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First businesses connect to South Yorkshire gigabit broadband network

The first customers have gone live on CityFibre’s South Yorkshire network, covering businesses in Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield

The first businesses have connected to live full-fibre broadband services on CityFibre’s Gigabit City networks in Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield through communications service provider (CSP) partner Exa Networks.

The first companies to sign up for the service are Doncaster-based car parts wholesaler Imperial Automotive and Sheffield-based debt collection agency Credit Style.

“Ultrafast internet connectivity is an extremely useful commodity for the business community, and something that is regularly discussed by our members,” said Richard Wright, chief executive at the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

“I am delighted to see a company coming into the city and investing in the local infrastructure to boost economic growth. This type of development further strengthens Sheffield’s extensive credentials as an innovation hub where businesses can thrive,” Wright added.

“The Gigabit City networks in South Yorkshire have the potential to catapult the region and the businesses operating there into the global digital arena and facilitate Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham in joining the likes of Leeds as key players in the Northern Powerhouse,” said CityFibre’s city development manager, Jason Petrou-Brown.  

“We view building future-proof digital infrastructure and establishing Gigabit Cities as an important investment that will instil confidence in the UK’s economy by equipping businesses and public services with the tools they need to fully embrace the digital age. We look forward to connecting many more organisations to our network and seeing the region reap the benefits of greater productivity, efficiency and competitiveness,” he added.

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Earlier this year, TechCity UK’s third annual Tech Nation report estimated that the digitisation of South Yorkshire was likely to generate an additional £339m of GVA for the regional economy. CityFibre said it hoped investment in network services would help achieve this goal by providing the infrastructure needed to support growing numbers of digital businesses, tech startups, and so on.

The organisation already covers a number of other communities in the wider area, including Bradford and Leeds, where Exa Networks and fellow CSP Diva Telecom have been supplying business broadband services across a  200km fibre network since April 2016, and in Kirklees in West Yorkshire.

Recovery from failed Digital Region project

At one time, the three cities covered by the network were to be served by a superfast – although not FTTP – network, jointly developed by local councils in South Yorkshire, called the Digital Region.

This project brought together four local authorities – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield – with additional government funding supplied through what was then the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The Digital Region project was axed in August 2013 amid funding fears and escalating costs, with the partners involved left on the hook for around £80m.

The parts of the fibre network that had been built at the time of the project shutdown were later sold to Geo Networks – part of US backhaul supplier Zayo – which incorporated the assets into its nationwide fibre network after a managed transfer of existing customers off the network.

Meanwhile, CityFibre’s other partner in Yorkshire, Diva Networks, has been shortlisted for a major award after businesses based in the Eltofts area north of Leeds convinced it to run a 24km cable along the A58 after hearing about CityFibre’s work in Leeds city centre.

Locals then dug fibre trenches themselves to connect home offices and businesses to CityFibre’s first rural outpost.

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