£110m fibre broadband network in Sheffield promises to end buffering while working from home

A fibre broadband company is starting a five-year, £110m project to connect every home in Sheffield promising the end of internet buffering for the ‘working from home’ generation.

Thursday, 4th February 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th February 2021, 12:31 pm
CityFibre starts in Darnall on February 8 and aims to offer every premises in Sheffield full fibre broadband in five years.

CityFibre is starting in Darnall and Manor and Castle on February 8. Up to 40 per cent of cables will be underground - although the company says it will look at ‘every other possibility’ before digging up roads and pavements. The rest will be overhead.

When finished in 2026, it says every premises in the city will have the option of a dedicated full fibre line. Bosses say the ‘sky is the limit’ on speeds which can reach 30Gbs or more. But more importantly the network offers stability.

The current average speed in Sheffield homes is 30Mbs but can fluctuate depending on demand.

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Charlotte Hewitt, of CityFibre, said lockdown had forced entire families on to the internet at the same time - and up to 50 households share bandwidth at a green street cabinet. This had led to soaring complaints to internet service providers during lockdown.

She added: “People are fixated on speed but once you reach a certain speed stability is more important. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of stability, it’s also made people realise thy need connectivity like any other utility.”

CityFibre is a private firm with private cash. It follows in the footsteps of the disastrous Digital Region project in the early 2000s.

Run by South Yorkshire’s four local councils, some £83m was sunk into a new superfast broadband infrastructure which folded due to a lack of customers.

CityFibre says its work in Sheffield will cost £110m.

The network - which would have put the region miles ahead of much of the UK for connectivity - was eventually shut down and flogged off on the cheap to an American company and never heard of again. The total cost to the taxpayer was £150m.

City Fibre has announced plans for networks in 66 UK cities and is selling services in 24 already.

In Sheffield, it says it has ‘a lot’ of interest from internet service providers - who sell contracts to customers. The first should be available from September.

Ms Hewitt added: “We are on a mission to bring the UK up to where it needs to be in terms of digital technology.”

The company has competition from other companies including BT-owned Openreach which with a goal of offering full fibre to 20m premises by the late 2020’s and Virgin Media.

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We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.