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Stoke-on-Trent Unveils £9.2m Citywide FTTP Ultrafast Broadband Plan

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 (8:40 am) - Score 1,389
fibre optic blue explosion

The City of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire UK has announced that the £9.2m of public funding secured from the Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme will be used to “install ultrafast broadband across city” via a new 96km long “full fibre” (FTTP) network from Swedish operator VXFIBER.

At present the local authority has already worked with VXFIBER on a pilot project (here), which last year made a 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network available to the Etruria Valley area of the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone; this is a 140 hectare site used by local businesses (around 1,000 people work in the area).

Under that pilot the local council retained “complete ownership of the city ring fibre network” (they already own the main ducts across the city) and at the time it was suggested that these could also be utilised to “connect all parts of the city.” Meanwhile VXFIBRE lit the fibre and used it to supply the platform for ISPs to build and launch their own services to run over the network (open access).

The good news is that this approach is now set for a major expansion, which the local authority says could result in “tens of thousands of homes and businesses” gaining access to full fibre broadband across the city. All of this stems from last week’s confirmation that Stoke-on-Trent had secured £9.2m of new funding from Wave 3 of the LFFN programme (here).

Councillor Daniel Jellyman, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said:

“A fast broadband connection is now an essential service for residents and businesses and with these plans Stoke-on-Trent will be leading the way nationally – helping us to attract even more top companies, jobs and investment.

The new network would have a huge, long-term impact, helping to future proof our city and transform communities with improvements such as better access to employment, education and healthcare.

The revenue from the ownership of the broadband network would also provide income for the council which can help us to fund the vital services which residents rely on.

This is a major project for Stoke-on-Trent and will play a key part in our plans for Stoke-on-Trent to become a smart city – using infrastructure, information and technology to improve life for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”

Margot James MP, UK Minister for Digital, said:

“We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy. This £9.2 million boost for gigabit speeds in Stoke-on-Trent will build on the tremendous work already being done by the city council, and I congratulate them on what they have already achieved.”

At present the city doesn’t have much in the way of “full fibre” coverage (excluding private leased lines etc.) and most local premises can only get access via slower ADSL2+ or Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) services from Openreach (BT), although Virgin Media’s 500Mbps capable EuroDOCSIS cable network does have good coverage around much of the city.

Given the level of funding available, as well as the fact that Stoke-on-Trent is home to a population of more than 260,000 (2016 figure), we suspect that the £9.2m being made available would not by itself be enough to extend FTTP to cover all of the city’s homes and businesses.

The press release talks a lot about improving residential connectivity, although digging deeper it sounds more like Cityfibre’s tentative earlier models where they built a Dark Fibre network to serve public sector sites and a bigger businesses first (more recently they have moved to reach homes too, but only thanks to a massive increase in private investment).

Extract from Council Report

The City Council’s business model is based on capital funding of approximately £9.2m from Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) LFFN Challenge Fund for a Stoke-on-Trent Full Fibre Network. The delivery partner will provide match funding for the hardware required to activate the fibre network ready for delivery through an open access service provider portal.

The Challenge Fund provides the Council with an opportunity for a citywide scale proposal for Public Sector Asset reuse that utilises the Council’s own Stoke-on-Trent Private Optical Network (SPON) ducting to provide the basis for a Citywide, Council owned gigabit fibre network funded through a combination of DCMS Challenge Fund and private sector investment.

The project will run fibre through the Council owned SPON ducting and address areas of the duct network that may be congested; the SPON network will then be extended to all of other remaining City Council owned public buildings.

The pilot scheme for the broadband programme in the City is being delivered in the Etruria Valley area of the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone and the Final Business Case will set out the proposed areas for project delivery and implementation citywide.

Much like Cityfibre’s earlier work, we can see the potential for Stoke’s new network to reach homes as part of a “citywide” roll-out in the future (major extension), but at present we’d take all talk of that with a pinch of salt because it doesn’t appear to be part of this phase. No doubt if it was then rivals would be very unhappy at being overbuilt by an operator using public investment in a dense urban area (i.e. conflict with state aid rules).

Otherwise the roll-out is expected to start on 1st April 2019 and be completed by 31st March 2021. The council’s report predicts that it will boost local jobs, support future 5G mobile services, help business productivity, make the city more attractive for wider investment, improve community engagement, deliver savings for health care providers and improve education etc.

The City Council, as owners of the main fibre network, will also receive a revenue income stream from the project in relation to customer sign-ups to the network, the level of income will be dependent upon the volume of sign-ups and the level of fibre ownership.

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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.
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Matthew Williams

    So basically they are intending do a CityFibre rollout like they did before there FTTH rollout to cover the city. Then assuming hoping someone like Cityfibre will come in and do investment for rest of FTTH rollout?

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I don’t think so. CityFibre’s business model is business and wholesale to ISP (exclusive). If they wanted to use their duct they could of. This is likely to be more of use to the likes of Hyperoptics/OFNL to get fibre access to targeted locations with competition between VXFIBRE, VM and OR. Unless VXFIBRE are intending to go consumer.
      LFFN provides a subsidy to the councils internal network costs but they will need someone to take up FTTH against competition and much will depend on VXFIBRE intentions and pricing.

  2. Avatar Sparky

    The article is not quite right as they got awarded the first part of the contract for the pilot the end of last year and before they have delivered anything at all they have awarded the second part. So this is all new…

    They are making it sound like this is an extension for something they have done but they have nothing yet?

    • Avatar Scuba

      I had noticed some oddities in this as far as I was aware it was announced this time last year that vx had the contract, then the tender came out after that and guess what – they won. Now the second part is awarded before the first has even begun.
      Is it just me or is there something adrift here?

  3. Avatar Jack

    As someone who lives in SoT I’m just wondering how will they implement this? The council are full of broken promises is the other departments…

  4. Avatar Steve

    Is anyone concerned that a very fine state aid line seems to be being stretched to point of breaking on these deals?

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