Macquarie Capital today announced it has taken a majority ownership interest in UK rural broadband and fiber provider Voneus, bringing the company’s total equity raised to £22.5m. This follows Macquarie Capital’s initial £10m investment in Voneus, in August 2019. Additionally, Macquarie Capital is also partnering with the Israel Infrastructure Fund (IIF) to fund further equity into Voneus.
Voneus will use the equity injection from Macquarie Capital and IIF to begin its fiber roll-out activity across rural areas of the UK. To-date, the company has not yet passed any homes with fiber infrastructure.
Voneus – Macquarie Capital’s UK Fiber Broadband Vehicle
Voneus is a fiber “challenger” that specializes in connecting rural homes and businesses that are effectively off-the-grid. Specifically, the company focuses on providing service to poorly connected or difficult to reach communities.
Since its establishment in 2015, Voneus has only offered its customers a broadband solution using Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technology. Currently, the company serves over 4.0k homes and businesses in 25 rural communities in the UK. Specifically, the company’s footprint covers Lancashire and Yorkshire in northern England as well as the Cotswolds and Devon in southern England.
Fiber Roll-Out Begins
The initial £10m funding from Macquarie Capital helped strengthen Voneus’ management team and enabled the company to prepare for the shift to building-out fiber infrastructure.
Presently, Voneus has begun fiber installations in the UK counties of Somerset in South West England and Bedfordshire in the East of England. Additionally, the company has a near-term objective to connect more than 100k rural homes with fiber, using the £22.5m investment. While over the long-term, Voneus is targeting 900k homes across the UK countryside.
Project Gigabit – The UK Government’s Fiber Program
By building fiber infrastructure, Voneus will participate in the UK’s £5.0bn Project Gigabit program. Indeed, the company will help deliver on the UK Government’s target to provide rural communities with broadband speeds of 1 gigabit per second, by 2025.
Notably, less than 10% percent of UK homes currently have access to full fiber broadband infrastructure. Through Voneus, Macquarie Capital and IIF intend to improve this dynamic.
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)
Currently, Voneus utilizes Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technology, to quickly deploy and provide an alternative broadband solution to slower copper networks, which rural homes and businesses typically rely on. Indeed, the company’s FWA solution offers these customers speeds of 30 to 50 megabits per second. Subsequently, Voneus upgrades its rural communities that use FWA to full fiber infrastructure.
Overall, this business model enables the company to provide high-quality internet connections to communities quickly. At the same time, Voneus develops a clear path to deliver reliable, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks using the funding from Macquarie Capital and IIF.
Israel Infrastructure Fund (IIF) – Overview
Israel Infrastructure Fund (IIF) is owned by a partnership of three investors, including Harel Insurance, Yehuda Raveh, and Yaron Kestenbaum. Since 2007, IIF has deployed over $2bn in 23 transactions across 4 funds.
IIF focuses on the infrastructure sectors of energy, transport & smart mobility, water, waste management, environmental services, and digital infrastructure.
In digital infrastructure, IIF owns part of wholesale fiber provider Unlimited, which has rolled-out fiber to 600k+ homes in Israel. Additionally, IIF has invested in TowerVision, a tower management company that provides 8.4k towers to various wireless carriers in India.