The Aberdeen City Region has been selected by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as one of only six pilot areas within the UK, and only one in Scotland, to share £10million of funding towards gigabit fibre broadband to business premises.
The UK Government recognises the importance of world-class digital connectivity to business competitiveness and the efficient delivery of public services and in response has created a £200million programme to kick start the delivery of full fibre broadband across the UK.
Digital connectivity is one of six key project areas which make up the Aberdeen City Region Deal (CRD). This funding awarded to the Aberdeen City Region by UK Government is in recognition of the region’s pioneering work to advance full fibre connections locally and increase delivery of ultrafast fibre.
Whilst significant progress has been made in recent years in building additional fibre infrastructure, most business premises still depend on copper wires to carry the broadband signal from the street cabinet to the building. As a broadband signal speed degrades almost linearly with distance on copper wires, this dependence on copper compromises the quality of service that can be provided to the end user.
Fibre to the premises solution is likely to be the main technology option to address this issue in large settlements, and DCMS has developed the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme which will provide match funding for the provision of ultrafast infrastructure to public buildings and business premises.
Fibre to the premises (FTTP), is considered the ‘gold standard’ of broadband and is viewed as being key to delivering the region’s economic objectives. By taking part in the LFFN programme, businesses and public sector organisations will be able to access world-class ultrafast fibre without facing the usually prohibitive build costs which previously prevented wider uptake of FTTP solutions and services.
Initially, the Aberdeen City Region will pilot a Connection Voucher scheme. Connection Vouchers can be accessed by businesses and public sector organisations, individually or in groups, to subsidise the costs of accessing ultrafast services, with connection speeds of 1GB per second.
The proposed second phase of the programme will see additional ultrafast fibre cable laid in the CRD area, with public sector bodies acting as “anchor tenants” for capacity on the infrastructure.
Ultrafast infrastructure will also help underpin the roll out of 4G and 5G services, improving the services available on mobile phone networks.
Welcoming the region’s success at being selected as a pilot area for the programme, Cllr Jim Gifford, leader of Aberdeenshire Council and chair of the City Region Deal Joint Committee, said “The North East has for too long suffered from poor digital infrastructure despite above average uptake rates of firstly broadband services and more recently, superfast broadband services. Participation in this initiative gives us an ideal springboard to deliver a step change in the availability and affordability of world-class infrastructure and services and an enhanced ability to deliver cost effective services in the public sector.
“The new infrastructure will make the region an even more attractive location to invest and work, adding digital connectivity to our strengths.”
Councillor Jenny Laing, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “The City Region Deal will bring significant benefits to the area and this latest funding award is an example of the tangible outcomes it will deliver. There is significant investment being made in physical infrastructure in the region, but from the outset we have made it clear that digital infrastructure is equally important.
“Our regional economic strategy has internationalisation at its core and connectivity is vital in enabling Aberdeen to build on its position as a major player on the global stage.”
Sir Ian Wood, Chairman of private sector economic development body Opportunity North East, who also chairs its ONE Digital & Entrepreneurship sector board, said: “This region has huge potential to develop both products and high-growth companies in the industrial digital space, including in oil and gas, life sciences and food, drink and agriculture. To achieve this we need to foster the right entrepreneurial environment and ensure that the region’s digital infrastructure is a match for the capabilities and ambitions of its companies. Investment in our digital connectivity is therefore essential.”