WightFibre has announced reaching 20,000 homes ready for service on the Gigabit Island full-fibre network project on the Isle of Wight – along with a huge funding boost.

WightFibre has secured additional funding of £50M from NatWest Bank which, together with equity funding from Infracapital, will see the project to completion.

Currently, 28 per cent of premises on the Island have access to full-fibre broadband. WightFibre aims to roll out fibre to all towns and villages on the Isle of Wight by the end of 2022, covering 80 per cent of premises on the Island.

A rolling programme up to the end of 2025 will also cover the more rural areas of the Island to fill gaps in urban coverage areas, connecting 96 per cent of the Island by the end of that year.

WightFibre’s full-fibre broadband network will provide speeds of up to 1Gb (1,000Mb) or faster to up to 70,000 homes and businesses across the Island, creating the UK’s first ‘Gigabit Island’.

WightFibre’s Chief Executive Officer, John Irvine, said:

“WightFibre has made great progress in building the UK’s first Gigabit Island on the Isle of Wight, having already made full-fibre broadband available to nearly 20,000 premises. The additional funding announced today will enable us to connect around 96 per cent of premises on the Island, making Isle of Wight one of the most well-connected places in the world.

“WightFibre’s point to point network design means every home and business on the Island will receive their own their dedicated fibre optic connection. This is practically unique in the UK making the Isle of Wight network not only world class, but future proof for decades to come.”

James Harraway, Managing Director of Infracapital, commented:

“We are delighted with the progress that has been made with WightFibre’s Gigabit island project, and we look forward to supporting the project through to completion.”

Bob Seely, MP for the Isle of Wight, welcomed the announcement:

“I am delighted to see an Isle of Wight company secure funding at these levels despite us being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has demonstrated more than ever how essential good broadband is not just for business but for the home as well.

“WightFibre’s Gigabit Island project will ensure we have even better broadband provision than we currently enjoy. The Isle of Wight is not only a great place to live and work but also a national leader both in embracing and developing technology.”

Ian Burroughs, Relationship Director, Corporate and Commercial at NatWest, said:

“WightFibre has already shown its commitment to preparing communities and organisations for the future.

“The current Coronvirus pandemic has brought into sharp focus how important strong broadband infrastructure is for the UK to do business and NatWest is delighted to support WightFibre as it undertakes activity which will see the Isle of Wight become one of the most technologically ready regions of the country.”