A new project has been announced in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with Stoke-on-Trent City Council partnering with Swedish digital infastructure specialist, VXFiber (including subsidiary company, LILA Connect),  to create a publicly-owned, 60-mile long full-fibre broadband network - which is expected to provide (by far) the fastest broadband speed in the UK.

The city of Stoke-on-Trent - home to about 260,000 people - is set to launch a new high-speed full-fibre broadband network, after teaming up with Swedish full-fibre firm, VXFiber. The innovate project has recently been launched, and is set to be complete by early 2021.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council (SoTCC) and VXFibre have worked together previously, collaborating on a successful pilot project earlier last year. The duo constructed a 1GBps (gigabit-per-second) Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network at Etruria Valley, now known as St. Modwen Stoke Central, as a case study for the current project.
The latest news will reflect a significant expansion of the aforementioned approach, with a Council representative stating, “The full-fibre scheme will see cables installed right into homes and businesses – rather than to a street-side cabinet – replacing the old copper wires of traditional broadband”. Please note that none of Openreach’s copper lines will actually be removed as part of this project, not least since it’s a separate / new network by another operator.

The project is being funded by both Stoke-on-Trent City Council and VXFiber, with Stoke-on-Trent winning £9.2million of funding from the UK Government. In addition to SoTCC's £9.2million, VXFiber will be investing a further £10million.

Councillor Daniel Jellyman, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, commented:

“Access to ultra-fast connectivity is an essential part of 21st century living. It’s about faster speeds and more reliable connections for residents and businesses, but it also plays a vital role in transforming communities with improvements such as better access to employment, education and healthcare. The revenue from the ownership of the broadband network will also provide income which can help us to fund the vital, front line services which residents rely on."

"A gigabit connection puts the city in charge of its digital future for decades to come. It means we are at the forefront of broadband technology in the UK, which will help companies to thrive and also attract investment that can bring huge economic benefits to the area. The network is central to our plans for Stoke-on-Trent to become a smart city – using infrastructure, information and technology to improve life for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”

Mikael Sandberg, Chairman at VXFIBER, said:

“Stoke-on-Trent is a forward-looking city council with the insight to regard its full-fibre network as a long-term asset. Our continued partnership sets the benchmark for public sector digital delivery initiatives designed to stimulate business innovation and growth, as well as enhancing the lives of citizens. It provides a fully-proven and functioning blueprint for other forward-looking UK local authorities and regional governments to follow. This is wholly in tune with the UK Government’s industrial strategy goal of ‘taking advantage of technology to spread opportunity across the UK."

"It’s quite simple, city councils and local authorities have four quantifiable objectives – economic, social, environmental and efficiency. However, many are unaware that they have a solution and some of the answer to these objectives right beneath their feet. Implementing an open access full-fibre network enables them to generate revenue and retain control and ownership of a digital asset. It signals a dynamic new approach to delivering gigabit broadband across the UK, putting communities in command of their digital destinies.”

The build itself will make use of the City Council’s existing infastructure to create the 60-mile system. The city council will own this new open access network, while VXFiber is contracted to construct and operate the public infrastructure. VXFiber’s subsidiary, LILA Connect will then market, sell, install and maintain the connections from the newly-built network to local residents and businesses.

Installation work is expected to start in Weston Coyney, followed by Meir, Longton, Shelton and Bentille. Assuming that all goes well, the primary build of the city-wide network is scheduled for completion by Spring 2021.