The core of a next-generation fibre broadband network has gone live in South Yorkshire.
The networking operating centre for the Digital Region project was switched on on Tuesday. The project is a public-private partnership financed by South Yorkshire's local councils, the European Regional Development Fund and the electronics and systems firm Thales UK.
According to Thales's business development director Phil Hodge, the inauguration of the networking operating centre means the network — which will be based on fibre-to-the-cabinet technology — can start to be built out across the region. The process will take the next three years, he said.
The Digital Region project, which will offer wholesale internet services to local and national ISPs, is necessary because telcos are loath to invest in extending their core networks across South Yorkshire.
"Places like South Yorkshire were always at the back end of the queue when current-generation broadband was rolled out," Hodge said. "If they waited for the industry to respond, they would again be at the back end of the queue."
Hodge said ISP customers will "hopefully" be announced in the new year. Once ISPs are in place, users will be able to sign up for high-speed broadband access.
The network will initially offer speeds of around 25Mbps, although it will in future be capable of higher speeds, Hodge said. He added that those signing up for 25Mbps services will get the full advertised speed, rather than the lower speeds generally found with services advertised as providing "up to" a certain speed.
According to Thales, the completed network will offer services to around 97 percent of all businesses and homes in South Yorkshire, reaching around 1.2 million people in 500,000 homes and 40,000 businesses.
The Digital Region project was started up around three years ago, and has taken this long to start to go live due to procurement issues, Hodge said. The process has taken "a little bit longer than was originally anticipated," he noted.
Meanwhile, the East of England Development Agency set up a scheme called the Eastern Region Broadband Uplift Scheme (Erebus) earlier in November. This scheme allows residents and business owners in the counties of Essex, Bedforshire, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk to voice demand for next-generation broadband in that region.