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Connected District

100% Gigabit Capable Connectivity/5G/Fixed Wireless Access

Why is this important?

The evidence is conclusive that having world-class network connectivity is a significant enabler and pre-requisite capability to driving economic growth. It can encourage new business start-ups and business expansion enabled by easier access to markets, lower barriers to entry and the development of new business models that are digitally dependent and more flexible. Improved broadband speeds and greater penetration of gigabit fibre in an area will lead to new employment opportunities and a reduction in migration away from the area. Citizens will also have a general wellbeing benefit from better access to new and valuable services and can support community cohesion.

Bradford District has suffered from decades of under-investment in our infrastructure capacity and inadequate connectivity has been part of that. It is a barrier to growth and is affecting business location decisions, property values and our ability to attract new jobs and higher skilled residents. COVID has also highlighted that many of our citizens and businesses are digitally excluded whilst accelerating the need to 'pivot' their business models.

Furthermore, 5G mobile connectivity is much more than a simple connection speed upgrade over 3G and 4G for consumers – it promises to underpin enterprise applications for a new generation of technology, with cities and urban environments set to see some of the most significant benefits. Our research has allowed us to develop insights into how pervasive 5G connectivity is supporting smart city innovation, linking up IoT devices in new ways to deliver real-time insights to provision and planning of public services. A full fibre and 5G deployed district will provide the backbone for our smart city and clean growth aspirations.

What is our ambition?

The ambition is that Bradford District is the best connected region in the UK and has a digital infrastructure that enables our ambitions.

Where are we now?

Analysis of DCMS and Telecommunications companies' investment plans has shown that some areas within the district will still be without adequate broadband for some years. Telecommunication companies state 100% fibre to the premise won’t be achieved by 2033 without further public sector intervention.

It is difficult to construct an accurate picture of the current situation with inconsistency in available information, vendor claims and an ever changing landscape. From published information, we know there are commercial plans from OpenReach to build fibre into Baildon, Shipley and Idle by April 2024. By which time CityFibre will have completed their current published investment plans, totalling some 150,000 homes. Virgin are also active in the area with significant investment providing 218,000 homes with a range of high speed connectivity.

From the ThinkBroadband data, we can see that the situation is patchy elsewhere suggesting possible dead spots providing slow superfast speeds with coverage marginally better across the North and South West of the city. It is recognised that some areas within the district are less commercially viable, particularly in rural and less populated areas of the district. With no foreseeable planned commercial investment, approximately 20% of the district will remain with inadequate connectivity. These areas will continue to suffer inadequate connectivity without action.

As part of our strategy review we undertook an infrastructure audit across the district – connectivity, street furniture, fibre and ducting coverage, 4G coverage etc and began building a GIS Map to understand the levels of ‘digital maturity’ and identify gaps and opportunities. This work is on-going and will be maintained as the position progresses including mobile coverage.

We held a “soft market test” with commercial broadband providers to identify opportunities to extend connectivity investment, accelerate programmes and where possible, remove barriers and improve internal coordination. This included workshops with the mobile operator representatives to see how we can accelerate investment and rollout on 5G.

What are we going to do?

As the owner of significant land and property assets, a sizable consumer of connectivity and digital services as well its statutory role in respect of the entire development process, the Council has the opportunity to significantly influence the infrastructure position of the area and deliver Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and 5G which will provide a ubiquitous digitisation across the district.

The Council is developing its planning policies to support the roll out of new digital infrastructure in line with policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF) which calls on Councils to “ the expansion of electronic communications networks, including next generation mobile technology (such as 5G) and gigabit broadband connections.”

The Council is also actively seeking ways to ensure our whole district including those rural hard to reach spots receive the connectivity they need, such as securing a partner to build and operate a Fixed Wireless Access Network which will deliver gigabit capable connectivity to public building sites in rural areas (including village halls and schools), creating the potential for local digital hubs which in turn will empower local residents, businesses and the public sector and become a catalyst to attract fibre and wireless to benefit the wider community.

We will:

  1. Establish a Digital & Data Board which will oversee the development of network connectivity across the district, monitoring progress on commercial build plans and removing barriers where appropriate to ensure a smooth and accelerated deployment.
  2. Maintain a strategic map of connectivity across the district to identify current low spots and not spots and monitor A number of data overlays will allow analysis of opportunities and priorities, for example Council assets, local, regional and national funding opportunities. This will help us to accelerate improving gigabit connectivity, optimise investments and prioritise implementation across Bradford District.
  3. Through our network procurements, stimulate social value investment in fibre-infrastructure in rural areas with no current plans for adequate connectivity.
  4. Create a Bradford Council small cell licence agreement and standard Heads of Terms which will be utilised for access to public sector owned street furniture including Street Lighting, CCTVs, etc to accelerate deployment and attract further investment from the mobile This will ensure Bradford District is a priority area for 5G deployment and that Bradford secures an ‘early mover advantage’ in the investment and development of capability and skills as future 5G products, services and applications evolve.
  5. Create a Planning Guidance Journal for future 5G and ..nG mobile deployments across the district to assist mobile operators achieve their deployment plans whilst ensuring best practice for engaging with communities on sensitive siting of the masts.
  6. Using the fibre backhaul, create the environment for gigabit Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) network to create multiple ‘base station’ locations around the district and deploy FWA to difficult-to-reach locations particularly in our rural areas.
  7. Gain maximum value from Council’s own ducting and fibre including generating revenue to support funding the digital programme.
  8. Explore the opportunity for railway trackside ducting to leverage assets and opportunities to connect households, businesses, rural schools and care homes in areas such as the Worth Valley. This will provide gigabit capable connectivity and supports Visitor Economy hotspots such as Haworth

5 years on

What does ‘good’ look like?

  1. All premises across the district, business, academic and domestic have access to affordable gigabit capable
  2. Bradford is one of the first areas in the UK that mobile operators look to when implementing their new generation of mobile technology (6G, 7G).