by Andy Nash – Head of Public Sector

In November 2018, CityFibre – the UK’s largest independent builder of open access full-fibre infrastructure – announced a 2.5-billion-pound funding commitment to serve five million homes by 2025. With our rollout now accelerating, there now exists a valuable window of opportunity for local councils.

Since 2011, we’ve established networks in over 50 UK towns and cities, each designed with enough capacity to support all sectors for generations to come. Together these networks already provide transformational gigabit connectivity to thousands of businesses, schools, surgeries, charities and more.

Delivering connectivity to public sector sites across the country is how many of our largest networks were anchored. In these areas, we’ve continued to work with councils to add extra sites, including those for HD-CCTV and UTC. We’ve also been exploring the full potential of emerging technologies and innovation. This includes a recent IoT trial in Peterborough and the UK’s largest pilot of 5G-ready small cells, connected across a 15-kilometer network.

A force for change

Over the last few years, we’ve lobbied for policy and funding changes and proved that full-fibre networks can be deployed without driving up consumer prices. We’ve also exposed the inadequacy of the incumbent operator’s aging infrastructure – forcing them to admit that copper has had its day and seeing them formalise plans to switch off copper-based voice services by 2025.

Today, Government, Ofcom and Industry all now agree that full-fibre infrastructure is the only foundation capable of underpinning our future economy, improving public services, realising Smart City visions and enabling our 5G future.

Seizing the opportunity

At the time of writing, twelve FTTP cities have been announced. Nine of these are in-build and first residential gigabit services are already live in Milton Keynes, Aberdeen, Peterborough, Coventry and Stirling. We won’t be stopping there though! In total, 80-100 towns and cities have been identified as candidates for future investment as we look to bring the benefits of competitive full fibre connectivity services to five million homes and businesses by 2025.

Each network we build will not only drive transformation at a pace and scale never seen before, but any public sector or smart city site requirement that is included at our design stage – i.e. before construction begins – will enjoy significant cost savings (compared to adding sites later). Once pre-build to each site is complete, connections themselves can then be set live in as little as five days.

A different mindset is needed to take advantage of this opportunity though because it’s no longer just about the WAN estate. Fibre connectivity plays a central role in future proofing Smart City and IoT solutions delivery too. This means it’s about smart thinking and planning ahead to connect everything from cameras, traffic lights, bus shelters, street signs and lamp posts, to locations that may support future IoT application deployment, such as electric charging bays, community spaces and car parks.

Our rollout is running to a schedule though. This means, if you’re a council that wants to unlock this opportunity, it’s really important to talk to us as soon as possible.

Andy Nash is CityFibre’s Head of Public Sector.  This article was first published in the Local Government Procurement review in February 2019.

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