The gathering chaired by leading digital infrastructure provider CityFibre, called on MK Business Leaders to share their ambitions for their city and discuss how to harness the benefits of the city’s increasing access to the full-fibre network.
With October marking the one-year milestone of Milton Keynes’ transformation into a Gigabit City, they considered the impact on business productivity, improvements to health services and education, introducing smart city applications and even the future of the connected home.
Marc Lough, city development manager at CityFibre, said: “Milton Keynes has risen rapidly to become one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. Having been identified by the National Infrastructure Commission as the ideal future home of the UK’s Silicon Valley, it is well placed to make the most of its full-fibre infrastructure.
“As a country we need to get back on track and improve our connectivity so we can compete on a level playing field with our peers around the world. We see our Gigabit City network as a future proofing exercise and one that Milton Keynes has really embraced. This was clear from the discussion we had at the event.
“We have been working hard with both enterprise and the public sector across Milton Keynes to help transform the city’s digital landscape and we’re excited to see what such a digitally savvy location can do now that they have better connectivity to flex.”
Attendees at the event also acknowledged the role Gigabit City status plays in boosting the city’s profile, attracting inward investment and helping it to fulfil its aspiration to become the home of the UK’s Silicon Valley.
Duncan Sharkey, corporate director at Milton Keynes Council, said: “We need to make sure we keep pace with infrastructure going forward. We need future-proofed full-fibre infrastructure in the ground so we can keep updating our speeds and we keep moving forward.
“We are looking at innovative ways of working with businesses and other key stakeholders across the city to enhance the city’s reputation as a digital leader.”
Dr Philip Smith MBE, chair of MK Business Leaders Partnership, added: “It is clear that digital connectivity is very important for the future of businesses across Milton Keynes.
“If we have ambition to be a city that is at the forefront of digital technology, then our connectivity needs to improve immediately, we are already well behind other progressive cities.”
Hundreds of sites are already connected across Milton Keynes’ 160 km next-generation full-fibre network and it is within reach of thousands of businesses across the city.
Marketing firm Interdirect is one of the city’s connected businesses. Its managing director Nicholas Mann said: “Essentially we are a web-based business, we are connected to CityFibre’s network and it is fabulous.
“It is faster and cheaper than our previous connection. As the margins are ever decreasing across our businesses, this was hugely important to us to be able to lower our connectivity costs yet up our capabilities.
“I believe we need a city-wide, full-fibre infrastructure as it underpins our future digital economy.”
The network delivers consistent ultrafast internet speeds and connectivity with near unlimited bandwidth. Currently available to just 3% of premises across the UK, this type of connectivity is celebrated for helping local businesses to grow and become more competitive and innovative, and local communities to attract start-ups and investment as well as adopt city-wide improvements such as smart traffic management, HD CCTV and public Wi-Fi.
CityFibre has been working with telecoms service provider dbfb to connect businesses across the city. Managing director Simon Pickering said: “Milton Keynes has previously ranked amongthe worst digitally-connected cities in the UK but the Gigabit City project has begun to catapult us to the front of the pack.
“There is a real appetite to make the most of the fibre network and the business community already hugely supportive. We still have work to do; many still look at connectivity as a luxury. It’s not; it’s a utility we need to invest in”
Additional comments from attendees at the Business Leaders event:
Ian Chapman, Cranfield University, Head of Regional Engagement & Corporate Projects: “Connectivity is very important to us. We are well fibred up at the University and we have some special fibre needs coming up involving our test track for autonomous vehicles and the security around that.”
Jon Corbett, Barclays Head of SME, South East Midlands and Cambridgeshire: “The work we do with SME’s across the South East Midlands really highlights the importance of the digital agenda, and how we need to support this. If we are serious about what the future of Milton Keynes looks like and want to make it happen, we need the digital capabilities, which more broadly links with the work MK College is undertaking with Microsoft and Bletchley Park.”
Peter Cox, Dentons, Partner: “We are no longer looking at offices being the best place for our lawyers to work. We are looking at more agile working, like working on the move and working from home.
“If our lawyers need to be working from home, we need to make sure they can connect to the network so they can perform the service they need to. So it is not just business to business but the way a business operates that needs to be looked at.”
Dr Julie Mills, MK College, Principal & Chief Executive: “The digital specialism is something we have identified as key and something we are developing. The Milton Keynes 2050 vision for a university is all around that digital space.
“In terms of our role, it is how we develop digital skills and provide the right support to get there. However we are being challenged now with where we find the skills to help us develop that future digital curriculum and training solutions of the future.”
Martyn Smith, Milton Keynes Council, Infrastructure Coordination and Delivery Programme: “We want to make sure the level of coverage we have for superfast broadband is replicated with ultrafast speed, 100Mbps speeds and above.”
For more information about Milton Keynes’ Gigabit City project, visit www.cityfibre.com/mk