Manchester And York To Benefit From Fibre

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Fibre optics networks are to be built in both Manchester and York, with the promise to deliver superfast broadband speeds

The residents and businesses of Manchester are to benefit from a fibre optic network, which promises to deliver broadband speeds of up to 100Mbit/s.

The fibre network will be in the Manchester Corridor (i.e. the Oxford Road area of the city), and it promises to be the largest publicly-funded fibre-to-the-home rollout in the UK. The £1 million project, funded by the North West Development Agency, will initially serve 500 businesses and 1,000 homes.

Corridor Manchester and Manchester Digital Development Agency (MDDA) has appointed Geo Networks to install the fibre optic cables. Geo is perhaps best known for using London’s sewer system, to offer fibre connectivity for businesses in the UK capital. It is not clear at this stage whether the Manchester network will also use the sewer system.

“The installation of the new fibre optic cables will create a new infrastructure on the Corridor that will not only deliver much faster broadband speeds but through the open access network allow organisations, businesses and even individuals develop and test their own ideas for uses of the new technology without being held back by current limitations,” said Jackie Potter, chief executive, Corridor Manchester.

The fibre network will allow for superfast broadband speeds of up 100Mbit/s (megabits per second or Mbps). It will be an “open access network”, with users able to buy services from different service providers, who will in turn lease the fibre from Geo in order to provide the service to their customers.

The first phase of fibre installation will begin in the Spring, and will initially connect 200 homes and businesses around the Corridor area of Manchester. Further connections to 500 businesses and 1,000 homes, will be phased in over the next 12 months.

Once this first phase is completed however, there are plans to expand the fibre network to east Manchester and elsewhere in the city by using both the existing and planned Metrolink lines.

“Creating a true open access network with next generation fibre broadband capable of fully symmetrical world – leading broadband services will radically change the way people use the internet for business and social use,” said Chris Smedley, chief executive of Geo.

The network comes as the UK is criticised for being too slow to roll out next generation broadband. BT for example has already committed to rolling a fibre network, but this will only cover around 40 percent of the country and will likely miss most rural areas . And the majority of BT’s fibre network will be fibre-to-the-cabinet, which is slower than fibre-to-the-home.

Meanwhile a second fibre network will be installed in another UK city, after the City of York Council commissioned a dark fibre network to support public services and businesses around the city.

An eight-year contract costing around £13.7 million will see a network being built by H2O Networks (which also specialises in fibre in the sewer). The idea is that this network will link York’s council sites including 67 schools, 14 libraries, as well as council offices and sports facilities. This will allow the council to roll out applications such as IP telephony, video conferencing, CCTV and traffic management services.

As part of the contract, Pinacl Solutions will provide an on-site team to support the fibre network, which is scheduled to be completed by September this year.