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East Midlands Chamber News

Our connected lives in Gigabit City Derby

Dominika Walker, CityFibre's City Manager for Derby gives a round-up of the impact gigabit-speed connectivity will have on Derby, and discusses the full-fibre applications currently underway.

With Derby’s full fibre transformation well underway, it’s time to talk about the impact gigabit-speed connectivity will have on our city and what changes we can expect to see in our daily lives.

But first, we need to explain what full fibre is and why it’s so important.

Full fibre – what’s the big deal?

In short, full fibre connections can deliver gigabit-capable speeds. That’s a dramatic upgrade on what most people currently use and makes all sorts of things – like gaming – much easier in terms of speeds and data handling. More importantly, full fibre networks offer far greater reliability than older legacy copper networks while being cheaper to maintain and operate – meaning more reliable internet for you.

However, at the moment only around 15% of UK premises and only two percent of premises in Derby have access to full fibre, leaving us far behind the rest of continental Europe. As the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, CityFibre is investing up to £4bn through its Gigabit City Investment Programme to solve this problem – bringing full fibre connectivity to up to eight million premises across the country. In Derby specifically, we are investing a minimum of £45m to bring full fibre infrastructure to almost every home and business across the city.

Economic benefits of full fibre

Full fibre is about so much more than just making streaming easier – it can be genuinely transformative. According to research carried out by the economic consultancy Regeneris, full fibre will generate huge economic benefits over the next 15 years, helping Derby generate £39m in business productivity and innovation benefits as well as £21m from new business start-ups.

Homeowners across the city and the wider property market can expect to reap huge rewards too. Up to £70m could be added to the value of local homes in Derby, as access to reliable, high-speed broadband becomes ever-more critical to buyers.

Home life

Aside from adding value to homes, enhanced connectivity can help bring us closer together – something which has become more important than ever before in recent times.

Yes, we all feel guilty about looking at our phones a little too often or binge-watching our favourite shows but technology can help us stay connected with friends, family and colleagues living in different towns and countries at the touch of a button through apps like Skype and Zoom.

Full fibre connectivity is also a real enabler for technology; it allows us to do things smarter, faster and more efficiently. We need to start thinking more about the great ways we can interact with technology to take full advantage of Derby’s enhanced digital connectivity.

Looking again at the Regeneris report, it highlights that Smart City initiatives – including home automation technologies, smart energy networks and intelligent transportation systems – could add as much as £69m in benefits locally.

So, let’s have a think about the Internet of Things (IoT). Wouldn’t it be great to save more time on our daily tasks with smarter homes? Intelligent homes can help us wake up on time, manage our refrigerators to minimise waste, control room temperature and lighting, improve energy efficiency and help us save time, effort and money so we can focus on what really matters to us.

Full fibre connectivity brings IoT to life, providing the high-capacity connection required for products to work. I certainly like the idea of having my alarm clock tell my coffee pot to be ready and waiting for me every morning. 

Work life

With city-wide connectivity, Smart City initiatives such as autonomous vehicles and intelligent traffic detection become a reality. The next step could easily be smart traffic lights that detect congestion and alter patterns to ease traffic flow. Again, full fibre infrastructure underpins these initiatives.

Access to full fibre connectivity in Derby could unlock £19m in business productivity and a further £20m in innovation by helping local businesses boost their customer and employee experience through newer, faster and more reliable technology.

For example, businesses are increasingly moving their services and data to the cloud, as well as using it for apps and hosting which both make quality connectivity essential. The speed and bandwidth capabilities of full fibre connectivity also means faster access to data and smoother running of applications stored on the cloud.

Full fibre connectivity also makes it easier and less expensive for businesses to set up base and run efficiently by enabling the implementation of effective cloud-based business systems. This approach makes collaboration simple and effective, in turn enabling businesses to implement flexible and remote working practices and reducing the need for investment in expensive IT equipment.

The increased ability for companies to support flexible working will not only help to reduce barriers to work, but improve employees’ work-life balance, which, in turn, can improve motivation and retention. A 2017 study of British businesses by HSBC, for instance, found that nine in ten employees (89%) considered flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace, and more so than financial incentives (77%). Furthermore, almost one in five (18%) employees cited poor work life balance as a reason for leaving their last job – a problem many companies could address with flexible working.

And although we love to talk about the benefits of speed, we know reliability is essential for those working from home. Full fibre is significantly more reliable than legacy copper networks. It’s stronger, quicker and less susceptible to weather conditions. What’s more, fibre signals do not degrade or disappear due to electromagnetic interference, meaning your business can still work whilst construction is carried out.

With our daily lives enriched by new technologies and the city’s business community poised to benefit enormously from full fibre connectivity, all eyes are on Derby – and so they should be – we’ve got a very bright future ahead.

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