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Aberdeen City Council begins Swan network roll-out

Aberdeen City Council has begun work on a regional fibre network to enhance digital services under the auspices of the Capita-run Scottish Wide Area Network framework

A year after signing up to the Capita IT Services-led Scottish Wide Area Network (Swan), Scotland’s public services network (PSN) framework, Aberdeen City Council has begun work on a city-wide fibre network to offer enhanced digital services to residents, businesses and visitors alike.

Since the first Swan contracts were signed over two years ago, Capita and its partners have connected more than 5,000 circuits across 4,300 sites at 50 other public sector organisations in Scotland, to reduce costs and improve public sector connectivity in line with the recommendations of the 2011 McLelland Report on public sector infrastructure in Scotland.

Simon Haston, head of IT at Aberdeen City Council, said the council had seen massive connectivity issues, particularly at more outlying sites, such as schools and social care establishments.

When he took up his post, shortly after the council initially signed its contract with Capita, he decided to explore options to extend the roll-out beyond a mere network upgrade to guarantee Aberdeen’s connectivity would be properly future-proofed.

“We didn’t want the usual Swan roll-out, but instead to look at where we might be in five to 10 years,” Haston told Computer Weekly. “We had to look for partners who could deliver good fibre connections.”

To go beyond a standard council network upgrade, Capita and the council brought on board a number of partners, notably urban fibre infrastructure supplier CityFibre – which has already installed pure fibre broadband networks in a number of other cities in Scotland, including Edinburgh – to link its 188 educational and corporate sites.

The roll-out in Aberdeen has already passed 40 sites, mainly schools, and 30 new circuits have already been installed. That process will be ramped up and is expected to last until October 2017, said Haston.

Eddie Cronie, managing director of Swan at Capita, said: “The enhancement to the Council’s Swan circuits will provide a fantastic foundation for its ambitious plans and shows that the network has become a crucial part of Scotland’s national IT infrastructure.

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“By opting for fibre delivery the council will be able to deliver the capacity it needs now, and increase it when required in the future,” he added.

During the course of the roll-out, the council will also be exploring how to use the network to support more widespread access to broadband around Aberdeen, not just to council sites.

“We will be looking at infill in areas that are unattractive to the market. A lot of our sites are in relatively deprived areas, so we want to know how good backbone connectivity could help with that,” he said.

However, the project will not be stopping at the edge of Aberdeen. Haston said he saw the network roll-out as a key component of a wider, regional connectivity strategy, providing enhanced broadband networking services across Aberdeenshire.

“This is about fulfilling different needs, leveraging what we build in the city for rural broadband,” he explained. “For example, how can we use our exchanges on the outskirts of Aberdeen to help the shire, or use our backhaul and connectivity to enhance wireless broadband access?”

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