Bradford internet provider is first to win contract under big Government scheme

A pioneering Bradford company will become the first to supply internet services under a massive national Government scheme to transform the UK’s digital infrastructure. In a major coup for the business, internet pioneer Exa Networks will deliver services over the network provided by CityFibre, which has been approved to run the first contract awarded under the Government’s £190 million Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) challenge, which aims to deliver superfast broadband across the country. Full fibre will remove the current reliance on copper wire, delivering broadband through pure fibre connections. The Government launched its LFFN Challenge Fund in November last year to stimulate commercial investment in full fibre networks which are seen as the “gold standard” for fast and reliable broadband. In March, it announced the first £95 million wave of funding covering 13 areas and the first contract has been awarded to cover 152 council sites in the West Sussex Council area, including Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, Crawley, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Littlehampton, Worthing and Shoreham. CityFibre will build, own and operate the full fibre network and Exa Networks, which is based in Bolton Road, Bradford, will provide internet connections to education and businesses, along with their local partners in Sussex, JSPC Computer Services. Work on construction of the new network will start in August and is due to be completed early next year. Exa Networks, which is one of the leading internet connectivity providers for education and business across the UK, will connect schools and companies to their ultra-fast service, called DarkLight, as the full fibre network passes each location. Mark Cowgill, co-Founder and Director of Exa Networks, said: “Exa is delighted to be expanding our DarkLight service into West Sussex. “It is an area in which we have worked very closely with our accredited partner, JSPC, for the past six years, and we have all been working very hard to bring our multi-gigabit service to the area. This will make a huge difference to schools and businesses throughout the county.”

Exa Networks already provides Internet connectivity to over 180 schools in the area and it is expected that a large number of these will be able to switch over to the new technology within the next year. The network build will also enable a much larger number of businesses to take advantage of the scheme and become gigabit enabled. Award-winning Exa Networks is one of the most innovative internet service providers in the UK, recently introducing the fastest internet technology in the world (DarkLight) through a pure fibre connection to businesses, delivering speeds of 10,000Mbps and above. The Government says 95 per cent of UK premises can now get superfast broadband but only three per cent have access to ultra-fast connections of a sort that are expected to dramatically increase over the coming years. Grants are made available to successful projects such as using hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries as “anchor tenants” which provide a full-fibre “hub” that surrounding homes and businesses can then also be connected to; upgrading schools, libraries and emergency response buildings and “strategic re-purposing of existing infrastructure, allowing full fibre to be rolled out at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost.” The LFFN programme is part of the Government’s £740 million National Productivity Investment Fund aimed at improving productivity which, it says, is key to raising living standards. Minister for Digital Margot James said: “Our programme will deliver a tremendous boost to broadband speeds for the councils of West Sussex as part of our £190m full-fibre challenge fund. Initiatives like these are transforming the digital landscape of the UK, helping us to build a Britain that is fit for the future.”

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