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Conference Centres Invited to Bid on £250K for UK Full Fibre Upgrades

Friday, August 16th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 1,036
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A couple of months ago we reported that the Government’s new tourism sector deal would make £250,000 available to help boost “full fibre” broadband facilities in conference centres across the UK (here). Today a new competition has been launched that enables such centres to bid for a slice of the funding pot.

In order to be eligible, venues (i.e. event venues with conference facilities, including hotels and event centres) must have capacity for more than 400 delegates, have hosted at least one international event in the last year where a third of attendees were from outside the UK (it’s not always easy to prove that one), or be able to demonstrate plans to do so in the next year.

The Government envisages that the winners will then “upgrade their existing connectivity to full fibre broadband,” which in turn could enable them to “attract more international business events.” Why is this important, you ask? In 2017, the UK hosted 592 international association meetings with business visitors making up almost a quarter of the 38 million visits to the UK in 2018 and providing a boost to visitor numbers during the off-peak season.

The sector is currently said to be worth £32.6bn to the UK economy (ironically that’s about the same as Openreach’s estimate for achieving universal FTTP coverage) and delegates to these meetings spent a total of £4.5bn, with more than half returning later as leisure visitors. On an ordinary day £250,000 might thus seem like just a drop in the ocean but in this context it could in theory make a bigger impact than you might expect.

Rebecca Pow, Tourism Minister, said:

“We want the UK to attract the biggest and best international business events to help grow our economy and encourage trade and investment. Ensuring our conference facilities can deliver the connectivity and facilities organisers want and need is crucial to help achieve this and there is a great deal of scope to expand this area.

Our Tourism Sector Deal is providing a broadband boost to the country’s business events industry, and I would encourage all eligible venues to apply.”

Michael Hirst, Chair of the Events Industry Board, said:

“The business events industry welcomes the UK government’s new £250,000 competition to improve broadband connectivity in event venues. This is a strong recognition of the importance of helping to support the growth of first class infrastructure in Britain’s large range of diverse world class business event facilities. It will help immensely in continuing to present Britain as a leading global destination for business events.”

One slight oddity with all this is that it crosses swords a little with the existing Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS), which we’re told has already boosted the broadband capacity at more than 60 hotels (most of those will have upgraded to a full fibre / FTTP or leased line style service). We have asked if bids under the above fund can be combined with applications for GBVS grants in order to potentially install a better service and will report back later this morning.

At the end of the day this is all just a sideshow to the main event, which is occurring behind the scenes as the Government tries to figure out just how on earth they’re going to deliver on Boris Johnson’s radical pledge to make “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband available to every home by the end of 2025 (here). The answer to that is expected this autumn as part of the new National Infrastructure Strategy (here).

Further details..

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar Jim Weir

    Find me a 400 seat conference centre without a leased line…

  2. Avatar A_Builder

    I can think of quite a few decent big hotels I’ve stayed in that had ADSL speeds!!

    I’m not sure how this fits in with any of the other spatter gun policies.

    Other than more fibre penetration is good provided there are hand off points for others to benefit.

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      Delivering ADSL like speeds to guests is very common. Doesn’t mean the Hotel doesn’t have good connectivity (or the option for it, many have 100M bearer but lower bandwidth) but a lot of operators opted for guest Wi-fi to be fully isolated from operations connectivity – ie they just through DSL line or 2 at guest Wi-Fi and call it done.

    • Avatar Gary

      Meaningful expansion of the network is my issue with these sort if incentives, same with LFFN, Given limited amounts of funding to provide connectivity the solution is likely to be the cheapest, So a hotel/conference centre gets basically a fttpod connection which does nothing to extend the network to others.

      To have any impact aside from the business involved these places would need to be far enough from current connection options to be worth installing new splitter/AG points to feed others in the surrounding area and for that the funding isn’t going to go far.

    • Avatar Jim Weir


      In fairness Openreach have moved to a single fibre network, introducing Multifunction Nodes which support both FTTP and EAD / dedicated circuits.

      So in effect delivery under this scheme and LFFN in general should help reduce the cost / distance for any further local build.

      For Altnets the anchor tenant concept also supports this type of build, which de-risks the area from a commercial perspective.

  3. Avatar Meadmodj

    Large hotels and event centres could easily afford full fibre speeds as part of their service offering I really don’t see why this industry should be subsidised. Medium sized hotels where FoD costs are excessive have GBVS as highlighted. So is there an additional obligation with this particular fund regarding public/attendee WIFI access?

    If so public areas only please or selectable. Nothing more off putting when half your audience are continuing to work on laptops/tablets and not concentrating on your presentation. Perhaps it was just mine.

  4. Avatar Gary

    If your venue gets 400 delegates for international conferences/events and needs decent connectivity, but isn’t considered commercially viable, Pay for it, the same as the rest of us have to. If you don’t feel the investment is worth it then don’t.

    Good point regarding the deployments helping others, That doesn’t seem to be the way OR are handling the New build fibre deployments. It’ll be much cheaper to run basically a FTTPod service out to these venues leaving those nearby no closer to fibre.

  5. Avatar Packet Switched

    I think the big peak demand would come from people downloading & uploading from their various laptops, smartphones etc.

    As many modern browsers often show WiFi as “not secure” people taking this seriously would automatically connect over a dongle
    or a SIM not the hotels/conference centre WiFi.

    Have any Conference Centres ensured good really connection to all major mobile networks throughout the premises – carpark,
    as well as any terraces would make sense.

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