Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GCMA) has taken a step towards providing over 1,300 public sector sites across the city with full-fibre-to-premises (FTTP) broadband.
It has issued a procurement notice, valued at £32 million, on behalf of nine of the councils within its area for the provision of up to 450km of full fibre cables.
The planned investment is being supported by £23.8 million awarded to Greater Manchester in March 2018 by the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport under its Local Full Fibre Networks Programme.
The GCMA said that a wholesale implementation by the public sector is expected to trigger significant additional private finance investment of over £200 million from organisations keen to capitalise on the upgrade and deliver similar connections to business and residential customers.
When combined with the predicted private sector investment, the project is expected to lead to an increase of full fibre coverage for Manchester from 3% now to around 25% within three years. The authority said this will give it the best high speed digital infrastructure coverage of any city region in the UK.
It should also create opportunities to better connect public services, improve transport management and lay the ground for the implementation of internet of things and 5G technologies around the city.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Connecting Greater Manchester’s public sector sites in this way will supercharge our digital capacity and trigger major private investment.
“As well as revolutionising our online public services, it will provide a huge boost to Greater Manchester’s economy and productivity, cementing our position as one of the leading digital city regions in Europe.”
As part of the deal, public sector bodies will be given access to the network for at least 20 years. The GCMA hopes to be in a position to award contracts in September 2019.
The nine local authority areas to be covered by the investment are Wigan, Trafford, Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport, Salford, Bury, Oldham and Manchester City Councils. It also applies to Transport for Greater Manchester. One council within the city region, Tameside, has its own scheme for investment in full fibre.
Installation of the connections will be divided into two areas – northern and southern – with the possibility of different suppliers being responsible for each.
The news marks a further recognition of the increasing importance of full fibre broadband in the infrastructure of urban regions. It follows the recent announcement that Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is planning a major investment in the infrastructure, and plans have been revealed for other authorities such as Leeds, Stoke-on-Trent and Milton Keynes Councils.