abrdn Infrastructure fund portfolio company, Wessex Internet, secures two additional Project Gigabit contracts, bringing its total secured funding to £72m

22 April 2024

Dorset-based internet service provider, Wessex Internet, has secured two new contracts for £52.3m as part of the UK Government’s Project Gigabit, which aims to provide gigabit-capable broadband to hard-to-reach communities across the UK. These latest contracts enable Wessex Internet to roll-out its full fibre broadband network to c.36,000 homes and businesses in South Wiltshire, Dorset and South Somerset.

abrdn’s third Core Infrastructure Fund, ASCI III, invested a majority position in Wessex Internet in September 2022.

The award of South Wiltshire and Dorset and South Somerset contracts mark the third and fourth Project Gigabit contracts awarded to Wessex Internet, respectively, following the award of the North Dorset contract in 2022 and the New Forest contract in 2023. Currently, Wessex Internet has been awarded Project Gigabit contracts totalling over £72m, to deliver lighting-fast fibre-to-the-home connections to more than 53,000 homes and businesses in rural and remote areas of the Southwest of England.

Project Gigabit is the UK government’s flagship £5 billion programme to enable hard-to-reach communities to access gigabit-capable broadband. The fast, reliable connections delivered by Project Gigabit will level-up mostly rural communities across the UK. With gigabit-capable broadband, households will enjoy improved bandwidth, businesses will be able to improve their productivity, and public services will become more accessible to people in remote areas.

Julia Lopez MP, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure said:

"Outdated infrastructure not only hampers economic growth for businesses and communities but also detracts from people’s quality of life. Essential tasks such as online medical appointments or business meetings shouldn't be hindered by slow speeds and unreliable service.

“Thanks to our £5 billion Project Gigabit rollout, many rural areas in South Wiltshire, Dorset and South Somerset will have access to top-of-the-range connections and can unlock more opportunities in the digital economy.”

Alex Anderson, Investment Director, abrdn Infrastructure, said:

“Since our initial investment in Wessex Investment in 2022, we have worked alongside and supported the company in expanding its fibre network across rural parts of South-West England. Over that time, the business has proven its ability to deliver fibre networks into challenging and highly defensive rural areas of the country, where customer adoption levels and long-term loyalty are high, and fibre overbuild is either low or negligible. We are excited to see Wessex Internet continue to deliver this strategy through the Project Gigabit contracts.”

Hector Gibson Fleming, CEO at Wessex Internet, said:

“We’re passionate about connecting rural communities to ultrafast broadband, making sure that families and businesses in the countryside are not held back by decades-old technology. From the first wireless connections we provided in 2012, to now being awarded our largest government Project Gigabit contract to date, we remain true to these core values. We are excited to be extending our fibre service to thousands more people living and working in South Wiltshire, Dorset and South Somerset.”

Wessex Internet is an award-winning local and independent broadband provider that is delivering ultrafast full fibre broadband across Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire and South Somerset.

abrdn’s ASCI III fund is an Article 8 product under the EU’s Sustainable Financial Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) and its strategy promotes environment and social characteristics including improved rural digital connectivity. Wessex Internet is strongly aligned with this goal and its latest success further reinforces its role in supporting the Fund’s strategy. abrdn is currently fundraising for the fund which continues the strategy of investing in European small to mid-market infrastructure assets.