The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) has announced a new £7 million fund which will help boost mobile and “full fibre” broadband connectivity in rural areas.
The new 5G and Future Connectivity Fund forms part of a larger £12m scheme that is aimed at aiding start-ups and unlocking “the potential of digital and tech businesses”.
The scheme is split into two parts. One part will focus on speeding up the commercial deployment of broadband connectivity, and the other will focus on speeding up the rollout of 5G networking technology in the region.
The NTCA, which consists of Northumberland, North Tyneside, and Newcastle, has yet to begin the market engagement activity for the scheme, and no proposals have actually been put forward as of yet.
However, an agenda document from the latest cabinet meeting details how much of the funding will be put towards levelling up rural areas in Northumberland. Northumberland contains the most communities in the region with poor connectivity.
The scheme would help support the government’s wider £5bn Gigabit broadband programme, as well as the £1bn Shared Rural Network project which seeks to achieve a 95% geographic coverage of 4G connectivity in the UK
North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Clean Energy and Connectivity, Richard Wearmouth, said: “This will be a game changer for the region. It will accelerate investment in infrastructure and connectivity in the North of Tyne, supporting the industry-led innovation of our rapidly growing tech sector.
“And it will give real incentives for mobile networks and infrastructure providers to roll out super-fast wireless and fibre across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. The power of digital solutions can help countless businesses emerge from the crisis.
“From Artificial intelligence to data clouds, from Digital Innovation Hubs to ‘deep tech’ start-ups, innovation, growth and productivity, and technology will go hand in hand.”
Despite the NTCA’s positivity regarding the project, experts in the field aren’t so sure.
Mark Jackson, editor of consumer broadband news website, ISPreview, said: “The biggest difficulty here is that the proposed investment of £7m on this side of the programme is only a drop in the ocean of what might actually be needed, which helps to explain why it’s more focused on facilitating rather than funding direct deployments. So, while the extra investment is to be welcomed, it’s impact probably won’t be as big as the sound bites in their announcement.”
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