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U.K. Broadband Startup Community Fibre Doubles London Target

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(Bloomberg) --

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London-based broadband startup Community Fibre Ltd will attempt to double the number of homes it serves in the U.K. capital, stepping up a challenge to major carriers like BT Group Plc and an array of smaller rivals.

The company, backed by Deutsche Telekom AG investment arm DTCP and private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC, said Thursday it will make fiber available to 2.2 million London homes and businesses by the end of 2024, more than half the city’s roughly 3.7 million homes. That’s up from a previous goal of 1 million homes by the end of 2023. It says its connections have passed 435,000 premises so far.

After years of relying on outdated copper broadband infrastructure, the U.K. is seeing a land grab by a phalanx of so-called alternative networks competing with each other and incumbent operators BT and Virgin Media O2, owned by Liberty Global Plc and Telefonica SA, to build out fiber networks.

Promising long-term, reliable returns, these network businesses have attracted billions in funding from institutional investors. Community Fibre’s main backers have committed up to 400 million pounds ($540 million) to date. Its executive chairman is Olaf Swantee, the former Chief Executive Officer of Sunrise Communications AG and EE.

BT’s infrastructure division Openreach has gradually ramped up the speed of its own fiber rollout and says it’s now reaching more than 47,000 extra premises per week, or one every 13 seconds. Some 28% of the U.K. now has access to fiber-to-the-home connections, according to regulator Ofcom. That’s almost tripled in two years.

Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed Community Fibre’s news in a statement, saying it would support new jobs for the city.

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