A new fibre internet network spanning the Liverpool City Region could increase productivity and position the area as a prime destination for businesses, according to one of the project’s leaders.
LCR Connect is a collaborative project worth £30 million, with investors including the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, ITS and NGE. Currently around 30 per cent completed, it’s part of a wider focus on increasing the UK’s fibre connectivity.
Dave Hudson is LCR Connect’s chief commercial officer, as well as the head of partnerships and alliances at ITS. He believes the network will create significant benefits for the Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral) and could lead to further investment. It is already prompting growth for ITS.
According to Dave, it has been “good business” for ITS to be at the forefront of such an exciting project. The company, fuelled by strong growth with revenues tripled year-on-year, is now preparing to relocate to a new office at Daresbury Business Park, Halton – within the city region – in June.
He added: “ITS is part of the race to deliver fibre networks across the UK. We build networks, particularly in areas currently under-served by fibre and where we see strong demand.
“Sometimes, there are also public sector interventions to encourage private sector investment, as there was for the LCR Connect project. Of the initial £30m being invested in the build, ITS is investing 25 per cent, with half coming from the combined authority.
“We believe it’s one of the biggest single procurements that has happened for fibre networks between the public and private sector and the main phase of competitive dialogue was done virtually during lockdown.”
The network has been designed specifically with businesses in mind, and there’s plenty of scope to expand it to surrounding areas. Dave added: “The network is essentially like a motorway around the Liverpool City Region. There will be lots of opportunities to build side roads to connect more areas to the region, so what we’re starting with here is really that motorway – a digital highway.
“The route is business-focused in its design. It has been designed to not just go through all of the Liverpool City Region’s six local authorities, but has been optimised to connect to the areas with the greatest number of business premises”
He believes fibre offers significant benefits to businesses due to its faster speeds – from 100 Mbps up to 100 Gbps – and increased reliability of the connection helping to maximise productivity, and added: “Fibre is totally transformational in terms of speeds, but it’s also about reliability. You rarely get problems with a fibre network where fibre feeds all the way into a customer’s premises, certainly compared to services that still use the old copper-based connections to deliver the last leg.
“From a business perspective and a general productivity point of view, as long as you’ve ordered the right kind of services, you should have a reliable, robust connection that you can depend on. In terms of working with customers and suppliers, businesses can work much more digitally in the way their stakeholders want and expect them.”
As well as having a positive impact on the Liverpool City Region’s existing businesses, Dave has suggested LCR Connect’s presence could also position the area as an optimal place for businesses and drive further investment, leading the way in growing sectors such as health and life sciences, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing.
He explained: “There’s lots of reasons why people would want to set up a business in the Liverpool City Region – things such as talent, infrastructure, transport, international links and quality of life. Companies can now also be thinking about the region’s great digital infrastructure, and knowing the city region is going to have better capacity puts it much more on the map.
“All businesses can benefit from fibre and better productivity, but I think the more data-hungry sectors such as manufacturing and digital will probably feel the benefit most. Liverpool has got the infrastructure to support those kinds of industries.
“I know one of the concerns from the academic institutions is that people come to the city, love being a student and then leave because there aren’t the jobs for them. This development can help to create jobs, bring up skills levels and help with digital inclusion; giving reasons for graduates to stay.
“We’re also hoping other internet providers will choose to use this network to improve home connections in the region, so that broadband coverage can be improved for everyone.”
To find out more about LCR Connect, click here.