£23 million to add 0.2% of full fibre coverage to Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester has been in line for £23 million of funding via the Local Full Fibre Networks scheme for sometime and at a cost of £11,500 per council property/asset connected it had better be built on time (i.e. by 2021) by the winner of the two contract lots. Our full expectation is that CityFibre will win the contract, based on nothing more than they have won so many other similar contracts and all the discussion in the local press about the funding kick starting a wider roll-out fits the anchor tennant model CityFibre exist by.
Our headline was designed to highlight how small a difference the LFFN scheme will make if it only delivers the connectivity to the council assets (thought to be around 1,300 premises and a further 580 things like traffic lights and CCTV). The high cost per asset connected at around £11,500 does look high especially in the context of an urban area, but this money is funding the construction of a metro fibre network spanning Wigan, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport, Manchester, Trafford and Salford which totals up to around 1.2 million premises.
If CityFibre does win the contract then generally all the businesses within 250 metres of the metro network will fairly quickly gain access to the metro network if they sign up with one of the business sellers of the network. For those living in the area they will need to wait and see if the Vodafone Gigafast roll-out arrives.
The question is whether the LFFN scheme is just a more publicitly friendly way of distributing money to local councils when in reality the funding should be available to all local authorities without having to fight to be a winner in a competition.
So to end a reminder for those reading this at home in Greater Manchester, this might mean you see more full fibre, but too early to say when. Some parts already do have lots of full fibre e.g. Salford is running at 45% coverage but Bolton is down at 0.8%. So if your local paper is claiming full fibre across the wider area for 2021 remember they are talking about between council buildings and covering the full 1.2 million premises will involve a lot more work.