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Coventry and Warwickshire UK Prep £15m “Superfast Broadband” Boost

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 (8:38 am) - Score 535
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The Coventry City Council in Warwickshire (England) have announced that the next phase of their roll-out of “superfast broadband” connectivity around the region will be supported by £15m worth of grants and aims to extend the network coverage to a further 8,000 local homes and businesses.

At present the regional state aid supported CSW Broadband project, which is predominantly harnessing Openreach’s (BT) FTTC/P technology, has already put superfast connectivity within reach of over 90% of premises in Warwickshire, Solihull and Coventry. Work has also begun on a second phase that will aim to achieve “nearly” 94% coverage of the same area by the end of 2017.

In terms of “premises passed“, Phase One originally aimed to reach an additional 40,000+ premises and Phase Two already seeks to add another 17,000+ (or 14,600 when you only look at “superfast” 24Mbps+ capable properties). The latest update from October 2016 suggests that some 334 new street cabinets have so far been installed and 53,000+ premises have benefited.

Attention is now being turned to a future Phase Three contract, which is set to be supported by a public investment of £2.55m from the city council, another £2.55m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), £4.3m from the local Growth Deal and £1.1m worth of private sector funds. The definition of “superfast” has also been raised to 30Mbps+ for this phase.

Overall around £15 million is eventually predicted to become available for the next phase, which will seek to reach an additional 8,000+ premises on top of the existing target. One-off corporate funding of £150,000 will also be invested in order to project manage the Council’s investment and work as part of CSW Broadband.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said:

“Regeneration and rebuilding our city is more than just bricks and mortar. It’s about unlocking people’s potential to succeed too and this can help. Nationally, £6.4billion worth of Gross Added Value will be created in the UK by 2024 by investing in broadband infrastructure.

Investing in broadband has been proven to bring jobs and wealth to an area. We want to make sure that Coventry sees its share of that and that the city doesn’t have any barriers to success in the digital economy. Of course I’d like to think that the private sector could have covered this – but as they can’t, or won’t – so we have stepped in.”

At this stage we don’t know how the additional premises will translate in terms of total percentage reach, although a figure of around 96-97% gaining access to “superfast broadband” seems like a realistic prediction. The third contract will also follow the new broadband framework (details here and here) and as such it should be more open to suppliers other than BT.

CSW Statement

We have had some really positive engagement with suppliers, some of whom will use the same technologies as BT, and others who offer wireless or purely fibre to the premise solutions. We need to understand how the market works and what the benefits and disbenefits of each solution are, so that we can be truly informed clients as we move towards tendering and evaluation.

Another difference this time around is that we will be breaking the area up into smaller lots, so as to make them more attractive to different suppliers. As far as possible, the lots will be determined to fit with the geography that is best suited to different technologies. We don’t have a completely free hand in this, however, as we do need to keep the number of lots to a manageable number – probably 5 or 6 lots in total.

This should mean that we will end up with 5 or 6 contracts, with a number of suppliers, providing the best possible solutions for each area. We’ll give more information on lotting as the situation evolves.

The project is currently running a public consultation on the plan (here) and this is due to close on 30th November 2016. After that it will take a few more months to choose the best supplier(s) and announce the final contract(s).

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