Suffolk County Council is to extend and upgrade its existing wide area network (WAN) service, working with telecoms partner MLL Telecom and fibre network builder CityFibre to connect half of its 600 sites to ultrafast full-fibre – or fibre to the premises (FTTP) – broadband.
The 20-year contract is backed by a £5.9m award to the council from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which was made as part of the third and final wave of the ongoing Local Full-Fibre Network (LFFN) Challenge Fund.
CityFibre’s involvement will see the firm build and assist in the operation of a 114km dark fibre spine network in 10 towns in the county to deliver gigabit connectivity to council sites located there. The initial 10 towns selected are Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Haverhill, Ipswich, Lowestoft, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Stowmarket, Sudbury and Woodbridge, and planning and surveying work on these builds has already begun.
The council noted that this would position towns across the county as key candidates for wider consumer broadband upgrades through CityFibre’s developing joint venture with Vodafone. “Through this new 114km fibre network, our councils, NHS clinics, fire stations and more will be able to access leading edge connectivity, which will have a real economic and social impact in the region,” said Chris Bally, Suffolk County Council deputy chief executive.
“Better, more reliable internet access for our public services will bring untold benefits – like more investment, more jobs and more businesses. We couldn’t be happier to get this work underway, and to welcome the next generation of public service delivery.”
“Our focus is on enabling the public sector in Suffolk to work anywhere, anytime, with connectivity that is up to 10 times faster than any other region in the UK as standard. We are absolutely thrilled to support Suffolk County Council – which has been an MLL Telecom customer since 2012 – to fulfil its digital ambition,” added MLL client management director Neil Woolerton.
“The future will be made possible by connectivity, and we are proud to provide the infrastructure and network to allow the public sector in Suffolk and surrounding areas to take full advantage.”
Besides the redesign of the core WAN and implementation of dark fibre backhaul, to allow the council to evolve its network between now and the end of the 2030s, the upgrade will also give the council the ability to move to a self-orchestrating software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) should it want.
MLL will also assist the council with meeting its social inclusion goals around digital, helping develop and retain skills in the region. To this end, the University of Suffolk will also be offering apprenticeship training and additional courses with relevant certifications to boost digital skills in areas of high business value and demand.