Ultrafast boost for businesses in rural Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire County Council has announced two new contracts have been signed to deliver ultrafast broadband to 970 SMEs.

This follows a successful application to DeFRA for £6.3m of EAFRD funding to improve broadband for businesses in rural parts of the county.

The suppliers will also connect some 900 nearby residential premises at their own cost. These are all to be full-fibre connections offering speeds up to 1Gb/s and will bring superfast coverage in Oxfordshire to 98%.

The work will add several hundred kilometres of fibre to the most rural parts of the county and is planned to complete by June 2022.

Procurement was split into four Lots to encourage competition, with new entrant Airband winning two Lots across mostly south Oxfordshire, and Openreach winning two Lots in the northern half of the county. The county council will manage the delivery programme.

Craig Bower, Digital Connectivity Programme Director for Oxfordshire County Council, said:

“This is a great boost for Oxfordshire’s rural SME’s. All the businesses in scope currently have slow broadband when they increasingly need fast access to online resources to improve productivity and be competitive. Our existing Better Broadband programme has delivered superfast access to over 77,000 premises and we know it is making a huge difference to residents and business with over two thirds of those able to connect subscribing to the superfast services.”

Chris Franklin, Rural Development Area Manager for DeFRA said:

“We are keen to help rural businesses to be able to prosper and grow – ultrafast broadband is critical to enable this, improving productivity, and creating a level playing field with businesses in more urban areas both in the UK and abroad”

Redmond Peel, CEO of Airband said:

“We are delighted to be working with Oxfordshire County Council on this important next stage of improving digital infrastructure in the county. We are delivering full-fibre connectivity capable of gigabit speeds which will future-proof broadband needs for the 21st century”

Robert Thorburn, Partnership Director at Openreach, said:

“We have partnered with Oxfordshire County Council for over five years delivering better broadband to thousands of premises, and look forward to continuing this as we deliver ultrafast connectivity to the hardest to reach premises in the county."