What is the big deal with full fibre?

March 5, 2020

Jason Legget, city manager for Newcastle at CityFibre, looks at the benefits of full fibre access and how the ground-breaking technology is set to make Newcastle one of the best-connected places in the world

Digital connectivity has become such a hot topic of late and the fact that nearly all major political parties have pushed it up their agendas in the past year indicated the importance of digital connectivity to the economy and all sections of the electorate.

Yet despite headline-grabbing soundbites, few seem to fully grasp what full fibre connectivity actually means and how it could transform the way we live work and play.

This may be down to the fact just ten per cent of UK premises currently benefit from full fibre access – a technology that takes fibre optic connectivity all the way from the exchange directly to the user’s property. But in Newcastle, this is all about to change thanks to CityFibre’s plan to invest £50 million in rolling out this future proof infrastructure citywide.

How is full fibre any different?

Full fibre connections can deliver gigabit-capable speeds. That’s a dramatic upgrade on what most people currently use and makes many tasks easier in terms of speeds and data handling. For example, the gamers in the household will no longer have to wait hours for content to download, and when they are playing online, they will experience virtually no buffer or lag. It will make the whole process virtually seamless.

What’s more, the benefit of full fibre networks is that they offer far greater reliability than copper-based networks and they are cheaper to maintain and operate. Once the fibre is in the ground, it’s in the ground for good and maintenance work is drastically reduced – a welcome relief for households.

Full fibre networks are also much smarter than the average copper-based system. With a full fibre network, there is far greater visibility, while faults can be identified and solved in a fraction of the time. It means if you rely on your broadband for any reason, you will experience far less downtime when you upgrade to full fibre.

It’s not just a speed upgrade

Full fibre may allow people to watch Netflix more smoothly and with better quality, but full fibre networks offer genuinely transformative benefits too.

For example, having a full fibre connection could increase the value of people’s homes – four per cent on average in the US, according to research from Fibre to the Home Council America. This isn’t surprising, given that further local research – a survey of over 3500 broadband users by Censuswide – revealed that almost 80 per cent of respondents in Newcastle classified reliable internet as being very important. A survey by Rightmove also found that its customers ranked information on broadband connectivity as being more important to them than transport links and nearby schools when searching for property.

So why is this new technology seen as such a breakthrough that both leading political parties have started to bang the full fibre drum? It’s likely because they can see how this technology will help to change almost every part of our society. From how we work, to the way we receive our medical care, right down to the way we interact with others – digital connectivity is going to change the way we work, rest and play fundamentally.

And now this transformation is coming to Newcastle where CityFibre’s network will futureproof the city’s infrastructure for decades to come and put it firmly in the top ten per cent of all UK cities for connectivity. This is about more than just faster internet – this is about underpinning technological advances and innovations as we delve deeper into the digital age.

By looking at the business benefits alone, you can begin to see the scale of the impact this is going to have. A study by economic research agency Regeneris predicted that full fibre investment in 100 towns and cities over a 15-year period would generate substantial economic benefits for businesses, in particular SMEs – with up to £2.2 billion being generated in business productivity. The benefits will be felt directly by communities across the country, with full fibre helping Newcastle, in particular, generate £22 million in business productivity, £24 million in innovation benefits and £22 million from new business startups. With that kind of upside, you can see why political parties are trying to put full fibre at the forefront of our national infrastructure upgrade.

There are also hidden benefits to full fibre networks. One of the other big technological breakthroughs of 2019 was the launch of the UK’s 5G networks. Promising the fastest mobile data speeds yet, you could be forgiven for thinking that with a mobile connection, you do not need a fixedline connection. However, the truth is full fibre networks play an integral role in the deployment of 5G networks.

Full fibre connectivity feeds into the mobile base stations that make up the patchwork of mobile connectivity. These base stations are dotted around towns and cities and you’ve probably seen them on tall buildings and masts before. Full fibre helps to ensure that these patchwork networks are knitted together seamlessly and, depending on the local geography, provide essential support in ensuring the quality of the 5G service.

When will I get full fibre?

With a clear mandate from political circles, and people increasingly waking up to the potential full fibre offers, CityFibre is doing its part with its nationwide £4 billion Gigabit City investment programme. Since launching the project, CityFibre has already mobilised across the UK, with network construction underway in 17 cities creating thousands of jobs, while Gigabit-speed services have gone live in 11 cities with many more to come. When we are finished in 2024, Newcastle will be one of the best-connected places in the world.

It is an exciting time to be rolling out this game-changing technology and we look forward to seeing how people and businesses use the platform we are creating to flourish and prosper.

City Fibre 
To find out more, or register your interest, visit: www.cityfibre.com/gigabit-cities

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