West Sussex County Council signs £20 million deal to bring superfast broadband to 44,000 rural homes and businesses

Technology outlook looks bright for the UK’s sunniest county* 

Fibre broadband will be rolled out to around 98 per cent of West Sussex homes and businesses within the next three years, following a multi-million partnership project between West Sussex County Council and BT. 

The Better Connected West Sussex Broadband project builds on BT’s on-going commercial fibre deployment across the county, and will provide broadband infrastructure to over 44,000 premises with superfast speeds of at least 24Mbps by the start of Spring 2016. 

On completion of the rollout, the aim is for all premises within West Sussex to receive a minimum of 2Mbps but with a vast majority achieving speeds well in excess of this. 

The new fibre network will transform broadband speeds across the county and its rural areas. According to Ofcom, the county’s average downstream speed is currently 11.7Mbps whilst 9.7 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps. 

BT has been chosen following an extensive and thorough selection process. The company is contributing £7.6m towards the overall cost of deployment in “non-commercial” areas while West Sussex County Council is contributing £6.26m, with £6.26m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds. 

Lionel Barnard, deputy leader for West Sussex County Council, said: “We are delighted to have entered into a partnership arrangement with BT that will significantly increase the county’s opportunity to grow its economy, and help all residents to enjoy the benefits of being online. West Sussex County Council is very aware of the problems that slow speeds or in some cases, no broadband at all can cause local businesses and people working and running businesses from home. This was a key rationale behind the Council’s decision to invest more than £6 million to provide more access to better, faster broadband across the county. We are now looking to BT, having won the contract, to deliver services to those areas which we know are without.” 

Bill Murphy, managing director NGA for BT, added: “This is super news for the people of West Sussex. The county is mainly rural and over half of it lies in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is a need to balance new development and infrastructure needed by communities to reduce congestion and support a vibrant local economy while maintaining the character of the county. This is where fibre broadband can play a key role, for example, by revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations.” 

Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network business, will build the new fibre infrastructure. Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This can deliver wholesale downstream speeds of over 24Mbps (and in some cases up to 80Mbps), and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises technology – delivering ultra-fast wholesale 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 equivalent basis***. Households and businesses in West Sussex 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’ 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. 

Notes to editors: 

*West Sussex is officially the sunniest county in the United Kingdom according to Met Office records over 29 years with an average 1902 hours per year. 

**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. 

***Openreach provides external CPs (Communications Providers) with a variety of ways in which they can offer fibre broadband to their customers. These include an ‘active’ product – GEA – which comes in various speed combinations and a ‘passive’ product – PIA – whereby CPs can lay their own fibre via BT’s ducts and poles if they want greater control over the service they offer. 

About West Sussex 

The Government desires that the broadband framework in the UK is upgraded to provide the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. 

West Sussex County Council is leading the Better Connected West Sussex Broadband partnership of local authorities and agencies to use funds available from the Government, match-funded by WSCC, to attract private sector investment to secure the best levels of broadband network coverage, speeds, technologies and services across the whole county. 

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a unit within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is responsible for managing the Government’s broadband funding. BDUK has developed a procurement framework and West Sussex Better Connected have undertaken the procurement of the supplier through this framework. More information is available on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website. 

The partnership has had to comply with stringent European Commission State Aid regulations to use public money to fund the commercial market place to provide superfast broadband services. 

The West Sussex Better Connected project will not physically connect users to broadband but will provide the infrastructure through which residents and businesses can contract with suppliers to buy broadband services, in the usual way. 

Wholesale access means that BT must make its broadband infrastructure available to Internet Service Providers to market a range of competitive packages to customers.