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Greater Manchester invites bidders for public sector broadband

£32m tender request will enable ultrafast full-fibre connectivity to more than 1,300 public sector sites in Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester’s local authorities have come together to invite tenders for a £32m full-fibre broadband network project that will connect 1,300 public sector sites to a newly-built 450km network, with access guaranteed for 20 years to come.

The project is being backed by eight of the 10 local authorities that make up the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) – Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Trafford and Wigan – alongside Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, and Transport for Greater Manchester.

Separate to the tender, the remaining two authorities, Manchester itself and Tameside, are already actively investing in full-fibre broadband backed by £23.8m secured from the government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) scheme in 2018.

“The full-fibre high-speed data network will have a transformational impact on digital infrastructure in Greater Manchester,” said Andrew Western, GMCA digital city region lead.

“It opens opportunities to better connect public services, for future internet of things and 5G uses, and will enable more dynamic management of the transport network, including faster response times to manage real-time incidents and traffic flow.”

GMCA hopes that by pushing a wholesale full-fibre implementation out to the public sector, it will trigger about £200m of further private sector investment – in addition to the full-fibre builds that are already active in the city through CityFibre and  Openreach – to deliver ultrafast connections to more business and residential premises.

Its plans predict an increase of full-fibre coverage within Greater Manchester from 3% today to 25% by 2022, which could pump more than £2bn into the city’s economy between now and 2034.

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“Connecting Greater Manchester’s public sector sites in this way will supercharge our digital capacity and trigger major private investment,” said Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. “As well as revolutionising our online public services, it will provide a huge boost to Greater Manchester’s economy and productivity, cementing our position as one of the leading digital city-regions in Europe.”

Western added: “We are also committed to encouraging wider full-fibre investment across the city-region by minimising construction costs for all providers through our GM Prospectus, which will create standardised wayleaves and harmonise regulations between our local authorities.”

Potential suppliers are being invited to register their interest by 13 May, and those shortlisted will then be asked to submit an initial tender, with contracts set to be awarded in September 2019.

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