Peterborough becomes ‘gigabit city’ after council inks fibre network deal

Peterborough City Council signs CityFibre for a privately funded fibre network offering 1Gbps to 80% of its businesses by 2015

Peterborough City Council has signed a deal with CityFibre to build a 1Gbps fibre network.

The East Midlands city – home to 200,000 residents and 4,000 businesses – is currently served by BT, with some access to Virgin Media’s services. However, CityFibre will use private investment to build a fibre network, claiming it will offer significantly faster connections from just £25 per month.

“Peterborough’s population has grown by 27,000 in the last 10 years and is the fastest growing city outside of London,” said Marco Cereste, leader of Peterborough City Council. “We believe we are getting the city right and the city is growing, but we are already in the 21st century – how do we take the city into the 22nd century?”

“You can go to certain places in the world and they have 50Mbps or more to their homes and you can see the benefits to them as individuals and the businesses that are there. It has always been a huge ambition to do the same for Peterborough and take things beyond 50Mbps. Everything that we can do as a council will be there and we want this city and its businesses to grow.”

The first phase of the roll-out, beginning in spring 2014, will see 90km of fibre laid down across the city, giving access to 80% of Peterborough’s businesses, as well as numerous public sector organisations such as schools, hospitals and museums.

That core infrastructure focusing on business districts will be completed in 18 months – although the first services plan to go online in summer 2014 – and will allow any company within 200m of the network to connect. CityFibre’s CEO, Greg Mesch, promised some discounted rates and free connections to encourage take-up.

Further expansion plans

However, the plan is to expand the network further, meaning other areas left out in the initial roll-out should not be far behind.

“All the network is deployed underground, is fully passive meaning there is no electronics and the volume of transmission capability in any of the 1,000 strands is virtually limitless,” said Mark Collins, director of policy and regulation at CityFibre. “So when we talk about gigabits today, we are talking terabits tomorrow.”

“When we are building this infrastructure, we are putting capacity in place to be able to connect everything more than once. The investment is a future-proofing the city.”

The network will be offered to ISPs to use on a wholesale basis but CityFibre has promised to offer the same price to them as BT does for its 40Mbps connections, meaning in theory users could access 1Gbps for £25 per month. The company will also offer its own service for dedicated lease lines, costing between £200 and £1,000 per month, and fibre business tariffs costing between £50 and £100 per month.

Infrastructure project plans

Mesch explained that, although the build would cost several millions, they only needed around 300 end points before it started paying for itself.

The CEO warned CityFibre would be digging up a lot of roads in Peterborough to get the job done, but added: “We are going to give you an infrastructure that won’t just last 50 years, not even 100 years, but maybe 1,000. People need to understand we have a Victorian infrastructure which the UK must replace or it will not succeed in economies that are shifting over to become digital.”

CityFibre already has two cities with similar roll-outs – York and Bournemouth – but Mesch revealed there would be two more second-tier cities announced in the near future.

“I would like to do all 100 cities over the next year, but we can’t,” he concluded. “We will only doing selective projects.”

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