Geo Networks in talks to acquire Digital Region assets

Geo Networks looks set to assume responsibility for the assets of the collapsed Digital Region project designed to provide superfast broadband to rural areas across South Yorkshire.

The Times reports that Geo is in talks to acquire the network and add the extra 545km of coverage to its network that already accounts for 3,000km of fibre-optic cables in the UK and Ireland.

Digital Region was first established in 2010 with the intention of laying on superfast broadband for almost 500,000 homes and businesses in South Yorkshire. Citizens and business owners in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield were all expecting to benefit from one of the fastest broadband services in the country, which was to operate independently of BT’s network.

The project started to run into difficulties earlier this year and was eventually shut down in August after it was revealed to have wasted some £150 million of public money. The councils involved agreed that closing the project down was “the best deal for the public purse” and by the time it was closed it was losing £1 million each month and had just 3,000 customers.

Assets owned by Digital Region pass by 80 per cent of all premises in South Yorkshire with six ISPs and four local authority councils already using the network leading industry commentators to argue that the failure was due to inadequate marketing.

Geo Networks decided not to comment on the rumours and is a company that has been owned by venture capital company Alchemy since 2008 after Hutchison Whampoa set it up.

The firm has a significant footprint in the UK and provides a high-density network used by banks and broadcasters as well as companies that handle large amounts of data. Its cables run through the London sewer network and if the deal to buy Digital Region is completed, Geo Networks will see its network grow by a sixth.