Ci­tyfi­bre and Voda­fone look to give ‘gi­ga­bit’ boost to mil­lions of Bri­tons

● Ar­eas to ben­e­fit from the part­ner­ship will be dis­closed over com­ing months

The Scotsman - - Business - By SCOTT REID

Shares in net­work in­fra­struc­ture provider Ci­tyfi­bre leapt 40 per cent yes­ter­day after it un­veiled a tie-up with Voda­fone that will bring ul­tra-fast broad­band con­nec­tiv­ity to as manyas­fivemil­lionukhomes and busi­nesses.

Un­der the agree­ment, some one mil­lion homes and busi­nesses across 12 towns and cities will be con­nected to the new fi­bre net­work dur­ing the first phase of de­vel­op­ment, with con­struc­tion set to start in 2018 and be “largely com­pleted” by 2021.

The two com­pa­nies will then have the right to ex­tend their deal to cover an­other four mil­lion sites across 50 towns and cities by 2025, creat­ing an­other com­peti­tor to BT’S Open­reach busi­ness.

The firms have not re­vealed which re­gions will ben­e­fit from the first phase of the project, but said a list would be re­leased over the com­ing months, with hopes of con­nect­ing the first cus­tomers by the end of 2018. Ci­tyfi­bre is al­ready in­volved in “gi­ga­bit” projects in Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow.

Greg Mesch, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ci­tyfi­bre, said: “This agree­ment will un­lock the UK’S full fi­bre fu­ture and is a ma­jor step for­ward in de­liv­er­ing our vi­sion for a Gi­ga­bit Bri­tain.

“With this com­mit­ment from Voda­fone, we have a part­ner with whom we can trans­form the dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties of mil­lions of homes and busi­nesses and es­tab­lish an unas­sail­able whole­sale in­fra­struc­ture po­si­tion across 20 per cent of the UK broad­band mar­ket.”

Voda­fone UK chief ex­ec­u­tive Nick Jef­fery added: “The UK has fallen far be­hind the rest of the world, trapped by the lim­ited choice avail­able on le­gacy net­works. We look for­ward to work­ing with Ci­tyfi­bre to build the gi­ga­bit fi­bre net­work that the UK needs and de­serves.”

The tie-up cre­ates an­other vi­able com­peti­tor to Open­reach, which cur­rently dom­i­nates fi­bre in­fra­struc­ture across the UK, though Vir­gin has also emerged as a ma­jor ri­val.

Ci­tyfi­bre’s shares closed 40.5 per cent or 17.5p higher at 60.75p.

The deal was wel­comed by the UK Gov­ern­ment, which has been push­ing to in­crease high-speed in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity.

Min­is­ter for dig­i­tal Matt Han­cock said: “We warmly wel­come this new part­ner­ship be­tween Ci­tyfi­bre and Voda­fone as an im­por­tant step to drive in­vest­ment and help build a full-fi­bre Bri­tain. Reach­ing an ad­di­tional five mil­lion premises by the mid­dle of the next decade would be a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to con­nect­ing mod­ern Bri­tain.”

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