Superfast broadband contract signed

Fibre broadband could be extended to up to 98 per cent of Merseyside businesses and homes within the next three years, following a multi-million pound partnership project between Merseyside Local Authorities and BT.

Merseyside Connected – a partnership of five councils led by Liverpool City Council – builds on BT’s on-going commercial fibre deployment across the Liverpool City Region, and aims to provide a high speed broadband network to an additional 43,000 premises in the area. This means the vast majority of Merseyside – around 634,000 homes and businesses – could have access to fibre broadband by the end of July 2016.

The Merseyside Connected project will also support the council partnership’s aim to focus on enabling superfast broadband to small and medium enterprises and help boost the local economy. The three-year deployment will begin with a period of planning and surveying, before Openreach, BT’s local network business, starts work on the ground in summer 2014.

BT has been chosen to partner with Liverpool City Council – along with Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral Councils – following an extensive and thorough procurement process. BT is contributing £6 million towards the overall cost of deployment in “non-commercial” areas while European funding (ERDF) is contributing £4.4 million, with £5.46 million coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund.

Mayor of Liverpool and Chair of Liverpool City Region Cabinet, Joe Anderson, said: “The internet is a huge part of everyday life and it is vital that we do not get left behind if we are to compete effectively with the rest of the UK. This investment in infrastructure will make a big difference to businesses and households across the City Region. I am delighted we have been able to sign this deal with BT which means they can crack on with installing the latest technology.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This £15.9m project will deliver an incredible transformation in broadband speeds for thousands of homes and businesses across Merseyside. It will be instrumental in driving growth, boosting the local economy, and achieving the Government’s objective of reaching 95% of all UK premises by 2017.”

Bill Murphy, managing director NGA for BT, added: “Access to high speed broadband is rapidly becoming a key ingredient for economic growth and a fast and reliable broadband service is as important as good road and rail links for businesses in the modern day. It is also a major determining factor in where businesses decide to locate.”

“Fibre broadband opens up a whole raft of leading-edge software and applications that could benefit business – allowing them to work more efficiently, for people to work when and where they want, to expand their business offering and connect with customers, not just locally but all over the world.”

For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by new ‘cloud’ services will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high-quality videoconferencing will become a viable possibility.

Further benefits of faster broadband include users being able to use multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time, and send and receive large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. This will make things like gaming, watching BBC i-Player or downloading films and music much quicker and without annoying ‘buffering’ or screen freeze.

New fibre services are set to transform the way consumers use the internet, from the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available online. It will also open up a host of new learning and development opportunities.

Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network business, will build the new fibre infrastructure. Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This can deliver wholesale downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps, and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises technology – delivering ultra-fast wholesale speeds of up to 330Mbps – may become available in certain areas and may be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint in due course should local businesses want the ultra-fast speeds it offers*.

The new fibre network will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis**. Households and businesses in Merseyside will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from a wide range of service providers. It will also boost the competitiveness of local businesses, helping them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up a host of new learning and development opportunities for households.

Cllr Phil Davies, Merseyside Representative on the North West European Regional Development Fund Local Management Committee said; “Superfast broadband will help local businesses improve performance and create and safeguard jobs. It will provide a major boost to the Merseyside economy and the North West European Regional Development Fund programme is pleased to be supporting it financially.”