Thursday, June 21, 2012

Super-connected cities update: Belfast, Birmingham & Leeds

Some interesting super-connected cities developments in recent weeks. Belfast has announced plans to make the city "one of the most advanced cities in Europe for ultra-fast broadband and widespread WiFi provision by 2015". Belfast  is one of 10 UK cities eligible for the first wave of super-connected cities funding being made available by the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), to extend broadband access and provide extensive high speed wireless connectivity across the city. DCMS will provide £6m; the city is currently preparing a second stage submission for additional funding up to £7.7 million and will also allocate an additional £3 million to the project. See coverage from the Belfast Telegraph, ThinkBroadband, ISP Review and the BBC.

Another of the 10 UK cities, Birmingham, recently received clearance from the European Commission for its proposal to invest around £10m in the construction of an ultra-fast broadband network in the city of Birmingham (press release here). The investment was found to be in line with EU state aid rules, in particular because it will be genuinely open to all operators and will therefore promote competition:
"The Commission's investigation found that the ultra-fast network of Birmingham was designed in a pro-competitive manner, exceeding in several respects the requirements of the EU Broadband Guidelines. In particular, open access will be granted for at least 25 years for alternative operators, whereas the guidelines require only seven years. Moreover, the network will be operated on a wholesale basis so as to ensure more competition at retail level. Finally, all possible wholesale access products will be offered to third party operators, including dark fibre, which is one of the most pro-competitive wholesale access products. The project is also fully in line with the requirements of the new draft Broadband particular by offering significant enhanced technological characteristics as compared to existing networks (for instance symmetric speeds). There is expected demand for such qualitative improvements from numerous local SMEs active in the "creative industry". Moreover, the subsidised network will be operated as a wholesale only network."
More on the EU's new draft broadband guidelines here with comment from ISP Review here. A formal procurement process in accordance with Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) guidelines will now be carried out by Birmingham City Council to secure a formal partner for the delivery of services. It is expected that this will commence in autumn 2012.

Finally, Leeds, another of the 10 cities announced by DCMS in March 2012, was found to have the highest proportion of people connecting to public Wi-Fi compared with other cities in the UK, according to a study by Sky Broadband. From Broadband Choices:
"According to Sky, in a single day, one in five people in Leeds (22%) used public Wi-Fi. That’s twice the national average, which was 11% at the time of the study. It’s also more than other cities, including Manchester (13%), Birmingham (13%) and London (20%)."
Additional coverage from ISP Review here and uswitch here.

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