Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has signed up Virgin Media Business to install a fibre optic broadband network across the city-region.
Under a partnership supported by £23.8 million from the Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks programme, the company will connect more than 1,700 public sites in Manchester, Salford, Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Trafford and Wigan to a network stretching for up 2,700km.
A further 36 public sites will be connected through Tameside’s Cooperative Network Infrastructure model.
GMCA said the move will create the UK’s largest fibre network programme and underpin a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects.
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 investments in social value initiatives that support the GMCA’s Digital Blueprint, which was published in February. These include a commitment from Virgin Media to directly create 20 apprenticeships based in Greater Manchester, as well as investing in digital and STEM skills for young people.
The blueprint sets out priorities including that everyone in the region can get online and access relevant public services.
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.
Picture by Daniel Nisbet, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons