The impact of digital connectivity on regional economies Feb 20 2019 | Allan McEwan, Aberdeen city development manager, CityFibre

Aberdeen is firmly in the running to become the UK's best connected city

Aberdeen is firmly in the running to become the UK's best connected city

Aberdeen is a city sprinting towards a brighter future – but under our feet, a legacy of the Victorian-era is holding us back from establishing a lead over our global rivals.

Across the region, too many businesses are relying on old-fashioned copper wires to provide them with the digital infrastructure they need to compete on an international stage. These notoriously slow and unreliable connections are not only impacting on day-to-day operations but are holding businesses back from realising their full potential.

Thankfully, Aberdeen is going through a digital revolution. Forward-thinking leaders at Aberdeen City Council recognise that fit-for-purpose digital infrastructure is required if improved infrastructure – which will, in turn, allow for diversification and future success - is to become a reality. As a result, they have made improved connectivity, in partnership with CityFibre, a key objective.

Work first began on modernising Aberdeen’s digital infrastructure in 2015. CityFibre’s network put ultrafast broadband within reach of hundreds of businesses and public sector buildings including schools, council offices, libraries and community centres. At the start of 2018, CityFibre announced an investment of more than £40m to massively expand that network, bringing it within reach of almost every home and business in the city for the first time. This is part of a larger £2.5bn ‘fibre to the premises’ programme being delivered in partnership with Vodafone which will bring full fibre to five million UK homes and businesses by 2025, and, as such, Aberdeen will be the first Gigabit City in Scotland, putting the city on the front foot.

Significant progress has been made on these ambitious plans. Construction work began last summer in Kincorth and Northfield with the first residents now being connected. Before long, Aberdeen could be Scotland’s Stockholm – a truly Smart City. The network will allow residents to adopt ‘smart home’ tech, not only improving entertainment options but also transforming the ability to work at home and monitor loved ones’ health remotely. On a wider scale, this level of connectivity means local authorities can implement transformative technology, benefiting many areas, from traffic management to public safety.

According to economic consultancy Regeneris, there will be a significant impact over a 15-year period. Their analysis suggests that full fibre will unlock £99m in productivity and innovation while also driving £25m in direct economic growth. And up to £67m could be added to the value of local homes, as access to reliable, high speed broadband becomes ever-more critical to buyers.

It has been a long time coming. In total, only six per cent of premises in the UK are able to access full fibre – in stark contrast to the likes of Portugal and Spain, where more than 80 per cent of premises can access the technology.

Now, the tide is turning and Aberdeen is well-placed to exploit the economic and societal benefits made possible by full fibre connectivity. It will not only benefit established businesses but also create a fertile environment for start-ups, bringing more jobs and investment into the city; and ultimately improving the overall economic picture.

The starting pistol in the race to become the UK’s best connected city has been fired – and Aberdeen is firmly in the running.  

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