A project which will ensure almost the entire borough of Swindon has access to superfast broadband will go before council’s cabinet next week (18 March).
Councillors will be asked to approve UKB Networks as the preferred supplier of a network that will increase superfast broadband coverage from 80% to 99.4% of households and businesses in Swindon by 2016.
The plan, which will see 101,000 households and premises receiving superfast broadband and only 573 in the more rural areas without, could even be completed by the middle of next year.
But rather than causing massive disruption by digging up the streets to install cables, this proposal is putting forward a wireless solution, meaning at least 16 strategically placed streetmasts and monopoles would be placed throughout the borough that will transmit superfast broadband to each household.
Anyone signing up to superfast broadband would get a box installed for free on the front of their house by UKB Networks and then would pay their internet service provider as normal for the broadband service.
In July last year Swindon Borough Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport each agreed to invest up to £1.5 million of funding to extend superfast broadband coverage in non-commercially viable areas. The network supplier was also asked to invest a significant amount into building and operating the network.
An open market exercise was undertaken between October and January for suppliers to develop, implement, own and operate a wholesale network that any internet service provider can offer services through.
And next week, the project team will recommend that the council’s cabinet approve a bid from UKB Networks for an extension of its sister company’s UK Broadband’s existing 4G-LTE Fixed Wireless network in Swindon.
The project delivers a significant increase in superfast coverage without using all the available funding. Previously the council had agreed to jointly fund the project with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a Government run scheme, to the tune of £3million but UKB Networks only require £1.9million of public funding to carry out the project as their contribution will pay for the majority of the work to be carried out.
It would build on the existing fixed wireless network in Swindon and provide the quickest route to superfast broadband services for those premises currently without access.
The bid includes network upgrades to make the most of future technology advances and avoids the need for road closures to install infrastructure.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Economy, Regeneration and Skills, said: “I will be encouraging my cabinet colleagues to back this proposal as it is an important step in our ambition to make superfast broadband available across the whole of the borough.
“We know some of our rural communities have had a raw deal in terms of fast broadband provision and we want to change that. By making this investment, in conjunction with The Government, this project will bring significant benefits to both residents and businesses.
“The fact that we should be able to achieve so much without using all the money available gives me confidence that we can make 100% coverage a reality in the not too distant future.”
People accessing the service will be able to stream HD movies, download music in seconds, play online games, interact with businesses and stay in touch with family and friends via video calls. Businesses will also be able to enjoy improved efficiency, better communications with customers and exposure to an expanding global market.
UKBN also supplies 4G-LTE broadband services to residents in parts of Reading and London, using its ‘Relish’ brand, which is currently being strongly promoted on television in the London area.
They were chosen after a bidding process involving 13 different companies.
Out of the 573 premises in the rural areas that will not receive the superfast broadband, 251 of those will receive basic broadband, leaving only 322 without any broadband coverage at all.
Superfast broadband is defined as anywhere that receives higher than 24 megabytes per second (mbps) but test already carried out in Chiseldon show that households could receive more than 50mbps.
Information on which areas will be covered under the project will be released following contract signature which is currently subject to formal approval process by Swindon Borough Council, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and obtaining the necessary state aid clearances.