The £23.8 million Local Full Fibre Networks Programme will connect more than 1,700 public sites across the metropolis in north-west England.
The deal is the result of a partnership between Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Greater Manchester’s local authorities, Fire & Rescue Services and Transport for Greater Manchester and is backed by millions of pounds of funding from central government.
The partnership has enabled local authorities to simplify and align regulations across boroughs, making it easier for telecoms companies to invest in the region, according to a statement from GMCA.
Greater Manchester is partnering Virgin Media Business to deliver fibre optics links to more than 1,500 public service sites in Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Trafford and Wigan.
In addition, Virgin will upgrade more than 180 public sites in Salford and Manchester, and 36 more public sites will be connected through the Tameside Cooperative to help Greater Manchester achieve its goal of being a leading European digital city region, as set out in the Digital Blueprint for Greater Manchester, which was published in February.
This new investment, plus existing local authority investments in digital infrastructure, make this the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme and will underpin a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects.
Broadband Minister Matt Warman MP said, “We are going to help improve communities across the UK with world-class infrastructure and our £23 million investment in Greater Manchester will give hundreds of public buildings the fastest broadband available. This will bring huge social benefits and attract further commercial funding to boost the region’s £3 billion digital sector.”
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, former Labour MP Andy Burnham, said, “This is a huge achievement for Greater Manchester’s public sector and really demonstrates the value of collaboration. Full Fibre will supercharge our digital capacity and help our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region.”
Virgin Media Business will create 20 apprenticeships based in Greater Manchester, as well as investing in digital and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills for young people.
Last year, Virgin Media launched its gigabit home broadband service in Greater Manchester, giving around half a million homes across the city region access to hyperfast broadband connections. Work to upgrade the local network is expected to be completed with minimal disruption over the next 12 months.
The project is part of a wider drive to bring digital infrastructure investment to Greater Manchester which has seen GMCA and Greater Manchester local authorities streamlining regulations and inspection work through a new Full Fibre Infrastructure Prospectus, approved by the GMCA in January.