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Brief Summary of the 13 New UK Full Fibre Local Network Projects

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018 (9:49 am) - Score 4,042
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Yesterday saw the government announce that 13 areas across the United Kingdom had secured a share of £95m from the £190m Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) challenge fund (here), which will help to build new Gigabit capable broadband networks. Today we’ve put together a summary of each project.

Generally the following schemes reflect a variety of different approaches, such as Gigabit connection vouchers for businesses (i.e. up to £3,000 to help get the service installed), aggregated demand schemes and opening access to existing public sector infrastructure for use by fibre ISPs.

On top of that a number of councils are also using the anchor tenancy approach to build or extend new / existing fibre optic (FTTP) networks in order to connect public sector sites, as well as to potentially foster future expansion for the needs of local homes and businesses (rural and urban).

Sadly many of the local authorities involved have yet to announce their plans via a public press release and so it’s taken us awhile this morning to dig through the various council meeting documents in order to uncover all of details. A few of the areas have been particularly poor when it comes to explaining their plans (e.g. London, Cardiff) but we managed to get a good overview of the others.

Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon £2.4m

The funding will be used to establish a ‘Gigabit’ fibre ring in the Borough (mostly focused upon connecting public sector sites as an anchor tenant for the network) and a Gigabit voucher scheme to support local businesses. The local authority will aim to cover existing Business Centres at Banbridge and CIDO, Bluestone and Mayfair, plus the proposed Digi-Hub provision for the Borough and the proposed new Leisure Centre and new Southern Regional College Campus. Connection of the three main civic buildings will then complete the “Gigabit Ring“.

The total number of Gigabit connections has been estimated at 881 business and 1,845 domestic premises, which isn’t especially big but then the improved local infrastructure might also help to facilitate the introduction of wider broadband deployments at a later date.

Belfast £11.5m

Belfast City Council originally submitted an Expression of Interest to the programme seeking a £30 million full fibre investment for four potential project areas (listed below). In the end they only secured £11.5m and so the funding split below is only reflective of their original bid:

* Belfast City Council Anchor Tenancy procurement which would provide Dark Fibre Upgrades for all Belfast City Council’s networked sites with the potential to future-proof and provide resilient connectivity to our key sites for the next 50 years. (£6 million)

* Northern Ireland Regional Gigabit Voucher Scheme – A Gigabit Voucher Scheme could resolve those areas across Belfast which currently suffer from poor broadband connectivity (£20 million)

* Reuse of ‘Streets Ahead’ Public Realm scheme ducting.

* Other – Belfast Independent Internet Exchange – A neutral place where network operators and digital providers can meet and exchange data traffic, to improve the customer internet experience cost effectively (£4 million)

Blackpool £3.0m

We’ve struggled to find much of any information about Blackpool’s bid, although the council does own its own network assets in four BT exchanges, as well as an extensive wireless infrastructure on Blackpool Tower, a private fibre optic network in several areas of the town and a large free public WiFi service.

The council’s Digital Strategy has been seeking to “exploit and develop these assets” to meet their connectivity needs but will also use the assets when possible to support regeneration activities such as along the promenade and in the enterprise zones. For example, they are hoping to develop use of the Tramway Fibre link to create a smarter promenade supporting smarter tram stops, car parking, CCTV, public WiFi.

Similarly they’ve been hoping to build the business case to extend the tramway fibre to the Enterprise Zone to create high speed, low cost connectivity for future businesses.

Cambridgeshire £4.0m

The Cambridgeshire project aims to expand its gigabit capable fibre footprint to ensure the county has the digital connectivity needed to support future growth and prosperity. The plan thus involves the following approaches, which must be delivered by March 2021.

* Creating a 40Km stretch of fibre ducting from St Ives to Linton – linking fibre in new and existing routes and making it available to commercial operators to bring Gigabit networks to nearby homes and businesses.

* Providing fibre upgrades to around 30 public buildings, including schools, libraries, fire stations and GP surgeries, across nine locations in Cambridgeshire, to benefit surrounding homes and businesses.

* Supporting businesses, leading business parks and clusters of SMEs to access the new gigabit fibre network (e.g. vouchers).

Cardiff £6.0m

This is another area that has said practically nothing in public about their bid, although we do know that a project had been proposed to utilise the existing Hibernia Express transatlantic submarine cable (i.e. building an effective spur off it in the Bristol Channel to make landfall at Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan).

The new multi-terabit fibre spine would then be spread out across the city region through 300 kilometres of ducting, although the original costing for this was around £37m and the allocated £6m doesn’t even come close to that. As such we suspect that they have a different plan for the new funding.

Coventry, Solihulll & Warwick £5.7m

Cityfibre already owns a large metro fibre optic network in Coventry (140km+) and lest we forget that this area was also one of the initial six Gigabit pilots announced for the LFFN programme last year. Cityfibre is understood to have been working with the council on their bid, although details remain sparse.

The project requirements for their bid are to connect public sector buildings to the full fibre network (i.e. FTTP) with Gigabit-capable connections. The idea is that by taking full fibre out to public buildings, the successful contractor will then connect homes and businesses along the fibre route and in the vicinity of the newly-connected public buildings.

Highlands £4.5m

The objective of this bid is to provide a local access full fibre network to provide Gigabit capable open access to public sector sites in Inverness, Fort William, Wick and Thurso. Local businesses will also have the opportunity to benefit directly from the challenge fund, as a proportion will provide around 150 vouchers to the value of £3000, aimed at encouraging businesses to adopt higher speed connectivity.

London £8.5m

Sadly it’s been hard to find any solid details on London’s bid, which is disappointing considering that this is the UK’s capital city and covers many boroughs with their own authorities. We do however know that the bid involves an eye to fostering re-use of public sector infrastructure assets and adoption of the new Gigabit voucher scheme (grants for up to £3,000) for local businesses.

We also note that Southwark has been seeking LFFN investment in London to help bring more fibre optic infrastructure into the Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks wards.

Manchester £23.8m

We can find no details of the bid itself, although the Digital Strategy for Greater Manchester has talked about developing a plan for engagement with large fibre providers and linking work on highways.

Mid Sussex £2.2m

This represents a second round of investment in the local West Sussex Gigabit Project, which has already secured some funding from the earlier pilot scheme. The procurement is intended to provide new end-to-end Gigabit dark fibre networks in Worthing, Shoreham, Chichester, Bognor Regis, Horsham, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill and Crawley through a 20 -year lease agreement with a single supplier (sounds ideal for Cityfibre).

The project is testing and demonstrating two approaches to funding full fibre roll out. The first approach here is known as ‘Anchor Tenancy’; using long-term public sector demand to underpin commercial investment in full fibre, with public sector sites being the first to benefit.

The second approach is that of another Gigabit voucher scheme using the LFFN (Wave 2) funding, which will be available to businesses over a wider area than those listed above.

Portsmouth £3.9m

Portsmouth only says they’re seeking to become the first Gigabit Commercial Port on the south coast by “enabling gigabit speed, world class connectivity and dramatically accelerating its digital capabilities“. The initial focus will be on connecting public sector sites to the network.

North Yorkshire (NYNet) £15.1m

The new investment is expected to be used to connect around 400 public sector sites with Gigabit capable broadband across 16 towns, which should provide the basis for the wider expansion of fibre optic connectivity. The planned towns are Harrogate and Knaresborough, Skipton, Northallerton, Ripon, Richmond, Leyburn, Scarborough, Malton and Norton, Whitby, Easingwold, Thirsk, Selby, Tadcaster, Pickering, Stokesley/Great Ayton and Settle.

The next step after finalising the agreement with DCMS is for the council to undertake a procurement process and the deployment is then likely to start in 2019.

Wolverhampton £4.9m

This bid appears to focus on improving Gigabit capable broadband connectivity in the city centre (full coverage of around 211 public sites) via the public sector anchor tenancy approach, which also includes engagement with the UK Government’s Barrier Removal Taskforce in relation to adopting a local approach to highways, planning, wayleaves that optimises the local environment to improve digital infrastructure be approved.

Should the bid be successful this would require the Council to commit to a 20-year contract to supply dark fibre to Council and other public sector buildings. Gigabit vouchers for local businesses are also part of the bid.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    Lots of connecting council buildings in this.

  2. Avatar New_Londoner

    There appear to be some obvious State aid implications with some of those projects. For example some are not technology agnostic, others seem to be overbuilding existing networks. It will be interesting to see how these issues are resolved.

    Did DCMS get State aid approval for the scheme from the Commission?

  3. Avatar Biobob

    Still only on 2mbs in North Yorkshire so still nothing getting done for out of town connections

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