Greater Manchester UK Issues £32m Tender for Full Fibre Network

Fiber optical cable detail isolated on white background

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which last year secured public funding of £23.8m from the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) challenge fund, has now issued a related £32m tender to help build a new 450km long Gigabit speed “full fibre” network to serve 1,300 public sector sites.

The new wholesale Dark Fibre network, which is expected to trigger significant additional private finance investment of over £200m and could be worth over £2.1bn to the Greater Manchester economy over the next 15 years, will initially aim to reach local public sector sites (council, emergency services, NHS etc.).

However the GMCA later hopes that it will be able to replicate the anchor tenancy approach seen in other cities, which has enabled operators’ like Cityfibre (Vodafone) to come in and build new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTH) style broadband ISP networks for local homes and businesses.

Assuming all goes to plan then it’s predicted that the project could result in an increase of full-fibre coverage from 3% now to around 25% within three years, which they claim could give Greater Manchester the “best high-speed digital infrastructure coverage of any city-region in the UK” (they seem to have forgotten about places like Hull etc.).

NOTE: Some of the £23.8m LFFN funding has also gone toward other projects in the area, such as the one in Tameside (here).

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, 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.”

Andrew Western, GMCA Digital City Region Lead, said:

“It opens opportunities to better connect public services, for future Internet of Things and 5G uses, and will enable more dynamic management of the transport network, including faster response times to manage real-time incidents and traffic flow.”

The tender document offers a few extra details and if all goes well then the GMCA hopes to be in a position to award their contract(s) in September 2019.

Short description (tender):

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the LAs across GM currently run ICT services over a combination of WAN’s utilising a wide range of underlying connectivity circuits. To improve the value, flexibility, and future-proofing of these arrangements, the LAs are looking to procure the design, implementation, maintenance and support, including a minimum 20 year right of use of dark fibre connectivity, or dark fibre virtual equivalent circuits. This will provide unlimited capacity dedicated fibre connectivity to as many LA public sites and assets in the region. The LAs will continue to be able to procure their WAN connectivity from existing Suppliers when required. These services will be delivered over the connectivity achieved through this contract. Simultaneous confirmed contracts will be awarded under each Framework Agreement as described in the tender documents which will collectively connect over 1300 sites across Greater Manchester.

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