Birmingham’s internet coverage lags behind other major cities
Birmingham’s full-fibre internet speeds are lagging behind cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Sunderland. Insufficient infrastructure has sparked fears that firms could choose other major cities with faster connectivity as their bases.
A Birmingham City Council report on digital connectivity claims the West Midlands tech sector is expected to generate at least £2.7 billion for the local economy by 2025. The region reportedly has 18,394 start-ups and more incubators and accelerators than any other city outside London.
Even though this is one of the fastest growing tech sectors in the country, the council is worried the region may not be able to capitalise on this without the right full-fibre infrastructure.
The report names central Birmingham as an area with particularly poor fibre coverage. Perry Barr and Yardley wards of the city have some of the best coverage.
It also calls for the council to build and deploy a ‘city spine’ full fibre network that will support the city with greatly enhanced internet speeds. Areas with less than 50 per cent full fibre coverage will be targeted first.
In April 2022, the council approved Birmingham’s digital city roadmap – a scheme aimed at boosting hyperconnectivity in the city, potentially resulting in an extra £760 million through increased productivity across businesses. Full fibre was identified in this scheme as a ‘significant game changer’ for the city.
The council’s plans come as the government pushes for gigabit broadband, download speeds of at least one gigabit-per-second, to be available nationwide by 2030. The Treasury has allocated £5 billion to support the scheme, £1.2 billion of which has been spent already.
Written by the council’s director for digital and customer services, Peter Bishop, the report reads: “Without the right infrastructure, there is a risk that Birmingham will not attract the level of investment and not achieve the economic returns available.
“Birmingham is already lagging behind other cities that have taken proactive action to support economic growth by developing their full fibre infrastructures (such as Sunderland, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Manchester etc.).
“Extensive analysis has identified that Birmingham does not have the necessary levels of full fibre connectivity across the city to deliver the outcomes in the council’s Levelling Up Strategy, increasing the pace and scale of growth.”