Digital Britain Event Report (important news for South Yorkshire)

UPDATE >> The presentations from the meeting are now available on the Yorkshire Forward website in PDF format.

Click here and the relevant section is about half way down the page.

On Thursday afternoon, we headed over to the Yorkshire Forward Digital Britain Launch event, held at The Met Hotel in Leeds. There was an excellent turn out, with people from all manner of creative and digital industries, including a number of Hull Digital members.


After an introduction from Stuart MacFarlane, Sector Manager, Digital and New Media, Yorkshire Forward, he introduced Samuel Sharp, the Director of the Digital Britain report who has worked alongside Lord Carter. He provided an overview of what has been done, the main areas of focus, and the report findings and thoughts so far. He did seem to gloss over the much-maligned 2mb broadband target, although made it very clear that this was more of a “floor” and not a ceiling. This is far from clear in the report, and he did mention the initiatives on the US, Australia and Korea, but not giving them more than a passing few words. This is worrying, as if they can do it, so should we.

Robert Ling, the Business Improvement Manager from YF then gave an excellent presentation about what was happening in the local region, and this actually proved more interesting to us than the UK-wide actual report. It was a real eye opener to see that there was plenty happening in the Yorkshire region, and all of it, very, very promising.

Big News for South Yorkshire:


Following the Government’s 2009 budget statement to confirm approval for Digital
Region, Digital Region Ltd today announces the roll-out of ‘Super-fast Broadband’
across South Yorkshire, putting the South Yorkshire region at the forefront of the digital
communications agenda and marking a significant change in communications
technology for Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

This is stunning news for South Yorkshire, and the actual press release is available here > click.

‘Super-fast Broadband’ will provide a high-speed, open-access infrastructure, offering
25mb or above of guaranteed bandwidth and quality of service to the majority of homes
and businesses in South Yorkshire, reaching 1.2 million people. The provision of this
level of broadband service will transform the region, creating inward economic and social
investment to bridge the growing digital divide.


The approval of the Digital Region has been critical to this success, and Robert alluded to the 4 years of work which have enabled them to get this success. What is the “Digital Region though”?

The project has the potential to become the largest open-access broadband infrastructure platform in the world and will enable a multitude of advanced applications at home, in business and across the public sector, transforming communications, entertainment and business activities across the region.

DRL is wholly owned by Yorkshire Forward and the four local authorities of South Yorkshire. Following a full European Union procurement exercise, Thales Transport and Security Limited (Thales) has been appointed to deliver and manage the fibre-optic cable infrastructure on behalf of DRL. Thales leads a consortium that includes Alcatel-Lucent and KCOM.

The DRL Network is offering 25mb+ of bandwidth which is both guaranteed and can be delivered with a range definable Quality of Service attributes. In simple terms, this means the end user gets ‘what they pay for’; if the end user requires 10mb they receive a guaranteed 10mb; if they want 5mb or 25mb this is guaranteed. Some services require more than just high-speed connections: this is true of live entertainment such as sports, and critical services such as aspects of tele-medicine. The DRL Network can configure specific connections with Quality of Service attributes that allow these services to be delivered in a seamless way to the end consumer – so no stop-starting or picture-jitter for example when watching a live football match.

As well as this news, Robert also covered NYnet, a “Broadband Transformation for North Yorkshire”.


What is NYnet?

NYnet is a public and private sector commercial venture created in order to provide a communications network that is capable of delivering multiple high quality services to citizens, business and public sector bodies. The lead role is taken by North Yorkshire County Council with support from Yorkshire Forward and Government Office Yorkshire and Humber. Our private sector technology partner is BT who will work with NYnet to deliver, monitor and maintain the network to the highest standards.

So, from a UK perspective, the Digital Britain report is on track, after the release of the Interim report, and they are receiving feedback. Having spoken to a number of people, it seems like the Yorkshire region has been the only region to hold an event to collate feedback, which is good for us, but poor overall.

What really stood out was the South Yorkshire success and Nynet. Leaving Hull, well and truly left in the middle of two areas who are accelerating away in terms of development and future vision. This was immediately clear to us, and has left many questions for the future. We cannot afford to be left behind and we must not be left behind.

Finally, here are two clips from the London Digital Britain Meeting:

On a lighter note, and not lost in it’s irony, was the Wireless charges from the Met Hotel – good grief, they should be paying the digital infrastructure of the region!


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10 Responses to “Digital Britain Event Report (important news for South Yorkshire)”

  1. Imran Ali
    April 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    They also seem to have glossed over the fact that West Yorkshire provided the largest exit in the dotcom boom (Freeserve) as well as being the infrastructural hub for a quarter of the UK’s web traffic….or that South Yorkshire saw the 2nd largest exit (Plusnet).

    Entrepreneurs seem to be doing OK without government intervention – if we feel they should intervene, then making bigger pipes is a small matter…how do you codify and systemise the environment that gave rise to Freeserve and Plusnet such that the region can sustain such endeavours in the future.

  2. GuyJ
    April 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm #

    @Imran – do tell more about the demise/exit of Freeserve and Plusnet from the region please 🙂

  3. GuyJ
    April 26, 2009 at 8:49 pm #


    Re the outrageous wifi charges…. I can see a neat business opportunity here 🙂

    Take one netbook with 3G dongle/built-in
    Get said system inside or in the proximity of the venue
    Serve out 3G via netbook wifi in soft AP mode
    Voila a competitive market right there in the hotel foyer!

    From an operator’s perspective, using a suitable portal management system, it then becomes a matter of processing secure online payments for whatever price you choose

  4. GuyJ
    April 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    @Jon and on topic – excellent posting about the YF Debate on Thursday which myself and colleagues also took part in.

    My sense is that in two of the speakers, Stuart McFarlane and Robert Ling, Yorkshire Forward has senior influencers and project sponsors who both understand the transformational benefits of FttH and have the necessary determination to see Next Gen made real after a 4 year slog in the Digital Region context.

    NYNET has huge relevance for particularly rural East Yorkshire ( maybe?) and by extension for Hull, North and North East Lincs too –

    From a FibreStream/OpenFibre direction, there are advanced talks taking place on a regional level encompassing Public, Private and Community sectors to enable those 20% of the population currently unable to receive even a measly 2Mbps download to leapfrog straight to Next Gen Access that is comparable with world leading USO.

    Something I do hope Sam Sharps can write into the final Digital Britain report is at least an aspiration to match our Korean friends at 1Gbps in time for the 2012 Olympics… It has got to be worth a serious attempt methinks 🙂

  5. Imran Ali
    May 8, 2009 at 11:55 am #

    @GuyJ Sorry, by exit – I mean an exit to trade sale, not a departure from the region. Both companies were bootstrapped by local founders and then sold for great valuations to BT and France Telecom.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that the infrastructural era of a digital Britain is over – done and built. Placing emphasis on infrastructural improvements in Yorkshire can only accrue incremental value on a commoditised asset.

    What’s far more interesting and more valuable socially and economically is codifiying the circumstances that enable such companies to start in the region. The current and next generation of innovation regionally will not be fibre, wireless or DSL – it’ll be the services, apps and media that flow through them and that’s where Digital Britain has failed to recognise future value.

  6. GuyJ
    May 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm #


    I agree that content applications and services are what creates value for Digital Britain.

    Where I disagree is with your statement that the infrastructure building era is over – so far as world-class Next Gen is concerned, we have not even scratched the surface and I include Digital Region in that assessment.

    We need to build the future-proofed 4th utility infrastructure to act as the platform for content apps and services.

    The analogy I often use is with electricity – there is no value (beyond ornamental) in electrical goods like TV, PC, Washing Machine or Fridge unless and until their is a capable, reliable and affordable electricity supply infrastructure to power these devices.

    The same applies to Next Gen Access.


  7. cyberdoyle
    May 8, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    I think it says it all, ‘He did seem to gloss over the much-maligned 2mb broadband target, although made it very clear that this was more of a “floor” and not a ceiling. This is far from clear in the report…’
    That is the danger, people are focusing on piracy and content, and forgetting that the first step to a truly digitalbritain is the infrastructure, and if this slips through into the final report then there is not a lot of hope that UKplc will be in the digital business, we will end up back in the dark ages if many are limited to using this obsolete copper network. Even mobile or satellite cannot be much use with even third world countries now laying fibre. The eNdGAme – the futureproof solution for our children and our economy. Fibre to the Home.
    chris (mrs doyle)

  8. cyberdoyle
    May 8, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    @ ImranAli – do you work for BT?
    there is no way that the current infrastructure is adequate for digital britain. Maybe you are sat on a good connection somewhere, but the majority of us aren’t, and never will be unless there is intervention to address market failure in rural (and some urban) areas. The innovation and growth we have seen in recent years is because BT put broadband through the phone network, enabling most people to get online. This was great for the early days, but web2 needs more feed. The phone lines can’t support this. Fibre is cheaper than copper. The ducts are in the ground. It is possible to fibre up every home and business. You won’t pull the cart to market if you ain’t got an orse.

  9. admin
    May 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    I’m with Chris and Guy here. The Digital Infrastructure of the UK is a joke. Embarrassing and a disgrace. It is far from over, and £billions need spending to get it to a stage where it is fit for purpose.
    We should stop spending money on wars and poking our noses into other countries’ business, and spend some proper money on OUR country! Although as for NGN, we should have done this 10 years ago like Sweden.

  10. cyberdoyle
    May 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Agree with admin’s post, the cost of FttH and a truly digital britain is the same as ID cards for all. NO flapin contest. What are the suits and jobsworths thinking about? probably expenses LOL.
    They are paid to look after us, the people, not fiddle second homes, jaffa cakes and toilet seats.

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