€120m cash injection to bring Imagine’s fixed 5G to rural Europe

11 May 2018959 Views

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Wireless signal in rural Europe. Image: Cienpies Design/Shutterstock

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Imagine secures €120m investment to support roll-out of high-speed broadband infrastructure in Ireland and across Europe.

Canadian investment firm Brookfield Asset Management has acquired a majority stake in Sean Bolger’s telecoms firm Imagine Communications.

The acquisition of a 50.1pc stake in Imagine will result in €120m being injected to enable the telecoms player to deploy its 5G fixed wireless infrastructure across Ireland and Europe.

‘This represents a significant commercial investment in essential infrastructure in Ireland to finally deliver the long-awaited benefit of high-speed broadband service, particularly to users and communities in the underserved rural and regional areas’
– SEAN BOLGER

The company plans to serve 5G fixed wireless broadband speeds of 150Mbps to more than 300 areas and 1.4m premises within two years.

Brookfield is a leading global investor and operator of real assets with approximately $285bn worth of assets under management.

The transaction is subject to certain conditions, including competition and regulatory approval, and is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2018.

The linchpin of the investment is Imagine’s plan to double down on the 5G wireless broadband opportunity and, in particular, it aims to capitalise on the early release of the 3.6GHz 5G spectrum.

Is 5G fixed wireless an alternative to FTTH?

Ireland’s underserved regional and rural areas will be the first in Europe to see the roll-out of Imagine’s new 5G fixed wireless infrastructure, which provides a last-mile solution in places where fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) has been challenging or impossible.

This is at a time where Imagine predicts that the average household and business’s consumption of data is expected to exceed 150GB (gigabytes) per month by 2020.

Imagine’s business model is predicated on the potential of a new 5G fixed wireless model as a future-proofed alternative to connect premises to fibre.

The company points out that while 4G has enabled high-speed mobile broadband, the requirement to simultaneously connect thousands of mobile devices significantly reduces the effective coverage and capacity available to individual users, making it unsuitable as an alternative to fixed broadband.

Likewise, 5G over cellular faces the same capacity issues.

Imagine’s new 5G fixed wireless model is designed to ensure that the capacity of a base station is optimised to provide a secure and dedicated high-speed connection to fibre to a predefined maximum number of users over a comparatively wide area.

Using this model, it has so far enabled 300Mbps services, has successfully trialled a 1Gbps service and is working towards a roadmap of getting to 10Gbps as more spectrum becomes available.

“With the network already live and delivering high-speed broadband services to 20,000 existing customers in rural areas, fully funded, we will now commence the full commercial roll-out of the network and the availability of next-generation high-speed broadband services of 150Mbps to over 300 areas and 1.4m premises within two years, with further investment in additional sites to meet customer demand,” said Bolger, founder and executive chair of Imagine.

“This represents a significant commercial investment in essential infrastructure in Ireland to finally deliver the long-awaited benefit of high-speed broadband service, particularly to users and communities in the underserved rural and regional areas.

“For Imagine, it was important to have an investor and partner who understood the significance and scale of the opportunity. As a leading global investor and operator of real assets, and with its understanding of essential infrastructure, experience in scaling businesses and global reach, Brookfield is the right partner.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com