Blackburn’s ultra-fast broadband to offer £40m business boost

Blackburn’s new gigabit capable broadband network could boost the local economy by up to £40m and generate almost 2,000 jobs, according to a report by Ofcom.

The report, titled The Benefits of Ultrafast Broadband Deployment, concludes that a full-fibre network within a town results in an increase in employment of 2.9%[1] and a boost to local GDP of 1.1%[2].

The roll-out of the IX Wireless broadband network will see 38,000 Blackburn premises connected over the next 24 months, and will be capable of reaching speeds of 6,000 Mbps by 2025.

According to the Ofcom report, the new network will help create more small enterprises, with a significant positive impact on Blackburn businesses that rely on ICT skills, such as in the commerce, service and transport sectors.

The ultra-fast broadband will also provide environmental benefits by allowing more people to do their jobs online from home, reducing the number of commuters on the roads.

The rise of smart houses and the Internet of Things means that the network will allow more people to customise their home’s security, surveillance, energy, healthcare and entertainment systems.

Neil Knighton, communications manager for IX Wireless, said: “The new IX Wireless wireless broadband network will result in Blackburn having some of the fastest internet in the UK.

“As a gigabit capable town, more residents and businesses will be able to take advantage of technology and services that are at the cutting edge of what is possible.

“We are working hard to ensure the new network is rolled out across Blackburn over the next two years and we’re very excited to see the impact this new technology will have on the town.

“We are continuing to work closely with local communities to ensure minimal disruption. If any residents have concerns or questions about work on their street, they can call our helpline on 01254 405 000.”

Delivered by wireless transmitters installed on roof-tops, telecommunication masts, monopoles and street poles, the new network allows residents to get ultra-fast broadband without needing a telephone line.

The initial broadband package offered by 6G Internet will be capped at 100 mbps for £21 per month, but speeds will increase as the network becomes more established.

In addition, the government’s Gigabit Voucher scheme means eligible residents and businesses can have the cost of installation completely subsidised, meaning they pay no connection fee.

However, should businesses require a faster connection straight away, IX Wireless can also install a physical fibre line at half the market price for immediate access to gigabit speeds.

With 6G Internet listed as an approved supplier by the government’s BDUK programme, its expansion in Blackburn comes as part of wider plans to reach four million homes across the UK by 2022.

[1] Pg 61: In Canada, Singer et al. (2015) investigated the effect of FTTP (i.e. full-fibre) rollout on employment on the basis of the deployment experiences in 39 regions between 2009 and 2014. They estimate that fibre deployment to 100% of a region is associated with an increase in employment of about 2.9% – even if the region already previously benefited from a broadband infrastructure.

With 63,500 people in employment in Blackburn, an increase of 2.9% is 1,841 jobs.


[2] Pg 74: One of the very few studies to focus on ultrafast broadband specifically, by the Analysis Group (2015) estimated that Gigabit broadband communities in the US exhibited a per-capita GDP approximately 1.1% higher than the 41 similar communities with little to no availability of Gigabit services.

Blackburn’s gross value added (GVA) total for 2017 was £3.05bn. The ONS says that the difference between GDP and GVA can vary by around 0.2%. This means that even by conservative estimates, an 0.9% increase in Blackburn’s GVA would result in a boost of £27.5m to the economy. A 1.3% increase in the GVA would result in a boost of £39.7m.


Blackburn takes first steps towards gigabit internet

Lancashire broadband network IX Wireless has begun the roll-out of Blackburn’s new ultra-fast internet, with the north west of the town first to benefit from the new infrastructure.

Phase 1 of the roll-out will cover approximately 1.6 square miles between the A6119 in the north and the A677 in the west, down to the A674 from Wilton Park to Barton Street and the B6232 in the centre of town.

Workmen began installing the network on Revidge Road, with some houses and businesses in the area able to connect immediately. In total, more than 2,000 premises are set to benefit from Phase 1 of the new wireless broadband by June 2019.

IX Wireless plans to complete the majority of work within the next five months, with its partner 6G Internet responsible for delivering internet services to residents and businesses.

The work is part of plans to make Blackburn one of the UK’s first ‘gigabit-capable’ towns, meaning residents will soon be able to access internet speeds of more than 1,000 mbps as standard, increasing to 6,000 mbps by 2025.

The installation of the IX Wireless network marks the first time ultra-fast speeds will be available to a town without the months of roadworks and disruption associated with laying fibre-optic cable in the ground.

Instead, users will simply be able to install a small receiver on their building which will pick up the broadband signal via radio wave, broadcast at the speed of light by IX Wireless’s transmitters.

Neil Knighton, communications manager for IX Wireless, said: “This is an exciting first step for both IX Wireless and Blackburn in creating the UK’s first truly gigabit-capable town. We are continuing to work closely with local communities to ensure minimal disruption. If any residents have concerns or questions about work on their street, they can call our helpline on 01254 405 000.”

Digital inclusion in the spotlight

As more and more services move online, digital inclusion is a problem that is likely to become more pronounced for a significant section of the UK population. That’s because while the majority of Britain takes the internet for granted, there are still 11 million people lacking basic online skills.

According to Ofcom, if you are elderly, a low-earner, unemployed or live in social housing, you are less likely to be able to access the internet from your home or have the digital skills to take advantage of being online.

Thankfully, this issue has been given oxygen by ITV’s Tonight programme, who visited a project that we have been involved in with Leeds City Council to combat digital exclusion by connecting two of the city’s tower blocks to free broadband.

The partnership is part of the council’s 100% Digital Leeds programme aimed at giving every resident the access and skills to make the most out of the internet.

Leeds City Council estimates 38% of its 57,000 social housing residences don’t have permanent access to the internet. As part of the 14 month trial, we connected 160 social housing residences to free wireless broadband. It is streamed to the Grayson Crest and Clyde Grange tower blocks via radio antenna and offers 5 Mbps broadband residents to log on whenever they want.

It resulted in some absolutely brilliant feedback.

Grayson Crest resident Oliver had been searching for a job for three years without an internet connection. Four days after he was connected to 6G internet, he secured a job he found on Gumtree as a warehouse forklift driver.

He told us: “It’s the difference between being on £46 a week benefit and earning a good wage. £46 just goes in a day – I couldn’t do anything with my kids. Now I can take them swimming or to the seaside. I’ve started saving money for a better car and I can meet my friends without worrying about money.

“Without an internet connection I was searching for a job by buying newspapers or going to the library. After three years it gets disheartening – you just give up. Phone credit wasn’t cheap – if you want unlimited internet you’re talking £30 a month, so it was even difficult being able to talk to friends on social media. Now I can use my laptop at home. It’s made a big difference.”

Our partner at Leeds City Council, tenant engagement manager Ian Montgomery, said: “We know people suffer from a lower quality of life as a result of being unable to access the social, educational, financial, recreational and health benefits of being online.

“By connecting these flats to the internet and supporting people to learn how to use the technology, we are helping residents to find improved deals and save money, apply for jobs, manage finances and maintain contact with family and friends. It also helps the council to be more efficient, as residents are able to access online services to claim benefits, report issues and make payments.”

We are very proud of our work to connect more people to a better quality of life through free broadband. If you’re part of a local authority and interested in partnering with us, you can make an enquiry here.

Blackburn to experience next generation of broadband

Blackburn residents will be one of the first in the UK to access the next generation of broadband, which will be delivered wirelessly and capable of reaching speeds of 6,000 Mbps by 2025.

The new wireless network is being constructed by Lancashire-based company IX Wireless, while the broadband is being delivered to consumers and businesses by internet service provider 6G Internet. The roll-out will see 38,000 Blackburn premises connected to the network over the next 24 months.

Councillor Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “We know that faster broadband and a better internet connection can make a real difference to people’s lives, helping them to not only carry out essential tasks such as money management, applying for jobs and accessing education, but also connecting them to more people through social media. We are looking forward to starting work on this on behalf of local residents and businesses.”

Because the new network is delivered by wireless transmitters installed on roof-tops, telecommunication masts, monopoles and street poles, there will be very few road closures or disruptions commonly associated with digging up roads to lay fibre-optic cables. It also means that residents will be able to get ultra-fast broadband without needing a telephone line.

And as part of work to ensure everyone can enjoy the benefits of being online, 6G Internet is also donating 20% of its network usage to social causes. This means less well-off residents will be able to access free basic internet, while the local authority, schools and charities can work with 6G to provide digitally excluded pupils with daily access to unlimited internet at home.

With 6G Internet listed as an approved supplier by the government’s BDUK programme, its expansion in Blackburn comes as part of wider plans to reach four million homes across the UK by 2022.

Phil Walker, director of finance at 6G Internet, said: “Over the last 15 years, billions of pounds have been invested in research and development for wireless broadband technology. NASA uses it to communicate with its Mars rover, Tesla’s cars use it to update and navigate. Now we are using it to make sure people in Blackburn can access the internet faster and cheaper than anywhere else in the UK.

Neil Knighton, communications manager at IX Wireless, said: “We are working very closely with Blackburn with Darwen council to ensure the absolute minimum disruption for residents. Our liaison officers will be on site to make sure things are running smoothly throughout the process, while residents will also be able to call a dedicated phone number for community support.

“We’re very excited to bring wireless broadband to Blackburn and look forward to making sure everyone in the town can access the benefits of ultra-fast internet.”

Blackburn: Welcome to wireless

We are delighted to be able to announce that we are bringing gigabit-capable wireless broadband to Blackburn. After working closely with Blackburn with Darwen council, we can confirm that we will soon be beginning work to connect the entire town over the next 24 months.

For the vast majority of Blackburn residents, this will be the first chance to access this type of technology, which will be capable of delivering speeds of up to 6,000 Mbps by 2025.

To kick things off, we are offering 100 Mbps ultra-fast broadband at £21 – a price that is up to 50% cheaper than Virgin. Our speeds will then increase significantly year-on-year while still remaining much cheaper than major providers. It also means Blackburn will be one of the first towns in the UK where residents have the option of gigabit fibre speeds as standard.

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, the way we roll-out our network means there is usually very little disruption to residents. However, we have put carefully thought-through plans in place with the council to ensure that this continues to be the case.

There will be very little road-digging and most of our infrastructure can be installed within a day or two. We will have liaison officers on the ground during installation to make sure everything is going smoothly, and if there are any issues, residents will be able to call a helpline that will be dedicated to supporting them from the moment work begins.

We will continue to keep you updated as we get more confirmations, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, why not check if you’re eligible today.

Digitally-enabled social housing – all it takes is a connection

With technology already beginning to transform how services are delivered to social housing tenants, 6G Internet founder Tahir Mohsan was one of a number of experts invited to speak at this year’s Digital Housing Conference in Manchester.

Continue reading “Digitally-enabled social housing – all it takes is a connection”