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Neos Networks to enable Oxfordshire gigabit smart county ambitions

Leading fibre connectivity supplier reveals role in project designed to deliver gigabit broadband upgrades for more than 175 public sector sites across Oxfordshire by the end of 2023

As part of the government’s GigaHubs project to upgrade connectivity infrastructure across the UK, fibre connectivity supplier Neos Networks has built infrastructure to over 90 public sector and local authority sites in Oxfordshire to access gigabit-capable full-fibre broadband, in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and with additional funding from Building Digital UK.

The GigaHubs project has a primary aim of bringing fibre right into the heart of communities, improving service efficiency while providing fibre “hubs” from which industry can additionally connect other businesses and homes.

It is part of the £5bn Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Project Gigabit, aimed at securing gigabit connectivity to at least 85% of residential and business premises in the UK.

Oxfordshire County Council has agreed to add investment to DCMS funding for this project, extending the scope to include a number community centres, additional schools, GP practices and libraries. The council’s investment totals £5m, plus £2m from the DCMS. The council funding is sourced from income generated by its Better Broadband for Oxfordshire Programme, due to “very high take-up” of superfast broadband services under a contract with BT Openreach.

The project began at the end of 2021, with four of the eight delivery milestones having been completed to date. Sites from community centres, village halls and schools, to libraries, GP surgeries, leisure centres, fire stations and museums, are already benefiting from gigabit connectivity, improving service quality for users and allowing public spaces to better fulfil their roles as community hubs. 

Following a procurement, Oxfordshire County Council has selected Neos Networks to connect some 200 public service sites with gigabit-capable broadband. The project is on track for completion by the end of 2023, by which point Neos Networks assures it will have significantly improved connectivity for buildings providing public services across the region. Part of a 20-year deal, Neos Networks will act as an aggregator, bringing together several connectivity suppliers – including Openreach, Virgin Media Business and regional altnet Gigaclear – to build, manage and operate the new infrastructure.

Following the council’s Better Broadband for Oxfordshire and Businesses in Rural Oxfordshire projects, the addition of the GigaHubs project will mean over 1,500km of fibre has been provisioned to lay the foundations for a “smart county”. This improved connectivity is seen as a key component in enabling future innovation such as drone corridors, connected autonomous vehicles, and other internet of things (IoT) services for residents and businesses.

As part of the council’s commitment to improving connectivity in rural locations and its corporate buildings, Faringdon Library and Woodcote Community Centre are two of the first to have full-fibre broadband under the GigaHubs project. There is an outline plan for community facilities like Woodcote to be able to offer a wider range of services, possibly including health, social care and third sector services.

“We’re delighted with the progress that the project has made over the last 12 months. Transforming broadband infrastructure across the county is providing a springboard to improve the services we provide to our community and will be key in maintaining our position as one of the UK’s best-connected counties,” said Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for corporate services Councillor Glynis Phillips. “We are proud to be delivering on our commitment to our digital infrastructure strategy by bringing more opportunities and quality of life improvements to the doorsteps of our citizens.”

Sarah Mills, chief revenue officer at Neos Networks, added: “We’re delighted to continue to deliver for Oxfordshire County Council, providing better, faster connections. We are in the process of rolling out new fibre across the region, in areas that have traditionally suffered from limited access to connectivity and digital services. As the project progresses and we move closer to completion, it will also provide a boost to the local economy as connectivity attracts new investment and businesses to the area.”

Mark McCree, service manager of the council’s library service, remarked: “The upgrade to our broadband service at Faringdon Library is having a noticeably positive impact on service delivery. We are seeing much faster speeds on public computers, staff PCs, self-service kiosks and public Wi-Fi connections. The improved Wi-Fi now supports flexible working, meetings and hotdesking for visiting staff.”

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