Investment group LetterOne, which is controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, has reportedly agreed to finance the planned rollout of full fibre to one million premises in eastern England by 2025, by a new broadband infrastructure firm, Upp. According to the Financial Times LetterOne will back the rollout to the tune of GBP1 billion (USD1.4 billion), with the network rollout plan costing it around GBP300 million in equity, with the remainder to be raised in debt. It was noted that the equity financing has been fully committed by LetterOne, alongside Upp’s management team and board of directors, and the development represents LetterOne’s first investment in the UK’s broadband market.
Full details of Upp’s rollout plans are expected to be announced shortly, but it has initially been reported that the company is aiming to ‘level up’ broadband access in underserved market towns and coastal areas across Norfolk and Lincolnshire; construction work in some towns is said to have already gotten underway. It has, meanwhile, been suggested that the company’s network could eventually be expanded beyond the east of England. Upp is reported to have secured regulatory approval to deploy its own regional fibre backhaul networks, though it will also utilise Openreach’s ducts and poles to accelerate deployment and minimise disruption.
Drew Ritchie, Upp’s chief executive, was cited as saying that LetterOne had backed the business ‘with substantial funding that allows us to concentrate on delivering next level broadband to the communities that need it most’.
LetterOne is registered and headquartered in Luxembourg, with several of its business divisions based in London, including L1 Retail, L1 Energy and L1 Technology (including a 47.85% stake in Amsterdam-based multinational telecoms operator VEON and a 19.8% stake in Turkey’s Turkcell).