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CityFibre has called for more private sector investment in pure fibre networks in the north of England.

According to the fibre provider, the economies of northern towns and cities have been strangled by years of underinvestment in digital infrastructure.

As a result, it believes stepping up investment in pure fibre technology could reverse the situation and give the region a competitive edge.

CityFibre itself has already spent more than £70 million deploying fibre networks in the north, as 12 city-wide metro fibre networks are now in place in Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield, York, Leeds, Halifax, Doncaster, Wakefield, Rotherham, Kirklees, Harrogate and Hull.

However, it insisted more needs to be done if the government's desire to establish a so-called Northern Powerhouse is to come to fruition.

Mark Collins, Director of Strategy at CityFibre, commented: "By attracting private investment in digital infrastructure and facilitating its rollout by alternative operators, I have no doubt that it could be transformative for the Northern Powerhouse agenda.”

"Full fibre networks are truly transformative. Access to gigabit speeds increases productivity, reduces inefficiencies, allows businesses to offer better services and ultimately, boosts the bottom line."

CityFibre pointed out that much of the digital infrastructure currently serving businesses and public sector bodies still depends, at least partly, on copper, which is "severely limited in its capabilities".

However, it said switching to fibre-based technology would allow broadband networks to be "effectively future-proofed", as they enable huge amounts of data to be transferred at near-unlimited speeds.

CityFibre has therefore called on leaders in northern English towns and cities to place a greater focus on this issue.

"Much talk about the Northern Powerhouse centres on physical connectivity between cities - how we get people from A to B - but digital connectivity is just as, if not more, important," Mr Collins said.   "Virtually all businesses now rely on digital infrastructure to communicate, whether that’s office workers sending emails or businesses’ increasing use of cloud services."

Mr Collins stated that operating environment is only going to become more digitally focused, which means that by providing faster internet speeds, businesses will be able to communicate and perform much more effectively.

He went on to argue that a superior digital infrastructure will also act as a "key differentiator" for firms that are looking for a suitable place in which to establish a base.

This, he said, would be the case both for multi-nationals that are considering setting up in the north and brand new business start-ups.

Mr Collins added that the benefits of a future-proofed digital infrastructure would also have positive impacts beyond business.

"Unlimited speeds increase efficiencies in all aspects of a city, whether that’s schools, hospitals, CCTV or council offices enabling local government too to save money, increase efficiencies and introduce new services," he said.

CityFibre recently confirmed that it delivered a record performance in 2016, with its pure fibre networks now deployed in 42 cities across the UK.

According to the company, 5,063 new connections worth £75.5 million were added last year. This compares with 1,100 connections worth £23 million in 2015.

The number of connected premises also rose significantly in 2016, going up from 1,200 to 3,962.

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