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GBP55m Fibre and 5G Boost Approved for Swansea Bay City Deal

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021 (9:32 am) - Score 504
Swansea-Bay-Map-2021

The UK and Welsh Governments have given their approval for a £55m digital infrastructure investment under the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Region project, which will expand full fibre broadband and 5G mobile connectivity to benefit residents and businesses across Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.

At the time of writing, we still have very little detail about the exact plan behind this £55m investment, which estimates suggest could be worth as much as £318m to the region in coming years. But the approval means that the programme can now start drawing down on its funding, and thus the steady march toward deployment can finally begin.

The first task for Carmarthenshire County Council, which has been tasked with leading the Digital Infrastructure side of the city region programme, will be to hire a professional team in order to deliver on the three elements of the programme (see below).

The Three Elements (Digital Infrastructure)

Connected Places: Ensuring the region’s cities, towns and business parks have competitive access to full-fibre connectivity.

Rural: Improving access to broadband in the region’s rural communities.

Next generation wireless: Paving the way for the region to benefit from 5G and ‘Internet of Things’ innovation.

The team will spend the next year or so hunting for anchor tenants to help stimulate full fibre investment in Swansea and other urban parts of the region (i.e. big operators, councils or businesses that can help to underpin the investment and attract others onboard), including Neath Port Talbot. We imagine this may be similar to the approach taken by CityFibre in other UK cities, which often involved the deployment of a Dark Fibre network for the public sector and businesses, before later reaching homes with further investment.

Further programme plans for the next year include working alongside the mobile industry to generate improved mobile coverage in the region. A long-range, open access wireless network will also be deployed to make the most of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) by connecting home, business and mobile devices to the internet. “This includes smart home, smart agriculture and smart manufacturing technology, as well as wearable technology in the healthcare and assisted living sectors,” said the announcement (this sounds like a Long Range Wide Area Network or LoRaWAN).

Work will also take place to “help regional local authorities boost take-up of broadband voucher schemes” and “other funding” to improve connectivity in rural areas, although it’s not yet clear precisely what sort of “work” this will be.

Emlyn Dole, Carmarthenshire County Council Leader, said:

“The importance of high-quality digital connectivity can’t be overstated. Digital connectivity underpins so much of daily life nowadays, whether it’s people going online to check their social media accounts or businesses liaising with customers or sending and receiving information.

Approval of this programme is fantastic news for the Swansea Bay City Region because what’s planned will help future-proof our digital infrastructure for many years. This is vital because as well as benefiting residents and businesses now, it will also lay the foundations for the region to benefit from digital innovation of the future in what’s such a fast-moving landscape.

Both urban and rural workstreams are planned as part of the programme to ensure all parts of the City Region have opportunities for better digital connectivity.

This will encourage our businesses to stay within the region, while also helping attract further investment and job opportunities throughout Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.

Along with other projects and programmes being part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal, this will accelerate our region’s economic recovery from Covid-19.”

The extra investment should hopefully help to complement the UK Government’s new £5bn Project Gigabit programme, which aims to ensure that at least 85% of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable broadband ISP network by the end of 2025. Likewise, it may also help to support the existing commercial deployments of similar technologies, such as from Openreach (BT), Virgin Media and Ogi (Spectrum Internet).

Nevertheless, there remains a distinct lack of detail, but hopefully that will change as the local authority begins the usual procurement processes. Otherwise, the £55m Digital Infrastructure project is being funded through £25m City Deal funding, £13.5m public sector funding and £16.5m private sector sending.

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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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1 Response
  1. CeredigionMan says:

    Great news for Swansea and a good part of Pembrokeshire, just need to sort out Ceredigion and the rest of Wales!

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