WORK has begun on a £29 million project to install full fibre internet throughout Rotherham, with plans to connect nearly every home and business in the borough by 2023.
The town is one of the next wave chosen for full fibre as part of a £4 billion digital infrastructure programme by network firm CityFibre.
The work started in Kimberworth on Monday and is expected to spread to large areas of the town.
Full fibre is different from many existing connections as the fibre cable runs all the way into homes and businesses, instead of the final section from a street cabinet being copper or aluminium.
It is regarded as the best in connectivity for its speed, near unlimited bandwidth and reliability, but is currently only available to around 12 per cent of UK homes and premises.
CityFibre manager for Rotherham, Natalie Ward (below), said: “If the network now is the M1 and then A-road and B-roads to people’s houses, it will be like having a motorway right into their own property.
“We are talking about gigabit capacity — that’s 1000Mb/s.
“This is a game-changer for Rotherham. This level of connectivity is compatible with 5G, smart city solutions, smart homes and all the things people talk about in a futuristic way. That will all be possible in Rotherham with this.”
CityFibre said residents in all affected areas would receive advance notice and promised to maintain access to homes at all times.
“We will not be digging up every road, which is often people’s first concern,” said Ms Ward.
“There is an existing network and we will be building off the back of that. We won’t need to be in any street for long at all.
“Some of it is underground and some is overhead cables, which is a lot quicker.
“Currently these connections do not exist the town.
“Kimberworth is the starting point. We have massive plans in Rotherham, much wider than just the town centre.”
Ms Ward said after the Kimberworth section was completed, CityFibre would coordinate with utility companies “to ensure we are not going where someone has just been”.
With only private investment involved, areas will be largely chosen on a commercial basis, which means some more rural parts will not be included.
“Our footprint is one that makes commercial sense so if we think about some really rural areas we won’t be going to those areas,” Ms Ward said.
“The Government has a programme that will manage reaching these premises.”
Contractor Heneghan is in place and there should also be jobs for Rotherham residents.
Ms Ward added: “There’s a need to recruit 1,000 jobs and we are already looking at how to ensure local people can get into some of those, with training provided.
“We will put the infrastructure in but we also want to work with Rotherham to ensure that Rotherham benefits from it.”
The pandemic had demonstrated how important internet connectivity is, Ms Ward said.
“Some councils digital strategies, which they’ve had for years, have been practically realised in a matter of weeks,” she added.
“It has transformed how everyone is living.”