Company Spotlight: CityFibre Our newest company member is laying the foundations to make Sheffield a Gigabit City. Claire FletcherCompanies and News27th May 2021broadbandCityFibreFull FibreGigabit citiessmart city CityFibre is a name you’re likely to start hearing more in Sheffield. As one of the largest UK-wide digital infrastructure platforms, CityFibre is now building full fibre network throughout Sheffield. Not only this, the company is here to play an active role in Sheffield’s journey to becoming an innovative smart city, as the transition to gigabit connectivity takes place. We spoke to Natalie Ward, City Manager to find out more. Our new company member, CityFibre is building full fibre networks across the UK to transform cities through world-class digital connectivity. Residents and businesses in Sheffield will, over the course of the next five years, benefit from faster and more reliable internet connections, after CityFibre began building the city’s new digital infrastructure earlier this year. What is full fibre? Full fibre is the fastest and most reliable broadband available. Common “fibre” broadband uses fibre from exchanges to street cabinets, with copper cabling then used from the cabinet to houses and office buildings, which can result in slower speeds and connectivity issues. CityFibre uses only full fibre, from the exchange, directly into residential and commercial properties, delivering gigabit connections. This offers up both speed and better reliability. Natalie explains: “Full fibre broadband is up to five times more reliable than alternatives and there’s no such thing as “peak times”, which means it’s less likely to slow down when lots of people use it at the same time. This is great news for busy homes with lots of devices trying to use the internet at the same time, particularly now as increased home-working is set to continue.” Natalie Ward, City Manager for Sheffield Gigabit speeds mean you can download a high-definition film in less than a minute, or a new video game, which can be over 100 gigabytes in size, in just 10 minutes. And CityFibre’s upload speeds are just as fast. This will come as good news to creative and tech businesses that rely heavily on cloud storage and transfer solutions like Dropbox and WeTransfer, for fast and secure sharing of large videos, images and artwork files. Becoming a Gigabit City The UK is lagging behind other countries in Europe and the rest of the world when it comes to super-fast broadband connectivity. Sweden, for example, has had full fibre connectivity at over 60% national coverage for more than 15 years, and countries including Japan and Korea offer 90-100% coverage*. Natalie, who has worked on projects to increase connectivity in South Yorkshire before, thinks the introduction of full fibre to Sheffield will make a huge impact on the city’s digital industries. She says: “We’re very aware that there are connectivity issues in the city centre, with many businesses struggling because, up until now, no investment has been made. However, Sheffield’s creative and tech sectors are doing some fantastic things already, so just imagine what they will be able to do now that the connectivity they’ve been longing for is coming.” Given the past year and how this has changed attitudes and company behaviours around remote working, Natalie is confident that becoming a Gigabit City will make Sheffield a top choice for many companies looking to relocate or set up a new base. She continues: “Sheffield has a great digital tech sector and having this infrastructure can only improve that. The past year has forced many businesses to change how they work so for those looking to invest in Sheffield, full fibre connectivity has got to be on a list of top ‘must haves’ – more so than road links these days.” Becoming part of the community CityFibre approaches its builds like a jigsaw, laying the fibre in one Council ward at a time. In Sheffield, work began in February this year and the first live connections are expected in the summer. It is estimated that the whole city will be connected in five years’ time. With network projects in over 60 cities and a further 216 new towns and villages recently announced, CityFibre describes its work as ‘future-proofing the UK’. Whilst five years might seem like a long way off, Natalie wants Sheffield’s transformation into a smart city to begin now, and joining Sheffield Digital is one of the ways she hopes to drive this forward. She says: “Once built, the infrastructure will provide the fast, reliable connection needed in Sheffield to harness new technology, and become an innovative smart city. The most exciting bit though, is starting the journey now! So, when can you get full fibre broadband? CityFibre is a wholesale provider so they don’t sell directly to the public. Instead, they make their network available to a range of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like TalkTalk and Vodafone. You can check if your home or office building is already connected to their network using CityFibre’s postcode checker, which will tell you if it’s available, being installed or in the pipeline. And if it’s not available yet, you can register your interest to find out when it will be. You can stay up to date with CityFibre’s progress in Sheffield on the website and on Twitter: @CityFibre. *Stokab, a socio-economic analysis, Marco Forzati Crister Mattson, Acreo Swedish ICT AB.