Combined authority launches ultrafast digital infrastructure
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has officially launched LCR Connect – a 212km full-fibre, ultrafast, gigabit-capable network spanning the Liverpool City Region.
LCR Connect will help make the Liverpool City Region the most digitally connected area in the UK and ultimately lead to a £1bn boost to the local economy.
Work has now begun on a 212km full-fibre, gigabit-capable network infrastructure, capable of delivering speeds of 1,000mbps and beyond, that will help position the city region at the head of the next digital revolution.
When complete, it will put city region businesses in prime position to lead the way in a host of growing sectors, from health and life sciences to Artificial Intelligence and advanced manufacturing.
LCR Connect is a £30m joint venture, 50%-owned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Rotheram, in partnership with Chester-based ITS Technology Group, which will lead the project, working alongside construction partner NGE, tasked with managing the build and roll out of the network.
Alongside existing local digital infrastructure, the new fibre optic network will help position the city region as a world leader in digital technology.
Experts estimate that with 100% full fibre coverage across the city region, building on this network, the economic boost could be worth up to £1bn, creating thousands of local job and training opportunities.
Steve Rotheram said: “When I was first elected, I made it a priority to make our region the most digitally connected anywhere in the country. Today we take a major step towards that, with the official launch of LCR Connect.
“Our region was at the heart of the first industrial revolution, and this project can put us at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, creating thousands of jobs and ultimately generating £1bn for the local economy.
“It will make us leaders in the industries of tomorrow and will help us attract talent and investment from around the world as others look to take advantage of our skills, infrastructure and expertise.
“Local people and businesses will feel the benefits, too – in the form of significantly faster speeds as well as the jobs and training opportunities, although the Government still needs to tackle the problem of digital exclusion.
“And, best of all, it will all be 50% owned by us so we can continue to reap the benefits for years to come.”
He added: “As we have done so many times before, this is our region seizing the initiative, leading the way and crafting what I hope will be a lucrative and successful new future that everybody in our region can benefit from.”
In its initial phase, the consortium is creating a resilient fibre ‘backhaul network’, connecting three transatlantic cables and major economic clusters in each of the Liverpool City Region’s six local authority areas.
Over the next two years, digital infrastructure is being installed underneath carriageways, footpaths and cycle ways across the city region, using innovative deployment techniques to minimise the impact on road and public transport users wherever possible.
Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority deputy portfolio holder for digital connectivity and inclusion, said: “Being digitally connected is more important than ever and LCR Connect is a hugely important, transformational project.
“Delivering gigabit-capable connectivity will help businesses thrive, as we build back from the pandemic, creating good quality jobs. It also creates huge potential for improving public services and educational opportunities. As we build this crucial network we will also continue to work with partners to drive digital inclusion and ensure no-one is left behind.”
Daren Baythorpe, chief executive of ITS Technology Group, said: “LCR Connect is a true collaboration, demonstrating what can be achieved when public and private sectors are focused on the same outcomes, helping to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits.
“This programme will be transformational and we are excited to be playing a central role in its delivery, supporting growth in the digital economy of the region, as well as supporting national targets for full fibre access by 2025.”
Antoine Metzger, chairman of NGE, said: “NGE is proud to be part of the joint venture appointed to support the transformation of Liverpool City Region.
“Our local subsidiary – NGE Contracting – has won a project that will shape the city. We bring to the JV our expertise in infrastructure financing (through NGE Concessions) and our capabilities in the implementation of a high quality digital network (through NGE Infranet).
“Using labour and resources from within the Liverpool City Region, this project is also a fantastic opportunity to deploy our infrastructure development and finance expertise in cities across the UK such as Liverpool.”