10gbps network speeds up Manchester's media dream

BT Business beat off competition from 17 other network suppliers to win a contract said to be worth close to £10m to install a 10gbps network in

BT Business beat off competition from 17 other network suppliers to win a contract said to be worth close to £10m to install a 10gbps network in MediaCityUK, the £500m redevelopment of the Salford Harbour in Manchester.

The 36-acre city centre site is being developed as a high-tech centre as well as for shops, offices and entertainment by the Peel Group.

The group hopes it will become the UK's equivalent to similar centres in Dubai and Singapore. Initial tenants include the BBC, Salford University and Northwest Vision and Media, a visual media consultancy.

Stuart Thorley, the centre's head of communications and infrastructure, said plans to build a datacentre for tenants are in their infancy.

The idea is that tenants will have processing, storage and communications facilities on tap, making it easier for small and medium technology and media companies to move in and start up, he said.

BT Business project leader VJ Jethwa said the campus-style private network would contain 20,000km of fibre running to the premises. Communications reticulation for buildings would be to tenants' requirements, working through Peel.

Tenders for in-building communications were expected to start coming out soon because building the first phase of the project is expected to finish at the end of 2010.

Thorley said residential properties would have fibre to the home. Offices were likely to have fibre at least to the building core so that tenants had a choice of technologies. "We'll see what they want and deliver it," he said.

Thorley said Peel had a tender out for a supplier of communications services, including billing. "But it will all be white-labelled under the MediaCityUK brand," he said.

Jethwa said BT Openreach would provide the fibres, 288 in all, each capable of up to 10gbps speeds. There would be two points of presence for extra resiliency, with Cisco routers and switches to distribute and collect calls. INet, a BT subsidiary, provided the network design.

The network would handle all different types of traffic, Jethwa said. These included voice, data, high and standard definition video, and wireless communications backhaul services.

He expected applications to include editing and transmission of high definition video, high quality business Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, file sharing, movies, digital signage, telepresence, cloud computing, building management services, site surveillance and others.

BT and Peel spokesmen declined to say what arrangement there were to link MediaCityUK to the BBC's London offices or to other high speed networks such as Sohonet, which serves the computer graphics community.

Mike Blackburn, BT's regional director for the North West, said tenants would be able to dial bandwidth on demand. "If someone moves into a flat and wants 100mbps, they can pretty much have it," he said. "The key is that we are putting in the infrastructure that will allow Peel to provide almost any communications service almost instantly."

He said the availability of ultra-fast networks could attract tenants. Consumers, such as hotel guests, would benefit from the higher speeds, but the 314,000 residents in surrounding communities would have access to BT's standard 40mbps fibre to the home service as it rolled out, he said.

Salford University, which is on Janet (the high speed network that links the UK universities and research labs), will also benefit, he said.

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