96 per cent of Cheshire premises to have access to fibre broadband
High-speed fibre broadband will be rolled out to around 96 per cent of Cheshire homes and businesses in the next three years under a £28.5 million project between four Cheshire councils 1 and BT.
The Connecting Cheshire Partnership has secured funding to provide additional rural broadband infrastructure to over 80,000 premises that will build on BT’s on-going commercial investment in fibre across the county.
As a result more than 400,000 premises (around 96 per cent) across Cheshire, Halton and Warrington, should have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps 2 by the end of 2016. Those premises in the remaining four per cent that currently experience low speeds will also see an uplift, as the project aims to deliver a minimum of 2Mbps or more to almost all homes and businesses.
The project will transform broadband speeds across Cheshire, narrowing the gap between speeds in urban and rural areas. According to Ofcom, the county’s average downstream speed is currently around 11Mbps whilst approximately 12 per cent of the population receive less than 2Mbps 3 . BT was chosen by Connecting Cheshire following an extensive and thorough selection process.
The investment in fibre broadband will boost the local economy and help to create or protect local jobs. A recent study for Cheshire 4, Warrington and Halton estimated that full coverage of superfast broadband would generate a gross impact of £1.3 billion in gross value-added (GVA) 5 over 15 years and create 11,500 jobs, with a further £330m of economic benefits to households.
BT was awarded the contract following a procurement exercise through the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework .The company is contributing £9m towards fibre deployment in “non-commercial” areas whilst The Connecting Cheshire Partnership is contributing £1.85m, with a further £4m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds and £13.6m from European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) 6 .
Openreach, BT’s local network division, will now begin the work on the ground with engineers surveying locations around the county and analysing the best way to roll out the network. This initial survey work will take around eight months, so Connecting Cheshire should be in a position to announce which communities will be included in the first stage of the roll-out around December 2013. Connecting Cheshire and BT will work together to prioritise a strategic roll-out so that the whole county’s best interests are served.
Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This delivers wholesale downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises technology – delivering speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint should local businesses want the ultra-fast speed it offers 7.
Cllr David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council, on behalf of the Connecting Cheshire Partnership said: “The award of this contract to BT marks the end of a comprehensive process to secure the best broadband deal for Cheshire. The four councils across Cheshire are committed to providing reliable high-speed fibre broadband for both our home and business users. From children doing homework to caring for our elderly population and from social media, to ecommerce and home entertainment – fast broadband is the critical enabler. The social, environmental and economic benefits will be huge, making Cheshire one of the best connected regions in the country.”
MP for Tatton, George Osborne, said: “This is great news for not just my Tatton constituency but the whole of Cheshire, extending the reach of fibre broadband is a real opportunity to provide a huge strategic boost to our urban and rural areas, for both homes and businesses to become better connected.”
Bill Murphy, Managing Director, BT Next Generation Access, added: “Cheshire has a large number of small and medium sized enterprises and a high volume of business start-ups, which collectively contribute a substantial proportion of the regional economy. The rollout of more fibre broadband will act as a powerful economic driver for these businesses.”
“Ensuring enhanced connectivity is vital to secure future growth; exploiting the strategic benefits of high-speed broadband across Cheshire, Halton and Warrington will deliver huge returns on investment. It is no longer enough to be connected, it must be fast, reliable and affordable to fully realise the county’s potential.”
BT’s network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Cheshire consumers and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market, in turn bringing greater choice and affordable prices.
For local businesses, the fibre broadband network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Users will be able to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and receive large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. Computer processing and storage of files will also become more sophisticated and secure using “cloud computing” technology. There will be faster back up of computer systems and wider use of high quality video conferencing within firms and between them and their customers.
1 Connecting Cheshire is a joint partnership between Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Halton Borough Council and Warrington Borough Council.
2 80Mbps is a wholesale speed. ISPs may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP.
3 Ofcom UK Broadband Speeds Report 2012
4 Report by Regeneris Consulting; Net Gain: The Value and Impact of Superfast Broadband in Cheshire, Warrington and Halton. 2012
5 GVA is a measure in economics of the value of goods and services produced in the area, industry or sector of an economy.
6 The project is part financed by the North West Competitiveness Programme, European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit www.communities.gov.uk/erdf
7 Openreach plans to commercially launch FTTP (fibre to the premises) on demand during 2013 and will levy an installation charge for the service. It will be up to service providers to then decide whether they pass that onto businesses or consumers wishing to take advantage of the product.