Business and Economy

Superfast Broadband will boost Devon and Somerset economy

Posted on: 31 January 2013

A £94 million project to transform broadband speeds for businesses and residents across Devon and Somerset within the next four years was announced today.

Connecting Devon and Somerset has agreed a deal with BT which 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 speeds for all – making this one of the best connected areas in the UK.

The contract for the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme and BT, the private sector partner, was signed on 29 January 2013, at County Hall in Taunton, Somerset. BT was chosen by Connecting Devon and Somerset following an extensive and thorough procurement process.

Surveying work on the project will start immediately and the first locations to be upgraded will be announced during Spring 2013.

This major infrastructure project will also provide a big boost to the local economy. The programme team estimates that this will generate an estimated additional £750m1 in GVA by 2020,2 creating high tech jobs and attracting new businesses and investors to the area.

Faster broadband will help local businesses find new customers and become more competitive and efficient, whilst for households the high-speed technology will offer new educational, training and leisure opportunities.

BT’s £41 million financial contribution will bolster the public sector investment, which includes £10 million each from Devon and Somerset County Councils, £32m Government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and contributions from other public sector partners.

The programme will transform broadband speeds. Average speeds are currently around 9 Mbps in Devon and around 8Mbps in Somerset whilst approximately 14 per cent of premises across the two counties receive less than 2Mbps.3

The combination of rural, urban and coastal geographies will offer various engineering challenges, but the most 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 BT street cabinet. It can deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.

Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business and which can deliver the top current download speed of 330Mbps,4 will also be available in certain areas. In addition, from Spring 2013, BT aims to make FTTP technology commercially available on demand5 in any area where fibre broadband has been deployed, should local businesses want the ultra-fast speeds it offers.

Openreach will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis. Devon and Somerset consumers and businesses will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices.

With fibre broadband, large video and data files can be sent and received almost instantly and hi-resolution photos posted online in seconds. Faster upload speeds also boost flexible and remote working, reducing office overheads and improving employees’ work-life balance.

High quality voice and video calls mean businesses can keep in touch with customers while cutting down on travel.

Superfast broadband can also transform communities, enabling better access to public services, online shopping and keeping in touch. Families can download a movie, watch a TV replay service, surf the net and play games online simultaneously.

BT is already in the process of rolling out fibre broadband to homes and businesses in some areas of Devon and Somerset as part of its commercial plan to reach around two-thirds of UK premises.

Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council and Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership Board Member, said:

“Breaking down the rural broadband divide will give our residents, communities and businesses opportunities that they’ve only been able to imagine up till now. Fast and reliable internet is becoming more important to daily life and going online will soon be the only way to access some key public services. Superfast and improved broadband will help us to strengthen our economy, grow and develop our businesses while enhancing community activities. This is an important milestone for all who live and work in our region.”

Councillor John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council and Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership Board Member, said:

“This is a project of huge significance to businesses and local communities across Devon and Somerset.

“Superfast Broadband will enable even our smallest businesses to compete on a level playing field with other companies nationally and internationally. That means Devon businesses can expand without having to relocate and benefit from improving productivity. It’ll mean a big boost to our economy and the creation of new jobs as firms take advantage of their new-found competitiveness. And families in rural areas will be able to enjoy all the benefits of our digital age, such as downloading films and music, which have so far been denied them.”

Bill Murphy, Managing Director, Next Generation Broadband from BT Group, added:

“This project is vital to the future economic strength of the heart of the South West. Reliable access to broadband is an integral part of 21st Century living. It’s much more than streaming video and music or online shopping: it’s increasingly the way business is conducted and services are delivered. It will enable businesses to compete on a level footing regardless of location – making Devon and Somerset a more attractive proposition for business re-locations and start-ups – including the creation of new, high-tech jobs.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, said:

“It is projects like “Connecting Devon and Somerset”, the largest of all the English Local Authority projects and encompassing six different local authority areas, that will help us achieve Government’s aim for the UK to have the best broadband in Europe by 2015. Superfast broadband is a powerful tool for driving growth, and this ambitious £94m project, set to generate an additional £750m for the local economy by 2020, will bring countless benefits to both businesses and households alike.”

About Connecting Devon and Somerset

Councils across Devon and Somerset are working together to bring faster broadband to the area and deliver improved broadband for rural Devon and Somerset – the “final third” – rural areas that are unlikely to benefit from commercial investment in broadband.

The Connecting Devon and Somerset project covers Devon County Council, Somerset County Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council, and North Somerset Council areas.

The project has secured £32 million of funding from the government agency Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and both Somerset and Devon County Councils will be putting in up to £10 million each. Further funding from Bath and North East Somerset Council who joined CDS in February has brought the total close to £53 million.

More information about the project can be found on the Connecting Devon and Somerset website.

14 comments on “Superfast Broadband will boost Devon and Somerset economy

  1. David Smith says:

    Stuggling to get 4Mbs on Sowton Industrial Estate, Exeter.
    This can’t come soon enough. It will have a huge impact on many business here. Let’s hope we can work our way through the red tape and we’re not waiting another decade.

  2. Simon Spencer says:

    I run an Architectural business from my home in Talaton, and I really hope that Whimple is included early in this. Broadband just about works during the day, but from late afternoon when the kids are back from school, it is virtually useless.

  3. C Chapman says:

    This will significantly improve services for 90%. Which areas of Devon will be in the 10% that won’t benefit at all from this investment?

    • Devon Newscentre says:

      Thanks for your question. Given that we are in the early stages of this contract, we are unable to advise what will happen with individual premises or locations yet, or determine which properties are likely to fall within the 90% of premises that will see high-speed fibre broadband by the end of 2016. BT is beginning detailed survey work now, and we will be in a better position to share details in Spring 2013.
      Premises within the project area that currently have less than 2Mbps will benefit from an improvement in speed up to and beyond 2Mbps from the programme. We are also already seeking solutions for the 10% of premises that will not initially be reached by high-speed fibre broadband: this may include additional funding or alternative technologies, and this will become clearer as the project progresses. Overall our ambition is to ensure the whole area has superfast broadband by 2020. You may want to subscribe to the Connecting Devon and Somerset newsletter to keep up to speed on further developments. Please visit: http://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/signup-for-regular-updates

  4. David Hazzard says:

    Also struggling on Sowton Industrial Estate, but barely able to get 2Mbs. We are a software house and software updates and downloads are nowadays 1-2GB, this is impossible to download currently.
    This will help our productivity no end.

  5. Will says:

    Fantastic though this news is, I still can’t believe FTTC will actually happen in such a rural area of Britain. How do they physically connect an exchange which is by the sea to a village like Slapton (TQ7), which is in a valley? Many of the cables to the village are underground and haven’t been touched since the Victorian era!

    I dearly hope it’s true. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds on satellite broadband for my mother’s connection but it remains a poor alternative to cable or copper.

    Congrats to everyone involved.

    • Devon Newscentre says:

      Thank you for your comment and you are right: this is a major civil engineering project. The Connecting Devon and Somerset programme covers an area with unique requirements and a complex infrastructure due to its geography. The project scope is therefore extremely detailed and requires careful survey work before roll-out details can be confirmed and implementation can begin. Now that the contract has been agreed, BT is beginning this survey work and we will be in a better position to share further details from Spring 2013

  6. Steve Male says:

    Brilliant news, congratulations all round. This much needed investment will greatly enhance the on-line life both residents but also businesses. We certainly need to upgrade speeds in the rural areas. Here in Highampton Devon upload speeds rarely exceed 1.8 Mbps and much lower when its wet!

    One question: How do local village community bodies and Parish Councils lobby for early inclusion in the programme?

    • Devon Newscentre says:

      Thanks for your feedback. Now that the contract has been signed, BT will begin detailed survey work to determine how this complex project can be delivered. This will determine the roll-out programme, which will be driven by engineering and infrastructure requirements, rather than lobbying. That said, make sure that you and members of your community networks have completed the Connecting Devon and Somerset survey, so that your area’s needs, as well as current speeds and coverage in the area, are logged. The survey link is here: http://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/we-need-you.

  7. Adam Godfrey says:

    This is great news and I really look forward to faster connection speeds.
    Working from home in Ludbrook South Devon on a connection that typically runs at 1Mbps is particularly painful.
    Fast internet has such great potential for us in the far south west. We suffer in so many ways from our peripheral location, with slow rail links and a recently closed airport. Fast internet can potentially remove our geographical disadvantages.

  8. Roger Stokes says:

    The above comments are interesting, but there may be things current users can do to improve their situations. I live at Woodbury, and was unable to get enough speed to drive the iplayer when required, (less that 2MB). I approached my Internet Service Provider about this, and he tested my line and said that I should be able to get from 8 – 10MB. However, to attain this I would need to change my router to an ADSL2+, and renew my existing subscription at no extra cost. This I did, and hey presto I am now running on 10 – 12MB all the time. It would seem that older type routers can effectively restrict any advancements in Broadband speed without your knowledge. It is like a water tap, where if it is half turned off you don’t get so much water going through. Broadband is very similar, and newer routers have greater throughput capacity, with a bigger “hole” that data can go through. This has transformed my Broadband useage to a very tolerable level. So approach your ISP and ask him a few questions – you might find some useful answers. You have to do the asking, I doubt if he will! In the meantime you just muddle on as before, assuming that all will change automatically, but it won’t. When Superfast Broadband finally arrives, you might need to remember to change your router again to get the best out of it. Food for thought!

  9. Chris Carter says:

    12 years ago when I moved to Lympstone I was told, in confidence that broadband speeds would improve ‘shortly’. In 2006 I was ‘warned that at 7 miles from the exchange I was was told that it would be another 5 years before any improvement. After more than 6 years I find that my average speed has FALLEN to below 1.5 M bps.

  10. Steve in Diptford says:

    This should be fantastic news for everyone, but I am very concerned that the focus will be on getting superfast broadband to some, whilst those in ‘difficult to reach’ areas who struggle with little or no service will again fall to the bottom of the queue. My business has to subcontract high web based activity outside the area which is very inconvenient to say the least! I believe the sensible approach would be a ‘bottom up’ solution, starting with those who currently have limited or zero access. I suspect however that the ‘low lying fruit’ will be first in line & raising those getting 8Mbps+ to dizzy heights . Sorry if I seem cynical & ungrateful but I am worried that I will be proved right & we will not see any major improvement in my lifetime. I dream of getting 2Mbps;…. 8Mbps would currently make me unbelievably happy.

  11. Martin Prentice says:

    Simple question – When will Holsworthy have suprefast Broadband given that its exchange is not even on the BT programme for upgrading.

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