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Greater Manchester set to become one of Europe’s top-five digital city-regions

Greater Manchester one step closer to digital ambitions.

Thanks to world-leading digital technology, Greater Manchester is one step closer to achieving its ambition of becoming one of the top-five digital city-regions in Europe.

Greater Manchester has been awarded £25m from central Government to significantly upgrade its digital infrastructure – funding that will help deliver “full fibre” broadband technology across the region, trigger subsequent private sector investment of up to £200m, and pave the way for 5G mobile technology.

Described as futureproof, “full fibre to the premises” (FFTP) broadband has no speed or bandwidth limit. In the largest digital upgrade plan of its kind in the UK, the funding will be used to connect over 1500 public sector buildings across Greater Manchester, including premises used by health, education, social care, fire, and local government.

This wholesale implementation by the public sector is expected to trigger significant additional private finance investment of over £200m from a private sector that will be keen to capitalise on the upgrade and deliver similar connections to business and residential customers.

Funding for the public sector digital upgrade is coming from central government’s Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport, and is the result of a successful bid from Greater Manchester Combined Authority, supported by local council and industry leaders, partner agencies and MPs.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “This is a major vote of confidence in our plans to make Greater Manchester the UK’s leading digital city-region, and brings us one step closer to being one of the top-five digital city-regions in Europe.

“Greater Manchester’s two digital summits allowed us to crowdsource the ideas that have informed our digital strategy, and this innovation shows through. The contributions of local people and experts from the tech industries helped shape this bid and deserve credit for its success.

“I want to close the digital divide, not widen it, and it’s vital that through this upgrade, everyone in Greater Manchester is given the opportunity to participate fully in digital life, services and commerce. Every one of our cities and towns across the ten boroughs will benefit from this investment, making Greater Manchester a truly connected place, a forward-thinking, digital city-region.”

Ofcom has reported that the UK currently has just 2% full fibre coverage, compared to around 60% in Spain and Portugal. With the UK falling behind international competitors, this upgrade will deliver a massive boost to Greater Manchester’s – and the UK’s – economic prospects.

With the anticipated additional support and investment from private sector businesses wanting to capitalise on the infrastructure upgrade started by the public sector, Greater Manchester could see its current full-fibre coverage increase from 2% to 25% by 2020.

Greater Manchester lead for digital, work and skills, Cllr Sean Anstee, said: “I welcome this relationship with the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport – their investment opens up a lot of doors for us in Greater Manchester.

“This upgrade by the public sector makes Greater Manchester an attractive proposition for private sector investors who will be looking to expand on this infrastructure to deliver similar cutting-edge connectivity to their business and residential customers.

“It will also open up new career pathways for local people: we have a fantastic digital, tech and creative sector in Greater Manchester and improving our digital capabilities means we can create the optimum conditions for those sectors to grow, providing employment, skills and training opportunities.

“Our ambition is for Greater Manchester to be a place where data bandwidth is never a barrier to commercial, social activities or the delivery of public services. We want digital connections to be available across the region – at the right speed, in the right place, and at an affordable price.”

17,000 local businesses will find themselves within touching distance of the new fibre networks – an attractive proposition for businesses looking to make the leap to next-generation data technologies in order to boost their capacity and productivity.

Today’s funding makes Greater Manchester a tempting prospect for local industries wanting to upgrade, and for full-fibre service providers looking to get a foothold in a region hungry for digitalisation and tech innovation.

Article Published: 14/12/2018 11:31 AM