Superfast data as well as superfast trams will soon travel along the new Nottingham Express Transit lines to benefit local businesses, thanks to the foresight of Nottingham City Council.

Nottingham is leading the country in an innovative approach that ensures world class fibre optic cabling is installed when major works are being planned. During the construction of the NET tram extension to Clifton South and Toton Lane, the City Council took the opportunity to install 17km of underground telecommunications infrastructure along the routes, taking advantage of lower installation costs, and avoiding any future disruption to car drivers and pedestrians.

Now the City Council has signed a multi-million pound 20-year concession agreement with ITS Technology Group which will see the city’s telecommunications ducting being used to connect local businesses to superfast broadband. The deal is at no cost to the council by ensuring it recoups its initial modest investment, as well as guaranteeing it an income over the life of the project.

Over the period of the agreement, ITS will extend the reach of the fibre network up to 100kms, at no cost to the city council. The network will be operated as an ‘Open Access Network’. This means that any other operator will be able to use the fibre to connect to their customers, and will be able to do so at a fair commercial rate. By having an Open Access Network, customers and businesses benefit from faster and more reliable connectivity at lower costs than are currently available. 

Nottingham is fast becoming a hub of creative activity in sectors such as life sciences and digital media. A key factor in supporting this growth is a modern cost-effective telecommunications infrastructure capable of offering low-cost world class connectivity.

Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Growth and Transport at Nottingham City Council, said: “The City Council took the opportunity to put this vital infrastructure in place while work was underway on the new tramlines, minimising disruption and costs and allowing more local businesses to be connected to superfast broadband. 

“This is an exciting new initiative that will have important long-term benefits for the city’s business community and will maintain Nottingham’s position as the best connected city in the UK. Businesses need to keep pace with the rapid developments in internet technology, especially our fast-growing digital media and biotech sectors which are so important for Nottingham’s economic future. This concession agreement does not cost the City Council – in fact we will generate income over the years as the cable network is expanded.”

ITS Technology Group, who are specialists in designing, building and operating high speed networks, have been awarded the 20 year contract to manage the infrastructure and install the telecommunications. They are already delivering similar services to other cities. Their focus will be on the high growth, Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) market, which will include strategic sites along the tram route such as Ng2, Nottingham Science Park and Nottingham’s Enterprise Zone.

As well as managing any future installations, ITS will also bring improvements to the city centre which is currently not served by ‘super-fast’ services, including the Creative Quarter and its newly refurbished creative units at Sneinton Market. 

Roy Shelton, CEO of ITS Technology Group, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting concession agreement. We look forward to enhancing the digital lives of the businesses and communities that are based around Nottingham city centre. This type of infrastructure investment is essential to the development and regeneration of areas and is the fourth we have completed within the past 18 months to add to our 17 established networks across the UK.”