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Virgin Media Business serves fibre to Manchester tech SMEs

Roll-out mirrors the London tech city initiative.

By Alexander Sword

Manchester’s tech sector is getting a connectivity upgrade as Virgin Media connects the Northern Quarter with ultrafast fibre.

Up to 3000 businesses will benefit from speeds of 100Mb through a package designed specifically for businesses in multi-tenanted buildings.

The roll-out will reach 3000 buildings in the 9-postcode area. 1 Gb connections are installed in the buildings, where businesses can purchase a 50Mb or 100Mb, or an individual leased line offering up to 1Gb.

Unusually, the connection provides equal upload and download speeds. According to recent research by the Broadband Stakeholder Group, the median upstream bandwidth demand for small businesses is set to double in the next ten years, growing from 1.3 Mbps to 2.7 Mbps. 20 percent of small business premises could be constrained by 2020 if they remain limited to today’s speeds.

"Our members do tell us that their requirements for upload speeds aren’t being met at the moment," said Will Black, Policy Advisor at the Federation of Small Business, at the launch of this report.

"A lot of sole traders and micros won’t employ an IT manager so they won’t understand what their requirements might be; they’re too busy running their own business to think in detail about what they need.

"More support from government there could be really positive to allow them to assess their download and upload requirements and therefore access what services are available on the market."

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This roll-out closely parallels that in London’s ‘Tech City’, where more than 450 businesses in 70 buildings are now being connected to the company’s dedicated connections. Small businesses in areas connected to Virgin Media Business fibre can apply for a subsidy through the SuperConnected Cities Scheme.

Peter Kelly, Managing Director, Virgin Media Business, said: "A central part of any technology hub is reliable, secure high-speed internet. This can make the difference between thriving and merely surviving for small and medium-sized businesses so I’m thrilled we’re able to bring Manchester’s vibrant business community our latest package with the fastest broadband speeds."

The announcement follows a £75 million investment by Virgin Media in Manchester, expanding the ultrafast network to 150,000 more homes and businesses.

Manchester is not the only UK city where broadband networks are being extended. In Edinburgh, CityFibre was recently contracted to extend its Gigabit City project to 294 more council-owned sites in an agreement worth £5.6 million. Key sites to benefit will be council offices, community centres and libraries and137 primary and secondary schools.

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