Business and Economy

Connecting Devon and Somerset reaches new milestone

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Posted on: 18 March 2013

Connecting Devon and Somerset has marked the beginning of the detailed survey phase of the fibre optic broadband roll-out with a launch event for key stakeholders, including highway and traffic management officers, planners and power companies.

The comprehensive survey work, a vital but complex stage of infrastructure planning, will be undertaken by BT engineers and their contractors. The survey work is essential in creating a detailed plan for each phase, ensuring an efficient deployment and keeping any disruption to a minimum.

During the launch at Dartington Hall, members of the Connecting Devon and Somerset team, alongside private sector partner, BT, explained the programme’s next steps to key Local Authority officers and stakeholders.

The contract for Connecting Devon and Somerset was signed with BT in January 2013 after a thorough procurement process. The deal aims to deliver high-speed fibre broadband to around 90 per cent of premises by the end of 2016 and to ensure a minimum of 2Mbps broadband speed for all.

The £94 million project will make Devon and Somerset one of the best connected areas in the UK and is the largest programme of its kind in England.

Comprehensive survey work has to be done before infrastructure roll-out can begin. Engineers will be looking to use existing underground ducts wherever possible as well as potential locations for new cabinets.

BT will connect Devon and Somerset to the existing national fibre infrastructure using ‘Fibre Spines’. Over 1200 green street cabinets with sophisticated fibre broadband technology will be placed in new locations across both counties, including the Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay areas.

This volume of work across the entire geography of Devon and Somerset will require meticulous planning. Care needs to be taken with the positioning of new structures. For example, special consideration needs to be given to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

With their diverse combination of rural, urban and coastal geographies, Devon and Somerset both present a variety of challenges to the BT engineers, many of which will involve close collaboration with Highways and Planning Officers.

The predominant technology will be fibre optic broadband. Most of the programme area will receive Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), where the fibre runs from the telephone exchange as far as the nearest fibre optic street cabinet. It can deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.1

As the largest project in England, Connecting Devon and Somerset has attracted a significant £32 million from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. Further financial contribution includes £10 million each from Devon and Somerset County Councils and £41 million from BT as well as funding from other public sector partners.

Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council said:  “Connecting Devon and Somerset has reached an important milestone. Until now the programme team has been working hard to secure the best value for money deal for our residents and businesses alike.  This new phase will be equally demanding. The survey work is complex but vital if we are to have a sustainable and future proof broadband network and break down the digital divide.”

Councillor John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council, said: “The programme will enable our rural areas to compete on a level playing field with our cities and larger towns and will help to transform our economy. It will enable our businesses to increase their competitiveness and open up new markets, create high tech jobs and attract new companies and investors to the area. With public services moving online and modern life becoming ever more digital, our families and communities will also be able to benefit from becoming better connected.”

Jon Reynolds, BT South West regional director, said: “These are the first steps in an exciting, multi million pound programme, which will make a major contribution to the future prosperity of Devon and Somerset. We are working closely with our programme partners to bring high-speed fibre broadband to local communities as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The Connecting Devon and Somerset project is the biggest superfast broadband project in England and will deliver a huge boost to the local economy. Today’s launch event is a clear demonstration of how all the parties involved are working closely together to ensure the roll-out proceeds at pace whilst keeping any disruptions to a minimum.”

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