Prime Minister Boris Johnson made headlines last week by committing to full fibre broadband across the country by 2025 – eight years sooner than the previous target of 2033.
The Humber region has already made significant strides to providing this infrastructure to businesses as well as consumers in the region. The Hull area is already benefiting from complete ultrafast full fibre broadband coverage (ultrafast meaning speeds of more than 100Mbps) with KCOM providing its Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) Lightstream service across its entire Hull and East Yorkshire network.
This full fibre broadband means fibre optic cables don’t just run from the broadband exchange to the cabinets on the street – the fibre cables run all the way into homes and businesses, right up to the routers. This technology is only available to 8% of homes and businesses across the UK.
KCOM managing director Sean Royce, said: “We can understand why Boris Johnson wants full fibre across the UK faster than is already planned.
“KCOM took that decision many years ago because we knew that full fibre ultrafast internet access is what customers need and can regenerate economies, which is what we are seeing here in Hull and East Yorkshire.
“Our full fibre Lightstream network is an exemplar to the rest of the UK of how to successfully roll out a world class, ultrafast, broadband network – a network that is already giving our region’s businesses a major advantage on a global stage.
“Lightstream is providing the foundations on which the region’s tech and digital industries are now flourishing.”
Elsewhere in the Humber, North East Lincolnshire is also performing above average in terms of superfast connectivity – with a combined 97.9% of businesses and homes benefitting from superfast connectivity (superfast means speeds over 24 Mbps) – above the current Government target of 95%.
Ensuring the region’s homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband and full fibre connectivity is of great importance to the Humber LEP.
As part of its Local Industrial Strategy they are making a commitment to ensure that all parts of the Humber have high-speed broadband access. This is part of its commitment to improving the infrastructure of the region and ensuring businesses have all the tools at their disposal to be successful.
This improved full-fibre connectivity in Hull has been the cornerstone of the city’s burgeoning tech sector – one of the fastest growing outside of London – and the fastest growing in the North of England.
Using C4DI as an example – each hot desk at the Fruit Market tech hub one has a 1Gbps broadband connection built in by KCOM – a speed that most entire tech hubs can’t match.
The TechNation report carried out by the Government in 2018 reported Hull seeing a 5% increase in the number of tech jobs recorded since 2014, with over seven thousand digi-tech jobs currently in the city. The annual digi-tech turnover is a reported to be £568m – with a calculated turnover per employee being an impressive £133k.
However, even with this increased full-fibre or superfast connectivity on offer in the Humber region, businesses still need to know how to make the most of this service, and ensure their organisations are as tech-savvy as possible.
One way the Humber LEP are encouraging businesses to ensure they are using the best ICT for their businesses is through the Humber Business Growth Hub’s ITC for Growth programme.
Globally, information communication technology (ICT) is without doubt the fastest changing aspect and challenge of the business world
It is hard to keep up with these changes whilst at the same time managing the day-to-day running of your business. ICT can be a key aspect in enhancing business growth and increasing your company’s competitive edge.
Running until May 2021, the ICT for Growth scheme will encourage and support the uptake of digital technologies, build business confidence in the use of such technologies and extend understanding of how digital technologies can be employed to solve business problems.
All this is undoubtedly of benefit to businesses and residents in the Humber region. However, the Humber LEP still has work to do to make sure everyone in the region is able to benefit from increased connectivity.
Areas including the East Riding and North Lincolnshire are more rural than their Hull or North East Lincolnshire counterparts – and some areas struggle with connectivity. There are also some mobile phone coverage ‘not spots’ in these areas – which is of course a barrier to the growth of some businesses. The Humber LEP are working with partners to improving this in its Industrial Strategy.
All local authorities in our region are promoting the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. The Gigabit vouchers can be used by small businesses and the local communities surrounding them to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit-capable full fibre connection. Businesses can claim up to £2,500 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can benefit from the scheme with a voucher worth £500 as part of a group project.
In KCOM’s Hull and East Yorkshire’s network alone, more than 800 small and medium sized businesses have already signed up to the Gigabit Voucher Scheme, giving them access to full fibre broadband, courtesy of Government funding.
Meanwhile, the Government’s Better Broadband Scheme is aiming to help those with very limited connectivity to broadband.Businesses experiencing broadband speeds of less than 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) could be helped with higher download speeds of at least 10 Mbps.
The Better Broadband Voucher Scheme provides a voucher worth up to £350 for basic broadband installation to homes and businesses that will not benefit from superfast broadband within the next twelve months.