Rural community in the hills
Rural community in the hills

Infrastructure

Connecting rural communities across the UK

Bringing ultra-fast full-fibre broadband to villages across the United Kingdom.

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Sector Infrastructure
Sub-sector Technology
Location United Kingdom

Opportunity

Home internet connectivity and access to fast, reliable broadband has never been more important, but only 14 per cent of United Kingdom homes have access to full-fibre broadband infrastructure.1

Many rural communities are relying on slower connections delivered over copper lines built decades ago.2

Voneus is a leading specialist in Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technology, that provides superfast broadband to rural, poorly connected or difficult to reach communities. It was founded in 2015, with the goal of giving rural communities the same fast broadband that is accessible in cities.


Approach

In 2019, Macquarie Capital made an initial investment in Voneus to support its growth and accelerate fibre roll-out across rural areas of the United Kingdom. Since then, Macquarie has increased its ownership to a majority shareholding in the broadband business.

Macquarie Capital also identified that Voneus’ FWA approach could play a role in aggregating demand for fast broadband – offering a means to de-risk more expensive full-fibre investments. We have been working with Voneus to turn this idea in a reality.

We also identified the Israel Infrastructure Fund (IIF) as an experienced fibre roll-out partner and brought it in as a new inward investor to further advance Voneus’ growth plans.

IIF brings unique expertise to support future fibre deployment as a lead investor in Unlimited, a wholesale fibre platform in Israel, which has rolled out fibre to more than 600,000 homes and aims to connect 1.7 million by 2024.

Outcome

Under this new model, Voneus now rolls out fast high-quality FWA internet to communities, and then subsequently upgrades the service to a reliable, future proof full-fibre network.

Matt Warman MP, Digital Infrastructure Minister for the United Kingdom Government said, “As we build back better from the pandemic, we want to future proof the United Kingdom with next-generation broadband. But we can't deliver this national broadband upgrade alone.”

The initial funding provided by Macquarie strengthened Voneus’ management team and our development expertise helped prepare for the move from FWA technology to full fibre. “Macquarie's investment in Voneus is great news for the United Kingdom's flourishing telecoms industry and for the rural communities currently struggling with slow speeds.”

Voneus is now upgrading existing customers, bringing ultra-fast full-fibre broadband to communities on its superfast technology. This includes homes and businesses in Buckland Dinham, Somerset and Dunton in South Bedfordshire, areas that have historically suffered from slow internet speeds.

David Warburton, MP for Somerton and Frome, said: “Broadband is as much of an essential utility to a household now as water or electricity – people cannot live without it. The pandemic has shown that as more people are moving from towns to the countryside, they will need to get online to work from home, which is why it’s great news that our villages are getting connected to ultrafast speeds.”

It has a near-term objective to connect more than 100,000 rural homes to fibre and is well positioned to participate in Project Gigabit, and help the United Kingdom Government ensure hard to reach communities can access and benefit from superfast broadband.

1.6 million homes

Voneus is targeting the 1.6 million United Kingdom homes that lack access to superfast (or faster) broadband access

£26 billion a year

Research by Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College has found that rural companies could add up to £26 billion a year to the economy if their digital capability was fulfilled3

100,000 fibre connections

Voneus has a near-term objective to connect more than 100,000 rural homes to fibre

“As we connect our first full-fibre customers to our network, we do two things. One, we bring gigabit capable connectivity to a rural community and, two, we validate our fixed wireless access to a full-fibre model – which makes smaller-scale fibre investment sustainable. Macquarie and IIF recognise this and share our vision. We are absolutely delighted to be working with them.”

Steve Leighton, Chief Executive Officer of Voneus

 

“The roll-out of full-fibre broadband to these rural communities demonstrates the success of the Voneus model in de-risking and speeding up fibre roll-out to harder to reach communities. We look forward to continuing to provide our development capabilities to support the management team in connecting further rural committees and helping unlock significant economic and social benefits for the United Kingdom.”

Oliver Bradley, Managing Director, Macquarie Capital

1. OfCom, Connected Nations Update Summer 2020
2. National Farmers’ Union, NFU SPOTLIGHT ON farm broadband & mobile networks 
3. Rural England, Scotland’s Rural College, Unlocking the digital potential of rural areas across the UK, 2018