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Bristol Council opens its fibre network to commercial operators

Small business owners in Bristol will now be able to take advantage of ultrafast broadband connectivity using the local council’s fibre backhaul network

Bristol City Council has selected local wholesale network services provider Hub Network Services (HNS) to offer wholesale access to the council’s own BNET duct fibre network, an 80km long backhaul network that already covers most of the city.

The BNET network was bought from cable television company Rediffusion just over 15 years ago and up until recently was mainly used by the council to run services into its own sites.

Back in 2015, Bristol Council signed a 20-year joint venture contract with public sector services business, ITS Technology Group and a company called Net Support, to begin to commercialise the network by renting out unused capacity for broadband services to local businesses.

The JV partners have now enlisted HNS to offer ultrafast, gigabit services through local ISPs for around £350 per month, backed up by HNS’ round-the-clock monitoring and support services offering.

“As a leading digital city, the Bristol Network and the collaboration with Bristol City Council is imperative to drive forward a programme of change throughout the city,” said Gavin Beckett, head of digital transformation at Bristol City Council.

“BNET is ideally suited for quickly connecting businesses of all sizes to the internet, including the many media, marketing and software firms in the area with particularly large bandwidth requirements; as well as large multi-tenant office buildings and corporate premises,” said HNS CEO John Volanthen.

“Apart from sheer speed, low latency and low cost, BNET also offers a reliable, fully supported and very secure Internet connectivity solution.”

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Bristol Council added that revenues it received from the service would be used to fund other projects in the city. It also plans to extend the network by up to 96km.

The council has long-positioned itself as one of the UK’s leading digital local authorities. A little over two years ago it enlisted NEC to help develop a high-performance, ultra-low latency software-defined network (SDN) to run a city operating system to develop smart city use cases, with R&D support from Bristol University’s Dimitra Simeonidou at the university’s high performance networking group, which is also helping to develop the UK government’s 5G pilot network.

It has also worked with CityFibre to deliver gigabit business broadband over a separate fibre network that was previously owned by KCOM.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications