The Centre for Digital Innovation in Hull is part of the government’s initiative to encourage the growth of digital businesses in the North of England. And one of the more crucial elements the Centre for Digital Innovation needs in order to help local firms grow is – you guessed it – the internet.
As such, Real Business briefly spoke with the Centre for Digital Innovation’s managing director, John Connolly, as well as KCOM’s CEO, about the UK’s state of broadband.
Connolly’s view is that Hull is the luckiest city in Britain given that its connectivity infrastructure is run by KCOM, which skipped the dreaded “fibre to the cabinet” (FTTC) approach favoured by BT. Instead, KCOM went straight to “fibre to the premises” (FTTP), which delivers up to 1GB/sec to local businesses.
He said: “We’re lucky enough to have a 1GB/sec symmetrical connection to every desk in our building, which gives us a huge competitive advantage. We regularly test our network and the speeds we get are rock solid.”
So why does Hull get special treatment? Over 100 years ago the city’s local authority was one of a handful running its own telephone network. Other municipal networks were absorbed over time into the General Post Office, which became BT, but Hull Corporation kept its license and became what is now KCOM.
In Hull, much of the network is connected with overhead poles, so KCOM doesn’t have to do much digging to upgrade.
“We can get to homes and businesses more easily and more economically,” explained Bill Halbert, KCOM CEO, when asked about the difference between the Hull provider and BT. “If you want to futureproof your network, then taking fibre to the premises is the answer. I believe that achieving an ultrafast broadband infrastructure is one of the most important things we can achieve as a country, The Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps is, in my view, simply not enough.”
Similarly from Hull, Label Worx runs its business from the Centre for Digital Innovation and takes advantage of 1GB/sec speeds to upload music and video files as well as run database queries continuously. It chose Centre for Digital Innovation because it could get a consistent ultrafast broadband connection to the desktop – and it’s suggested that it hasn’t been disappointed.
Matt Abbott, co-founder at Label Worx, told Real Business: “Our business has benefited in so many ways from being on Centre for Digital Innovation’s fibre network. It‘s simplified how we work and made data transfer totally reliable. We never have to check on file uploads like we did before.”
Giving an example of the difference FTTP makes to Label Worx’s business on a daily basis, Abbott said: “We often use live video streaming for promotional work and used to have to choose which digital channel to use. Now we can stream to three channels at once without even thinking about it.”
It seems to be one of the key reasons why firms should think of relocating to Hull if BT just won’t cut it.