Executive Summary from Craig Bower, Programme Director, Communities Directorate
This document is formed from the Oxfordshire Local Broadband Plan which was put in place at the start of the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme in 2014. This programme has delivered a step-change in digital connectivity for the citizens and business in Oxfordshire, taking availability of superfast broadband to 97% from 69%. However, the volume of global internet traffic is expected to increase to 95 times that of 2005, by 2020, and is doubling every two years. In the mobile data domain traffic increases by 42% each year. With this in mind, the focus of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, & Sport (DCMS) has increasingly moved from superfast broadband to Full Fibre connectivity and 5G mobile data. The only way this rapid growth in bandwidth requirements can be accommodated is with the full fibre broadband which offers speeds of 1Gb/s.
There are few areas in the UK where the importance of world class digital infrastructure is as pronounced as in Oxfordshire. The county itself, and the Oxford to Cambridge Arc is the home to an economic growth engine for the UK, and this growth is predominantly founded on high value, high Gross Value Added businesses in aerospace, advanced motor engineering, biosciences, space technologies, electronics & sensors, and Life Sciences. We also have a work force with above average skills, and of course excellence in academia. It is reasonable to compare this environment with the likes of Silicon Vally, Beijing, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, and other world centres introducing revolutionary technical change. These are the locations Oxfordshire businesses compete with, and every one of these top tech hubs depend on world class digital connectivity.
In Oxfordshire approximately 8% of premises currently have access to full fibre broadband infrastructure, meaning that to achieve ubiquitous access to this futureproof digital infrastructure will require deployment at a scale not seen before if we are to realise our growth ambitions. Equally, the next generation of mobile connectivity, 5G, depends on extensive availability of fibre to deliver the low latency and very high capacity demanded by this wireless technology. This creates a requirement for the OCC programme to change emphasis too, with the forming of a Digital Infrastructure Programme underpinned by a Digital Infrastructure Partnership comprising the county council, OxLep, city, and district councils. This document provides the terms of reference for this programme.
By definition the public sector is not a digital infrastructure provider, and although this document sets out specific workstreams aimed at contracting digital infrastructure improvements, the key responsibility of the Digital Infrastructure Partnership is to provide strategic leadership, providing a coordinated facilitation role in ensuring private sector investment in digital infrastructure is maximised in Oxfordshire, for example by;
• Enabling network operator access to public sector assets such as ducts, street furniture, & rooftops
• Taking a strategic approach to use of public sector assets to achieve maximum benefit rather than short term financial benefits
• Mapping potential public sector assets and make available to fixed/mobile network operators
• Ensuring Local Plans (as a multi-tier authority) are aligned with the latest (Feb 2019) NPPF guidance in respect of full fibre provision in all new housing developments
• Ensuring that a summary of this Digital Infrastructure Strategy and Delivery Plan is contained in all other relevant strategic documents such as the Local Industrial Strategy, Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, & Oxfordshire 2050
• Align OCC Highways with the DCMS Streetworks Toolkit where possible
• Appointment a Digital Infrastructure Champion by each partnership member to coordinate and lead on cross-public sector alignment and market engagement
• Creating a Digital Infrastructure Partnership with Oxford city council and all Oxfordshire district councils
• Setting targets for availability or superfast broadband, full fibre, and 5G This approach is critical in achieving the goal of significant private sector investment in our county, as well as being the agent applying for central government funding, and managing delivery of any resultant intervention programmes aimed at improving availability of full fibre and 5G mobile. We must provide a path of least resistance to fixed and mobile network operators, supplying them with all appropriate information equally and consistently (for example the locations of planned housing development as part of the Oxfordshire Housing & Growth Deal), and remove barriers to digital infrastructure delivery wherever this is practically possible. The structure chart below sets out at a high level approach;
The diagram below sets out the structure of the Digital Infrastructure programme and its component project areas.