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

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).

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.

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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