Connecting rural areas to the grid

Souter Investments is pleased to announce it has invested in Broadway Partners, a leading provider of broadband services in rural areas.

Broadway is pioneering the commercial use of TV WhiteSpace radio to connect remote rural communities. Using radio spectrum made available by the shift from analogue to digital TV, the technology is uniquely capable in the challenging geographies that are typical of rural areas, where trees, hills and low population densities typically prelude the use of conventional radio or fibre solutions.

The technology has been some years in development and in gaining regulatory approval, but it is coming to the market at precisely the right time, with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, as well as English and Irish counties, all embarking on multi-million pound procurement exercises to address the final few percent of households and businesses not yet enjoying the benefits of superfast broadband.

In commercialising this innovative technology, Broadway has been working closely with Microsoft, the global promoter of TVWS; Nominet, the provider of shared spectrum database services; the University of Strathclyde’s Centre of WhiteSpace Communications; and King’s College London, a leader in emerging 5G technologies.

The Broadway team has a long track record in the communications sector, and has come together specifically to develop the opportunity presented by TV WhiteSpace radio. With the UK and Europe’s first commercial deployment of TVWS, on the Isle of Arran in Scotland, and other networks now operational in Inverness-shire and Perthshire in Scotland and Monmouthshire in Wales, Broadway has proven the power, flexibility and viability of broadband networks using a mix of technologies to deliver high speed broadband to 100% of the community, regardless of geography.

Michael Armitage, founder and Chairman of Broadway, and Barry Weaver COO and CTO, commented: “We are extremely pleased to have an investor of the calibre of Souter Investments supporting us in this exciting venture. People need to be connected, wherever they are, in town or country, at home or at work, and TV WhiteSpace is an important part of the mix of technologies that can guarantee that digital connectivity is available to fully 100% of the population”.

Calum Cusiter, Investment Director of Souter Investments, said “High speed broadband connectivity has become almost utility like in its importance to participating fully in society, whether that is in personal or business matters. Broadway has impressed us by their enthusiasm for the challenge of providing this service to rural and underserved communities, and by embracing new technology and new business models to make it both possible and affordable. We are excited by the potential in this market and believe we are backing a first class management team at Broadway that is well placed to make the most of the opportunity”.

Souter’s diligence partners for the transaction were Dickson Minto WS (legal), EY (financial), Coleby Associates (tax) and FWB Park Brown (management).

Broadway’s legal advisers were Wedlake Bell.