Newcastle to become a Gigabit city

Newcastle has been showcasing its assets at the Smart City World Congress in Barcelona this week. We talk to Jason Legget, City Manager for CityFibre about their recent investment in full fibre roll out in Newcastle.

Give us a flavour of CityFibre and your ambitions for the UK?

CityFibre is a hugely ambitious and exciting business to work for and our mission is one that resonates with everyone. Our ambition is to build a new generation of future-proof digital infrastructure for the UK, transform the digital capabilities of the nation’s citizens and businesses and Spark innovation and underpin our economy in a digital age.

What does being a ‘Gigabit city’ mean?

CityFibre is the UK’s leading alternative provider of wholesale full fibre network infrastructure. In essence, we provide the new digital infrastructure to connect every home, business, school and public building across a city. Service providers use our network to offer customers whatever internet services they want. We call these cities ‘Gigabit Cities’ and CityFibre is making transformational investments across the UK as we look to rapidly expand the number of homes and businesses which have access to full fibre.

The most important aspect of what we do is that we offer a ‘full-fibre’ solution, this means we don’t rely on any of the old cable infrastructure in the ground or telephone cables in the air, but build a brand new network with end to end fibre optic technology. This enables us to offer unbeatable reliability and speed. We are creating more than 50 ‘Gigabit Cities’ in this way, Newcastle being next on the list!

Full fibre connectivity is revered for its gigabit speeds, or 1000 megabites download and upload for every customer, which is nearly 20 times faster than the average broadband connection in the UK. This future proof-technology can grow as society’s needs grow, with the ability to increase the capacity of the fibre optic tenfold, and with the ability to combine additional fibres, it really has become the essential 4th utility.

You are charged with delivering the Gigabit City agenda for Newcastle. What will this infrastructure mean to businesses looking to locate in the city?

Our core mission is to connect everyone in our Gigabit cities, this includes every home, flat, shop, business premises, office, school or public building. Wherever we can get a fibre optic network within a few meters of a building, we can connect to it. As a company we don’t cherry pick certain types of building over another, we certainly don’t prioritise business premises over any other, but by having a core ambition to turn a city into a Gigabit City, by connecting everywhere we can, we can offer something hugely exciting to SMEs and corporates choosing Newcastle as a base.

Firstly, a connected Gigabit city offers businesses a reliable and unparalleled level of service at a much more cost-effective price point than previously available. Secondly, as the whole City is connected using the same technology infrastructure, businesses can offer their employees more flexibility. Thirdly, the technological platform enables businesses to collaborate with their supply chain in a manner that has been previously impossible to match – with great speed and resilience. Where else can an investor get this quality and consistency of connectivity? In the UK at least it’s a very few places, Newcastle is going to be one of them.

What will this infrastructure mean to people who live, study and work in the city?

We are only just beginning to realise the practical impact of the Gigabit City technology platform for people living, studying or working in a city. As I sit here today in the Smart City Expo in Barcelona, with thousands of exhibitors, technologists, councils, educational establishments and even digital fitness guru’s (?!) surrounding me, the future looks hugely exciting. Connected people, homes, vehicles and devices that can make our lives healthier, safer, even happier are becoming more and more common place, mobile devices have been the vanguard to this technology adoption but who know where is will be in the years to come.

One thing I do know for sure, is that without a quality full-fibre city network to connect everything up, none of this can happen.

How will this investment support economic growth?

CityFibre commissioned leading economic analysis firm Regeneris to look at the practical impact of our Gigabit City model across the UK and the data demonstrated that for Newcastle our £50m+ investment in the network build would manifest in the next 15years in some significant uplift for the City including:

  • £85m in private household value
  • £22m in improved business productivity across the City
  • £24m in innovation in businesses
  • £22m in increased start-up activity
  • £77m in smart city infrastructure

Back in June 2019, Newcastle won a Smart City of the Year award. In your eyes what earned the city this honour?

Having lived and worked in cities across the North the thing I most recognise about Newcastle is that the people, the leadership and the business community are hugely supportive of each other.

Collaboration and a positive ‘can-do’ approach are hugely important to achieving anything and I think Newcastle Council, it’s leadership and its officers, have worked tirelessly to drive improvements to services and systems to ultimately improve the lives of Newcastle’s citizens. Most of the time this goes unnoticed but through the recognition of Smart City of the Year 2019, this has in a relatively small way shone a spotlight on the ‘can-do-will do attitude’ of the city. There is a great opportunity to ride this wave of success and with CityFibre choosing to invest in a Gigabit Newcastle, we can help Newcastle achieve even greater digital success in years to come.