Swantee joins London fibre company to lead £400m FTTH project

Olaf Swantee Sunrise.jpg

New owner of a London-based alternative fibre company backed by Deutsche Telekom has recruited Olaf Swantee, former CEO of Orange, EE and then Sunrise, as its executive chairman.

The company, Community Fibre, announced Swantee’s appointment today alongside its plans to spend £400 million to offer 1 Gbps of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and up to 10 Gbps of full-fibre broadband to businesses in London. 

The appointment is linked to new investment in Community Fibre by Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners (DTCP) and Warburg Pincus, which will give them a controlling stake, along with existing investors, Amber Infrastructure and railway pension fund RPMI Railpen.

Amber Infrastructure also backs independent fibre company Nextgenaccess, which is using wholesale access to BT’s ducts to connect a hyperscale data centre in south Wales.

Swantee (pictured) said: “I am excited to be joining a business in a sector that I am passionate about, where there is a clear vision and purpose. Working alongside blue-chip investors such as Warburg Pincus, DTCP, Amber Infrastructure, and RPMI Railpen, will also open up new and exciting growth opportunities.”

Swantee is a strategic adviser at Warburg Pincus, having left Swiss mobile operator Sunrise at the beginning of the year after shareholders blocked a €5.5 billion takeover project to buy Liberty Global’s business in Switzerland.

He ran Orange Europe for four years, including its then-UK operation, and became CEO of EE in 2011, some time after Orange and Deutsche Telekom merged their UK interests.

He joins former Virgin Media and Liberty Global executive Graeme Oxby, who has been CEO of Community Fibre for a year. Oxby said: “This is an exciting deal for Community Fibre. Having Warburg Pincus and DTCP on board is a tremendous endorsement for our business.”

He added: “With further new investment, we can work faster than ever to deliver 100% full-fibre broadband to social housing residents and to local communities and their businesses across London.” Community Fibre has a number of packages from 50Mbps at £20 a month to 1Gbps at £49 a month, all with free installation and activation. 

Private equity firm Warburg Pincus said this morning that it has reached an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Community Fibre. It did not give a price. The deal is expected to be complete “within a few weeks” said the parties involved.

Former Deutsche Telekom CEO René Obermann is co-head of Warburg Pincus in Europe. He said: “Community Fibre aims to close the digital divide and promote social inclusion. Affordable high-speed internet for London’s social housing, and free gigafast connection to community centres and libraries will create limitless opportunities in education, recruitment, and training, with one click of a button.”

Warburg Pincus said it has invested $4 billion in telecoms and technology infrastructure over more than 20 years. Recent examples include Inexio in Germany, Converge ICT in the Philippines, INEA in Poland, America.Net in Brazil, Airtel in Africa, and Inmarsat in the UK.


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