Essex homes and businesses to see broadband brought up to speed thanks to £24.6 million deal

A £24.6 million deal to deliver high-speed fibre broadband to thousands more homes and businesses in Essex has been announced today by Essex County Council and BT. When combined with plans by the private sector, this deal should result in around 87% of premises in the county being able to access fibre broadband by the end of summer 2016.

Additionally, the project aims to deliver 2Mbps for all premises in the county. It builds on BT’s commercial plans, which have already made fibre broadband available to more than 500,000 Essex premises. According to the regulator Ofcom*, the average downstream speed in Essex is 11.5 Mbps whilst 12.5 per cent of premises received less than 2Mbps.

Despite the county’s proximity to London, agriculture, marine and woodland industries predominate in 72% of Essex. The county is also home to more than 40,000 SMEs, of which 8,000 are IT-related. The company is contributing £11.7m towards the overall cost of deployment in “non-commercial” areas, while Essex County Council is contributing £6.46m, with £6.46m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.

Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Infrastructure said: “Now that this contract has been signed we can begin working with BT to build a full picture of the broadband requirements in Essex. These upgrades will make a real difference to Essex residents and in particular, businesses that have difficulty trading and communicating online because of slow speeds. We want to grow our economy and create an environment for businesses to thrive and grow and better broadband is one of the ways we can help.”

Bill Murphy, managing director of next generation access for BT, added: “This announcement is excellent news for Essex and the next stage of an exciting journey for the county. In today’s digital world, a fast and reliable broadband service is vital if the economy is to thrive, helping to attract new inward investment to Essex and helping local businesses expand. This in turn will help to stimulate jobs and growth throughout the county.

“This is a big day for people across Essex, especially those in small businesses, who should be really excited by what the future could hold for them.”

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said, “This project will see thousands of homes and businesses across Essex gain access to superfast broadband speeds and will be instrumental in driving growth, boosting the local economy, and achieving the Government’s objective of reaching 95% of UK premises by 2017.”

Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network division, will now begin surveying locations around the county and analysing the best way to roll-out the network and identify which areas of the county will be upgraded for fibre broadband. There will be a phased approach to the roll-out, with the first premises currently expected to be upgraded by June 2014.

Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This can deliver downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps** and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises technology – delivering ultra-fast speeds of up to 330Mbps** – will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint should local businesses want the ultra-fast speeds it offers.

The new fibre-based network will be open to all communications providers on an equal basis***. Households and businesses in Essex will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from a wide range of service providers. It will also boost the competitiveness of local businesses, helping them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up a host of new learning and development opportunities for households.

Superfast broadband benefits include users being able to use multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. New fibre services are set to transform the way consumers use the internet, from the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available on-line.

For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by new ‘cloud’ computing services will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high-quality videoconferencing will become a viable possibility.

Essex County Council has received over 12,000 responses to the Make the Connection survey. This is still open to businesses and residents and the county council is encouraging people to register their interest by visiting www.superfastessex.org.

Superfast Essex is providing ‘Dell XPS 10 Tablets’ to two lucky survey responders. The winners will be announced on 27 September 2013. The prize draw is open to all, and will include all those who have responded to the survey since it started in September 2012. Minimum information required will be a landline number, e-mail address and postcode.

Notes to Editors:

*Ofcom Broadband Speeds Report, November 2012

**Up to 80Mbps and 330Mbps are wholesale speeds. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP.

Openreach has started to make FTTP on demand available in its fibre footprint. Openreach will levy an installation charge but it will be up to service providers to decide whether they pass that onto businesses or consumers wishing to take advantage of the product.

***BT makes its broadband infrastructure available to Internet Service Providers to market a range of competitive packages to customers. About 80 service providers currently use BT’s fibre network to offer broadband service to customers.