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Stoke-on-Trent City Council has become the first local authority in the UK to sign up Swedish open access fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband supplier VX Fiber to help commercialise its city ring fibre network and bring ultrafast broadband services to residents and businesses.
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VX Fiber specialises in helping local councils take advantage of existing fibre networks to form the basis of local broadband networks that internet service providers (ISPs) can offer services over, while the authority retains overall control of the asset for itself. Having successfully established its business model in its home market, it announced its expansion into the UK in February 2018.
The project will see the council-owned fibre ring and ducts lit up by VX Fiber using its Open Access Platform, and new cabling will in time bring gigabit services to locations across the area.
The first phase of the scheme will focus on the city’s Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone, a 140-hectare site to the west of the city centre, where work is currently underway on repurposing brownfield industrial sites for modern enterprises. So far, the scheme has created more than 1,000 jobs in the area.
“Stoke-on-Trent has a brilliant central geographic location, which is boosting its economic growth beyond what much of the rest of the UK is experiencing at the moment,” said Stoke-on-Trent City Council deputy leader Abi Brown.
“We’re in the top 10 fastest growing economies outside of London, we already have some of the fastest average 4G mobile download speeds in the country, and are developing an innovative district heat network to supply sustainable energy to business and resident.
“We’re serious about becoming a sustainable, smart city. However, the traditional part copper-based broadband offering currently available simply isn’t good enough to keep pace with the fast-changing connectivity demands of today’s increasingly digital society and economy.
“Full fibre gigabit connectivity addresses these needs and is the cornerstone of our vision for the future growth and prosperity of our city and its residents and businesses. VX Fiber is playing a significant role in realising this vision in a way that’s practical, affordable and flexible, to adapt and grow alongside our city and its connectivity needs,” she said.
Read more about FTTP broadband
The council said using VX Fiber would deliver better value and reduce service delivery costs in line with its aim to support disadvantaged citizens with affordable broadband access.
ISPs, meanwhile, should benefit from a healthier competitive environment because concerns over how Openreach manages its wholesale network will be absent. This should improve user choice and potentially offers local altnets the opportunity to compete on features and price.
The model also enables alternative investors in the wider fibre deployment – such as housing associations, developers and other land owners – to connect their properties to the network.
“Stoke-on-Trent is a forward-looking city that understands the essential role of high speed broadband access to businesses and individuals, and the positive social and economic impact it can have on a community,” said VX Fiber executive chairman Mikael Sandberg.
“Our work with Stoke-on-Trent City Council provides a template for other UK local authorities and regional governments to follow. By investing in and installing gigabit-speed fibre themselves, local authorities and councils can take charge of their community’s digital destiny, without having to rely on third-party telecom operators or ISPs.”