Earlier this year CityFibre announced a significant extension to its £4 billion Gigabit City Investment Programme. As a result, the company plans to extend the benefits of its full fibre roll outs to a further 36 cities in the UK. With construction due to begin on many of these projects over the summer, many of these places are likely to see the benefits of full fibre by the end of the year.
It’s a significant undertaking – but one that can be hugely impactful. Indeed, CityFibre expects that its investment programme will stimulate local economic growth in the UK in the region of £85 billion.
To see an example of the economic benefits of full fibre in action, you only have to look at CityFibre’s work in York. The deployment of a full citywide full fibre network has enabled the local council to significantly improve services, while also reducing costs. These cost savings have enabled the provision of free, public Wi-Fi throughout the city. Just as importantly, the availability of reliable high speed connectivity has secured new inward investment into the city and transformed the capabilities of the city’s businesses and residents.
As this example highlights, the economic benefits of full fibre are not in question – it is clearly a win-win for everyone. However, even these gains don’t tell the full story of how beneficial full fibre roll outs can be.
That’s because we need to stop thinking about fibre only in terms of connectivity.
Fibre as a sensor
CityFibre is also actively involved in looking at how investments in full fibre roll outs can be leveraged in other ways and be part of future smart city initiatives. The company’s work in Peterborough is at the forefront of exploring what is possible once the fibre is in the ground.
In a multi-million pound project, social housing locations across Peterborough have been transformed into a smart city test bed through a network of sensors that are connected via the full fibre infrastucture. This technology is being used to monitor health, safety and environmental factors across the city to help deliver cost savings and reduce the carbon footprint of both the built environment and its residents.
Although this is a major project which will generate significant benefits for the city, with DAS the investment could be generating even more value and revenue.
Converting the fibre into a sensor, in its own right, can bring a host of additional benefits in terms of broadening and deepening the ‘data view’ of the city. By making every inch of fibre count, DAS can provide views on factors like traffic flows, congestion, footfall and potential threat activity.
These views can massively improve the situational awareness of security operations, prevent damage to crucial infrastructure, and even environmental improvements.
For example, congestion is a major contributor to emissions. As a project Fotech has been conducting in Spain has demonstrated, DAS can play a key role in keeping traffic moving – and therefore minimising air pollution.
This project focused on tracking the movement of vehicles in both directions on a five kilometre stretch of road in a light industrial zone. This data can be used to support a sophisticated traffic management system that can dynamically manage traffic at junctions and change the sequencing of traffic lights to keep traffic flowing, reduce journey times and the emissions from waiting vehicles. By cross referencing this data with air quality sensors it will be possible to validate the precise environmental benefits.
Maximising the value of full fibre
We wrote previously about some of the practical steps fibre installers can take to optimise their roll outs for the use of DAS without impacting the communication functions of the network. Indeed, the most important point in all of this discussion is that where service providers are conducting full fibre roll outs, these benefits can be achieved at a minimal incremental cost.
Providers like CityFibre are engaged in comprehensive and ambitious projects to improve the digital infrastructure of cities. However, DAS represents an opportunity to derive significant additional value from these investments – value that fibre service providers can simply convert into benefits for citizens and additional revenue.
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