Oxfordshire Digital Infrastructure Strategy and Delivery Plan

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.

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Oxfordshire Voice Connectivity

FORUM 1: How can we ensure we get the digital future we need?

Forum date & Venue

Monday 22nd October 2018
Unipart House Business Centre, Garsington Road, Oxfordshire OX4 6LN

The Oxfordshire Voice forums were ‘kicked off’ at Unipart. OV set out to experiment with a number of formats to get the most out of the forums and help partners work together to decide what workable outcomes we could set as targets.

At this forum we opted for a panel-based discussion with Frank Nigriello of Unipart, who had been instrumental in getting OV off the ground, and Tony Hart from the Smart Oxford project as guest speakers and experts. We also used Unipart’s audience participation technology to help us put the various possible outcomes to an electronic vote.

An audience of 50 debated a number of issues around the digital future of the county – the agenda for the forum was driven by the feedback from the survey of the digital future which was sent to partners a week beforehand.

The thrust of opinion from the audience focused on the real need for a strong dialogue with those who provide the connectivity across the county. The forum felt there was also a lack of information from local and central government on the roll out of 5G technology. Another real concern was that outlying areas Oxfordshire, particularly those outside the main cities, were disadvantaged by a lack of superfast broadband connectivity. Again, there is not enough guidance on when superfast connectivity would be available.

It was agreed that greater dialogue and transparency was needed to outline the way the digital future is going to shape so it can be built into business plans.

Simon Howson-Green, Oxfordshire Voice

We welcome your comments and views. Get involved today!

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Oxfordshire Voice Forum

Delivery Of Fast Broadband Still Too Slow

Are sluggish data speeds hampering Oxford’s aspirations to become a ‘Smart City’?

Broadband providers in Oxfordshire are continually failing to serve companies across the region effectively or efficiently and they need to get their act together – fast.

That’s according to Oxfordshire Voice (1) which reflects the views of Oxfordshire businesses working in collaboration with local authorities.

Oxfordshire Voice is calling on the heads of the leading broadband providers to meet its partners face-to-face and explain why they are failing to deliver and how they are going to resolve the issue or at least compete internationally through more comprehensive broadband (2).

These calls are the result of a survey by Oxfordshire Voice, which polled five hundred business people across the county. It found more than three quarters of them thought broadband speeds and the levels of connectivity were not good enough for a successful business environment. The survey also found the problem is not confined to the more rural areas. Poor internet speeds and poor customer service from the providers is also a serious issue in the city.

This, and a number of other issues around technology and connectivity, were also debated at the first partners’ meeting (3) of Oxfordshire Voice. The meeting also heard how dreams of Oxford becoming a ‘Smart City’ are being held back by poor infrastructure and low connectivity.

“We are always hearing about weak phone signals, poor broadband speeds and lost data. Our thriving business community deserves better, but confidence in the providers is low,” says Frank Nigriello of Unipart at Cowley. Unipart is an Oxfordshire Voice partner and hosted the opening event.

“However, it’s no good just complaining. Oxfordshire Voice is focussed on collaborating with everyone involved in problems such as this so we can solve them,” says Mr Nigriello.

Tony Hart, of Smart Oxford, which is charged with promoting Oxford as a ‘Smart City’ said, “Digital technology underpins all business (and social) activities nowadays and it is essential that we establish an effective digital infrastructure (connectivity and open access to data) to enable the Oxford city region to live up to its potential as a world-class ‘smart’ city.” Hart also told the meeting that there needed to be far more awareness of the connectivity issues.

Part of Oxfordshire Voice’s role will be to create greater awareness of these issues and any measures in place to help businesses. Oxfordshire County Council’s Craig Bower has asked Oxfordshire Voice to help create more awareness of their services and progress to date, “We consider the availability of fibre broadband to be critical in achieving a thriving economy and communities in Oxfordshire. The Better Broadband programme www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk/cms has enabled nearly 80,000 premises, including businesses, to access superfast broadband.

“The programme is keen to help any businesses which still don’t have decent broadband. Although some 96% of premises in the county have access to superfast broadband, the council recognises those businesses remaining without coverage are severely constrained.” To find out more about the programme, visit the website or see more details in the Notes below. (4)
With 96% of premises having access to superfast broadband but 75% of those surveyed still unhappy, there is clearly a requirement for increased speeds to match the aspirations of the business community.

The huge potential of Oxfordshire Voice was demonstrated with the plethora of problems besetting business in the one debated field of digital technology. Many questions were asked and a number of potential solutions debated.

This is just the start but to make Oxfordshire Voice more powerful and heard more loudly we need to grow the committed group of businesses that underpin the structure of Oxfordshire Voice. Businesses concerned about their future and the future of Oxfordshire should contact Richard Rosser, founder of Oxfordshire Voice. Please also visit issuu.com/b4-business/docs/b4_voice_a4 for more information about Partnership opportunities.

Public and private sector support of the Oxfordshire Voice initiative is vital to ensure debates truly represent a collaboration between business, local authorities and elected officials. With support from Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils already secured, Oxfordshire Voice is openly inviting the District Councils and local MP’s to join the monthly forums to ensure we are all working together and pulling in the same direction. Confirmed Oxfordshire Voice Partners – (see 5).

The Oxfordshire Voice forum and its survey is the beginning of a new and innovative two-fold strategy for the county. Firstly, to create a collaborative organisation to inform policy and find workable solutions to the many issues facing the business community. Secondly, to make sure the rest of the world gets to hear how Oxfordshire is one of the world’s most vibrant, productive and attractive places to do business.

Other key areas of focus include transport and communication, social and environmental issues, housing and skills. The latter will be the focus of the next Oxfordshire Voice forum, drilling down as to why it is so hard to recruit in Oxfordshire. It takes place on 15th November at Pembroke College from 4pm to 7pm. (6)

Note to editors

1 – About Oxfordshire Voice:

Oxfordshire Voice is a public and private sector collaboration which aims to provide solutions to the key challenges stifling economic development in Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire Voice was set up and is managed by B4, Oxfordshire’s leading business community. For further information about OV see: issuu.com/b4-business/docs/b4_voice_a4

The survey debated at the first forum was sent to over 500 business people in the B4 community and was sent out via email on survey monkey. Other Q&A’s are available on request.

2 – Competing internationally:

Full-fibre (also phrased as FFTP – fibre to the property) for the UK is 3.5% in comparison to Estonia that has 70%, Portugal that as 85% and much of Scandinavia has 95%.

In Oxfordshire, currently 8% in Oxfordshire has full fibre.

3 – More about the Unipart forum:

See also links below to pictures and video from the Unipart forum:

Video: youtu.be/GKtlygUe4Hs
Photos: flic.kr/s/aHsmukFrNm

4 – Details about the Oxfordshire County Council broadband programme:

If any business does not have access to broadband capable of at least 30Mb/s download, please contact Oxfordshire County Council which has funding from DEFRA to help address the final few percent of rural businesses without fast broadband, and there is also a government scheme for helping with costs of full-fibre connectivity. Please contact broadband@oxfordshire.gov.uk. Details of the government scheme are also available at gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk.

There is also a central government scheme available for businesses and residences to get significant funding for full fibre connectivity gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk. If you contact broadband@oxfordshire.gov.uk a member of the team will get back to you and will provide further details of the government scheme or with details of further coverage under the Better Broadband programme.

5 – Oxfordshire Voice partners include the following:

6 – Future Oxfordshire Voice events:

The formal launch of Oxfordshire Voice will take place at The Blavatnik School of Government on Thursday 17th January.

Register for the next OV forum at Pembroke College here: oxfordshire-voice-recruit.eventbrite.co.uk

Attendees at the forum including representatives from the following:

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