Following an intense period of activity through the winter, Shropshire Council announced the outcome of its procurement process on March 27 2013.
British Telecommunications PLC (BT) were chosen as the partner to deliver this exciting project which will see 93% of premises across Shropshire, more than 130,000 premises, getting access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of Spring 2016. In addition, the contract includes a commitment to deliver a minimum speed of 2Mbps to all premises in the project area.
BT is contributing £8.6m towards the deployment in “non-commercial” areas, while Shropshire Council is contributing £8.2m, with £7.84m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.
Fibre broadband will bring Shropshire’s predominantly rural economy into the digital fast lane, revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations and, in the long-term, ensuring local people don’t suffer from a digital divide.
Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network business, will build the new fibre infrastructure. Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) will be the main technology deployed. This delivers download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology – delivering ultra-fast speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas.
The new fibre-based network will be open to all communications providers on an equal basis. Households and businesses in Shropshire will therefore benefit from competition in the market, bringing greater choice and competitive prices from a range of service providers.
Faster broadband will also help to boost the competitiveness of local businesses, enabling them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up new web-based learning and other development opportunities for households.
For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of new services. 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 and telephony will become a viable possibility.
During April, the Connecting Shropshire team will start gearing up for the deployment phase, which will include a number of critical dependencies to ensure the programme is successful:
- Connecting Shropshire will co-locate with BT in a single programme office in Shrewsbury.
- A stakeholder ‘kick-off’ meeting will refine the governance and stakeholder engagement process. Project controls, reporting and processes will be agreed to ensure that the programme has full accountability.
- Internal and external service dependencies will be co-opted to ‘smooth’ deployment:
- Highways engagement
- Planning department
- Power supply companies
Surveying and planning
A six to nine month period of intensive planning and surveying will run concurrent with the initial mobilisation. This will enable us to refine and confirm deployment plans, which we will share as they are confirmed. The roll-out will have nine phases which are due to be completed by the end of Spring 2016.
Engagement and support
Throughout the roll-out we will ensure there is full engagement through a network of stakeholders and communication channels. We intend to use the network of parish and town councils to ensure all communities are briefed on the deployment plans.
We intend to reach out into communities to seek volunteers who want to get involved as ‘digital champions’. These individuals will provide informal advice, information and support to adults in their local community who either want to get online and learn how to use a computer for the first time, or improve their confidence with the basics.
Volunteers will also be asked to help promote this service in their community by putting up posters and leaflets in suitable locations, such as doctors’ surgeries, church halls, and local notice boards. All such promotional material will be provided by the Connecting Shropshire team.
In order to meet Shropshire Council’s aspirations for 100% next generation access (NGA) and as much superfast broadband as possible, additional funds will need to be secured. The council is currently working to secure additional resources, including applying to the £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) as part of the Rural Development Programme for England. The RCBF is jointly funded by Defra and BDUK and provides grants to communities to establish superfast broadband in hard-to-reach areas.
We understand that there could be a further £300m made available after the next election in 2015 to extend superfast and NGA coverage. We will continue to work closely with BDUK and local members to ensure that Shropshire is able to access these funds when they become available.
We will continue to keep our website updated throughout the project. This will include information about the project, including timescales, together with evidence and demonstration of the benefits of using broadband for both residents and businesses.
High-speed fibre broadband is set to become available to more than 90 per cent of Shropshire homes and businesses within the next three years as a result of a multi-million pound partnership project between Shropshire Council and BT.
The Connecting Shropshire project will build on BT’s commercial investment so that 93 per cent of premises across Shropshire*, more than130,000 premises, should have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of Spring 2016. As a result of the contract, all premises covered by the project will receive a minimum of 2Mbps.
During the course of the rollout BT may use Connecting Shropshire as a test bed for developing fibre innovations and other broadband technologies designed to boost speeds even further.
Shropshire is one of England’s most rural and sparsely populated counties and so the project will transform broadband speeds across the county. According to Ofcom, the county’s average downstream speed is currently 8.2Mbps, whilst 17.1 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps.
BT has been chosen following an extensive and thorough selection process. The company is contributing £8.6m towards the deployment in “non-commercial” areas, whilst Shropshire Council is contributing £8.2m, with £7.84m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.
George Candler, Shropshire Council’s director of commissioning, said:
“We have been working hard, through our Connecting Shropshire project, to drive forward improvements to broadband provision for residents and businesses, so we are delighted to have reached this point. We look forward to working closely with BT over the coming years to ensure people start seeing the benefits of faster broadband even in the remote, rural parts of our county.”
Nick Chavasse MBE, Shropshire Business Board champion for broadband, said:
“Reliable and fast broadband connection is fundamental for business growth. I am delighted that Shropshire Council has embraced this project and is fully committed to driving it through as soon as possible. Fast broadband connectivity will help our businesses to prosper and in turn help to increase employment across the county. Poor broadband is a barrier to growth, and the plan to roll out fast broadband to the business community, in particular, is crucial to the success of our economic growth strategy. We will continue to work with, and offer our full support to, this ambitious partnership programme.”
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, commented:
“Shropshire is one of the most rural counties in England, but access to fast broadband speeds is just as important here as it is in our major cities. This project will deliver all the benefits of superfast broadband to Shropshire homes and business, providing a tremendous boost to the local economy.”
Bill Murphy, managing director NGA for BT, added:
“This is fantastic news for the people of Shropshire. As communications technologies evolve it is really important that communities across the county are able to evolve with them, which is fitting since Charles Darwin is surely Shropshire’s most famous son.
“Fibre broadband will bring Shropshire’s predominantly rural economy into the digital fast lane – revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations and, in the long-term, ensuring local people don’t suffer from a digital divide.”
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 delivers 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 – will also be deployed in certain areas.
The new fibre based network will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis**. Households and businesses in Shropshire 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.
Superfast broadband benefits include users being able to use multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time, and sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. 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.
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.
The project team will be working closely with parish and town councils to ensure that local communities are able to make the most of improved broadband speeds and the new and exciting opportunities this project brings to Shropshire.
*Does not include the Telford and Wrekin Council area
**Openreach provides external CPs (Communications Providers) with a variety of ways in which they can offer fibre broadband to their customers. These include an ‘active’ product – GEA – which comes in various speed combinations and a ‘passive’ product – PIA – whereby CPs can lay their own fibre via BT’s ducts and poles if they want greater control over the service they offer.