The Light Fantastic

fibre_optic08:20 Tuesday 29th October 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Peterborough is set to become one of the first Gigabit Cities in the country. That’s the promise of the City Council as they prepare to enter into a new agreement with private company CityFibre. They are set to invest £30 million in the project. We’ll get reaction from the City Council in a moment, but first we’re joined on the line by Mark Collins from CityFibre. Mark, morning.
MARK COLLINS: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Gigabit city. Superfast, superfast, it’s all very confusing. What exactly are you offering, and what will we get?
MARK COLLINS: What we deliver Paul is gigabit speeds, that’s a thousand megabits per second, 100 times faster than the UK average, 40 times faster than so-called superfast broadband. We will be delivering that into all of the businesses and all the homes of Peterborough over the next two to five years as we roll that infrastructure out for the benefit of all in the society there.
PAUL STAINTON: Coming down existing networks, yes?

MARK COLLINS: It’s actually a new network. It will be a new fibre-optic connection going all the way into the homes. As your guests earlier on the show were talking about the use of the copper infrastructure, what we do is we replace that copper infrastructure, put new fibre-optic infrastructure, so the lasers can come all the way into people’s homes, and all the way into people’s businesses.
PAUL STAINTON: So we’ll get to choose then, will we, between BT or, I don’t know, Tiscali, or TalkTalk, and your good selves?
MARK COLLINS: We provide the infrastructure to which the TalkTalks, the Tiscalis, the other service providers will utilise.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. So you’re not going to be selling your services. You’re just providing that, and you’ll make money from the providers, will you?
MARK COLLINS: That’s correct. So we’re an infrastructure provider. So it’s an infrastructure investment, a private sector infrastructure investment into Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: So it allows the speeds to go up to a gigabit, but then we’re relying on the providers, are we?
MARK COLLINS: Relying on the providers, the infrastructure itself can go up to gigabits, and beyond the gigabit. It’s a future-proof critical infrastructure which will be in place and will serve the community for the next fifty to a hundred years.
PAUL STAINTON: But how long before we get that speed do you think?
MARK COLLINS: Well we’ll start to roll out the infrastructure in the Spring of next year. The first phase will deliver the infrastructure to about 4,000 of the business community. That will take twelve months.
PAUL STAINTON: No I get that. I get you’re going to put the infrastructure in, but how fast do you think we’re going to get fast?
MARK COLLINS: How fast? In terms of the speed itself, as soon as we deliver that infrastructure, the consumers and businesses will be able to benefit from gigabit speeds immediately.
PAUL STAINTON: And will we have to pay a lot more money, do you think?
MARK COLLINS: The trend with fibre-optic networks is to get more for less. So it’s a benefit for greater speeds for less money. So we enjoy a very good competitive environment today. That will continue to get the benefits of the greater speeds at the same cost or less than the consumers will pay today.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. You talk about the city. Are we talking about the whole city of Peterborough?
MARK COLLINS: The intention is for us to cover the whole city. We’ll start with phase one infrastructure, which (UNCLEAR) the business communities. We’ll expand that over the time to the residencies to capture the entire city.
PAUL STAINTON: How long will it take to roll it all out?
MARK COLLINS: First phase, twelve months. Thereafter, probably another two years thereafter. So it’s about a three year civil engineering investment programme.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. No mean feat, is it? Mark Collins there from CityFibre. Also on the line, Marco Cereste, Leader of Peterborough City Council. Morning Marco.
MARCO CERESTE: Hello Paul. Welcome back.
PAUL STAINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Nice break. Thank you very much. We’re talking there about what it means. It’s going to be good for business. It’s going to do this. It can do that. Why? How?
MARCO CERESTE: Well I mean fast speeds means you can do all sorts of things. Let’s face it, if we could actually attract a huge multimedia company into the city, they could run their business from Peterborough to anywhere in the world, if you had a gigabit speeds. So I mean it’s incredible. It’s an incredible coup for the city and for the company. I can’t wait for it to happen, because there are just so many .. to give you an example. I heard this yesterday. It really really excites me. At the moment we get on the train at Peterborough and we go down to Kings Cross. If you think about it, that’s using today’s speeds that are available. That’s if you had superfast broadband today it would take you 45 minutes. With gigabit speeds tomorrow it would take you the time it would have taken you once if you had lit a cigarette. So just think about it.
MARCO CERESTE: That’s the comparison. It’s amazing. You know, one minute from Peterborough to London, and you’re in London with the new speeds that are available.
PAUL STAINTON: Good analogy. Good analogy Marco. I spent an hour and fifteen minutes on a train to London on Saturday.
PAUL STAINTON: I went through Arlesey and everywhere else. Now you claim it’s going to save the Council money as well. How is it going to do that?
MARCO CERESTE: Well because a) we’ll connect up our CCTV to it. We’ll have all of our .. hopefully we’ll have all of our work going through it. We think it’s going to save the Council something like about four and a half million pounds over the lifetime of the project. It’s just you know it’s just something we’ve been working on together with the company for some time, and we’re very very excited about it. It’s not just something for the Council ..(COUGHS) .. if you think about it. I don’t know whether you picked up on what he said. It’s a big gigabit, but actually the reality of it is that it’s future-proof, because the system is so good that you could have any speed you like as long as the bits on either end can cope with it. So if the equipment on either end improves, you go from one gigabit to two gigabits.
PAUL STAINTON: So we’ve got to get the providers to put the speeds in though haven’t we as well. That’s the other thing.
MARCO CERESTE: Well. Yeah but of course .. No well no. The providers have got to connect up. But I mean you know why wouldn’t the provider connect up? Because if one does then you’ll go to the guy who does. And they’ll just lose out on business. So I would imagine they’ll all be very very quick to connect up to the systems.
PAUL STAINTON: Are we ahead of the game here? Are we putting Peterborough ahead of the game?
MARCO CERESTE: Absolutely. I mean there can’t be more than one or two cities in the entire world if any. And you know Peterborough is going to be ahead of the world. This is not just a UK. this is so-important . We’re going to be up there with the cities. With very very few cities in the entire world that have got these kind of speeds and will be able to do this kind of work. And from this we should be able to attract as well new businesses into the city, which means new employment and new jobs for people.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it costing us anything? That’s the big question everybody wants to know these days.
MARCO CERESTE: Nothing. It’s not costing the city anything. In fact the city will make money from it, because we’ll save money. And what we’re doing is we’re supporting them. We will help with all the facilitation and all the rest of it. But we’re not spending any money.
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s good news, isn’t it? And it’s going to transform , hopefully transform the city. And many other suggestions for transforming the city centre on the table at the moment. Bourges Boulevard, are you in favour of getting rid of the bridge and putting a level crossing in?
MARCO CERESTE: Oh absolutely. Well two level crossings, the way it goes. A level crossing into Westgate, and one across to where the Queensgate entrance is. Narrow it down. Turn the public realm into something much much prettier. Put some trees in. Slow down the traffic. People will be able to use it. And of course the redevelopment. The railway station is about to be completed at Christmas this year, or should be finished and connected up. Then hopefully we’ll get the new food retail store. I know that’s all signed up, so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and that will go through. Together with the public realm it means that our vision for that part of the city will be nearly there. And of course with the talks now going on with North Westgate again, with the possible redevelopment of North Westgate, it all beginning to come together.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you not going to turn Bourges Boulevard into a big car park?
MARCO CERESTE: No. Why would we want to do that then Paul?
PAUL STAINTON: level crossings, slowing the traffic down. It’s a bottleneck already, isn’t it?
MARCO CERESTE: Well. Yes but if you think about it Paul, at the moment, if you come out of the railway station, just think about the thousands of cars that come out of the railway station, they can’t turn right so they have to turn left and they turn left all round to the Bright Street car park, all the way back round and back down again. Now if we do the job properly which we will, you’ll be able to come out of the railway station and turn right. So all of that traffic that’s using all of that part of the road, every day, every morning and every evening just stops. Doesn’t exist any more. So I think it’s a really good scheme. It’s a great idea. And the sooner we get on with it the better.
PAUL STAINTON: Marco, thank you for that. Marco Cereste, Leader of Peterborough City Council.