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Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority to consider plans to invest £5.5m in ‘outstanding’ digital and mobile connectivity countywide

21 March 2018

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Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority will discuss plans to invest up to £5.5m to ensure the county has outstanding digital connectivity - including tackling poor mobile phone coverage – at its board meeting at the end of March.

Ambitious plans for improving mobile, broadband and public Wi-Fi coverage for everyone – whether at home or work, on the move, in market towns or rural villages – form part of agenda papers published in advance of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board (CPCA) on Wednesday 28th March 2018.
The plans to be discussed are part of a bold vision shared by all Combined Authority Members to ensure that as a leading digital county, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has the fixed and mobile connectivity needed to underpin the region’s growth and prosperity – now and in the future.

Internet access is now seen at the ‘4th utility’ which underpins almost all aspects of modern life. Superfast broadband is now available to over 96% of homes and businesses in the county with more to come, but poor mobile coverage is below the England average in all areas except the main cities*.

If agreed by the Combined Authority Board, the funding will be used to extend the successful Connecting Cambridgeshire digital programme, which has been led by Cambridgeshire County Council and with Peterborough City Council, supported through a combination of public funding and private sector investment.

Connecting Cambridgeshire has recently been allocated up to £4million additional Government funding to help to bring full fibre broadband connectivity - capable of gigabit speeds of over 1000Mbps – to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough over the next four years.

In addition to current plans to bring Superfast Broadband access to over 99% of homes by 2020, the programme aims to target improvements in Mobile (2G & 4G), Full Fibre coverage, 5G (next generation mobile) and Wi-Fi coverage in market towns over the next four years.

The delivery programme would work with telecoms providers and mobile operators to:

  • Improve mobile network coverage so that people can make reliable mobile phone calls and use 4G across the whole geography of the county, including A and B roads, and rail services by 2022.
  • Expand public access Wi-Fi services to market towns, so more people can get online in public buildings and open spaces, as is already in place in Cambridge and Peterborough.

To prepare for the next generation of mobile services and full fibre networks, the programme could also:

  • Target a threefold expansion of full fibre networks bringing ‘fibre to the premise’ (FTTP) services offering broadband speeds of up to 300Mbps.
  • Be among the first in the country to trial future facing 5G services, working with businesses to maximise the impact and generate long term benefits for the area.

The 4-year plan supports CA’s devolution deal commitments to double the size of the economy, deliver outstanding and much needed connectivity, make public services more responsive to local need and improve people’s quality of life.

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer said:

“Digital connectivity is a vital part of our area’s infrastructure. The Combined Authority is committed to ‘outstanding’ digital connectivity that will support the growth of our local economy and improve the day to day lives of our residents. A strong mobile and broadband network is key to enable us to remain competitive in the national and international marketplace through the use of smart technology.

“We also want to see greater equity of free public access to Wi-Fi, which is why we are keen to extend free public access across our Market Towns to follow the very successful projects that are already in place in Cambridge and Peterborough. This scheme would allow local people and visitors to get online in public buildings and open spaces across our area, so that they can be connected wherever they are.”

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Councillor Steve Count, said:

“This is a golden opportunity to build on Connecting Cambridgeshire’s experience and track record of successful delivery, which has established Cambridgeshire as a leading digital county.

“Our superfast broadband rollout is aiming for over 99% coverage by the end of 2020 and we have just been allocated up to £4million Government funding to help to bring full fibre connectivity - capable of gigabit speeds of over 1000Mbps – to the county.

“By working together with the Combined Authority and telecoms operators, we can meet the ever increasing demand for digital and mobile connectivity which is vital to support economic growth and help our communities to thrive.”

Additional Information:
View the Board papers here: http://cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/meetings/combined-authority-board-28-march-2017/

*The recent Connected Nations report from Ofcom shows that 2G and 4G mobile coverage indoors and on the A and B roads is well below the England average in all Cambridgeshire areas, apart from the cities of Cambridge and Peterborough. For example:

  • Residents in East Cambridgeshire have 74% coverage indoors, compared to the England average of 91% 
  • Fenland’s A & B roads can only get 59% mobile coverage compared to the England average of 85%, 
  • Only 22% of South Cambridgeshire premises can get 4G data indoor, compared to the England average of 60%, although 80% of the A & B roads have mobile coverage.
  • Huntingdonshire fares slightly better overall, but still only has 66% coverage on the roads and 33% 4G data.