Greater Manchester commits to world-class digital infrastructure

Region secures world-class digital infrastructure through biggest government full-fibre investment in the UK

  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority appoints Virgin Media Business to deliver up to 2,700km of new fibre optic broadband infrastructure across the region
  • The £23.8M Local Full Fibre Networks Programme will connect more than 1,500 public sites across the city-region, with additional local authority investments
  • Greater Manchester local authorities simplify and align regulations across the boroughs, making it easier for telecoms companies to invest in the region
  • Businesses and residents across the region set to benefit from next generation connectivity, supporting economic growth and jobs.

Greater Manchester is partnering with Virgin Media Business to deliver fibre optic connectivity to more than 1,500 public service sites in Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Trafford and Wigan. In addition, more than 180 public sites in Salford and Manchester will see their connectivity upgraded and a further 36 public sites will be connected through the innovative Tameside Cooperative, enhancing Greater Manchester’s position as a leading European digital city region.

This is the result of close partnership working between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester’s local authorities, Fire & Rescue Services and Transport for Greater Manchester and is backed by millions of pounds of funding from central government.

This new investment, plus existing local authority investments in digital infrastructure, make this the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme and will underpin a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects.

Broadband Minister Matt Warman MP said: “We are going to help improve communities across the UK with world-class infrastructure and our £23 million investment in Greater Manchester will give hundreds of public buildings the fastest broadband available. This will bring huge social benefits and attract further commercial funding to boost the region’s £3 billion digital sector.” 

The Digital Blueprint for Greater Manchester launched in February and set the bold ambition to be a world-class digital city-region. The Blueprint sets out many priorities including ensuring everyone in the region can get online and access relevant public services. It also commits to helping Greater Manchester residents become confident internet users.

Investment in future-proof fibre networks is important to helping deliver these ambitions and this collaborative regional programme will create the conditions and enabling infrastructure where people and businesses can thrive.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “This is a huge achievement for Greater Manchester’s public sector and really demonstrates the value of collaboration. Full Fibre will supercharge our digital capacity and help our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region.

“We are also minimising the costs for all providers to invest in Greater Manchester through our Full Fibre Prospectus. We are committed to making it as easy as possible for all to providers to invest in digital connections that benefit our businesses and communities.

“As well as revolutionising our public services, it will give a huge boost to Greater Manchester’s towns and cities, cementing our position as one of the leading digital city-regions in Europe.”

The deal also includes a number of bold investments in social value initiatives that support the Digital Blueprint, including a commitment from Virgin Media Business to directly create 20 apprenticeships based in Greater Manchester, as well as investing in digital and STEM skills for young people.

Peter Kelly, Managing Director of Virgin Media Business, said: "Manchester is an enormously important centre for Virgin Media, a gigabit city and the place our Project Lightning network expansion programme first started.

“Today’s investment will build on our proud connection to the city and bring next-generation connectivity to Greater Manchester, giving the city region the best digital infrastructure in the UK.”

Last year, Virgin Media launched its gigabit home broadband service in Greater Manchester, giving around half a million homes across the city region access to hyperfast broadband connections. The Local Full Fibre Networks Programme will build upon this investment and further enhance Greater Manchester’s digital infrastructure, supporting the city to become a truly world-class digital region. Work to upgrade the local network is expected to be completed with minimal disruption over the next 12 months.

The project is part of a wider drive to bring digital infrastructure investment to Greater Manchester which has seen GMCA and Greater Manchester local authorities streamlining regulations and inspection work through a new Full Fibre Infrastructure Prospectus, approved by the GMCA in January.

Cllr Elise Wilson, Digital Lead for Greater Manchester and Leader of Stockport Council, said: “This is immense news for Greater Manchester and a refreshingly new approach to investing in infrastructure with a huge emphasis on collaboration and services that are designed to serve the majority as well as our future generations. With businesses and services going digital at an unprecedented rate, having the right infrastructure that not only considers where we are now, but where we will be in 30 years’ time is vital. This future-proofed connectivity supports the work we are doing in Greater Manchester to make public sector services more efficient and sets a standard to better ways of doing”.

Article Published: 16/03/2020 15:03 PM