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Manchester’s Northern Quarter is to get access to ultrafast connectivity through Virgin Media Business, providing 3,000 businesses in 300 buildings with internet speeds of up to 100Mbps.
The service, which will be accessible through the government’s business broadband connection voucher scheme, will take the form of a managed fibre offering.
Small businesses will be able to buy a 50Mbps or 100Mbps service over a shared 1Gbps FTTP connection.
A leased line service providing dedicated gigabit speeds will also be available for businesses that need more than 100Mbps regularly.
Virgin launched a similar managed fibre service in London’s Tech City in January 2015 after repeated complaints that broadband connections in the area were not up to scratch. More than 450 businesses in 70 London properties have already taken up the offer.
The broadband provider’s latest announcement follows the creation of a government-backed tech startup hub in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which was announced by chancellor George Osborne in the pre-election spring budget.
The hub, which has received £4m in funding from Westminster, was designed to help create “thriving local ecosystems” similar to those found in Tech City.
Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese welcomed the latest investment – Virgin’s second in the city in the past three months.
“Quick, reliable broadband is the backbone of our digital economy, transforming the way businesses operate and the services they can provide,” said Leese.
“This announcement represents a bespoke ultrafast broadband package for SMEs and will help support some of Manchester’s most digitally minded and creative businesses.”
Mike Cherry, director of policy at the Federation of Small Businesses, which is preparing to launch an extensive report on SME connectivity, added: “This sort of investment is essential if we are to encourage greater job creation and growth outside London and the south-east.
“It’s vital we encourage economic growth right across the UK, particularly in the Northern Powerhouse where there is so much potential waiting to be unlocked.”
According to Tech Nation, Manchester has already seen a 70% growth rate in the number of digital companies between 2010 and 2013, with one of the highest average company turnover growth rates in the country.