that it was not "just going to pick up the reins of where the last company dropped them." Meanwhile the Fibrecity project in Dundee continues to be stalled and many of their original customers in Bournemouth have already switched over to rival providers, such as Virgin Media UK, after their services were suspended earlier this year (here).

Separately the i3 Group announced on 10th May 2011, several weeks prior to the news of administration at Earlstown Technology Limited, that the firm was moving into a Mobile Operator Strategy role and would focus on Fibre-to-the Mast (FTTM) technology in order to help manage the data requirements of the current 3G and forthcoming 4G LTE / WiMAX networks ( Mobile Broadband ).

UPDATE 10th June 2011

We just received the following statement from a PR firm, although bizarrely it wasn't attributed to anybody. We assume that it was issued by i3 itself.

"i3 International Limited and Fibre Associates Limited, the trading businesses previously owned by Earlestown Technology Limited, are unaffected by the appointment of an administrator to this company.

They continue to operate under new owner, Mochdre Limited, and aim to grow the i3 brand across the international markets in which it has always operated.

All companies in the new organisation will be rebranded to emphasise their links to the i3 brand."


UPDATE 2 - 10th June 2011

The statement is attributed to Michael Norris, Chief Financial Officer, i3.
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