Mobile coverage and internet speeds to be tackled in new ‘digital blueprint’


- Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire County Council is to set out plans to improve mobile phone coverage and access to superfast broadband across the county as part of a new ‘digital connectivity blueprint’.

At a meeting of the economy and environment committee taking place on March 9, councillors will be asked to rubber-stamp plans to boost access to faster internet speeds for people living in rural areas, as well as improving public Wi-Fi coverage, and better 3G and 4G coverage for mobile phone users.

The blueprint is being delivered through the council’s Connecting Cambridgeshire partnership, which says it has already improved access to broadband in the county, from 63 per cent of homes to 93 per cent.

Under the new blueprint, it is hoped that will increase to 97 per cent of homes by the end of 2018, and 99 per cent by 2020.

The plan also outlines targets for the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme to extend mobile and public access Wi-Fi coverage across Cambridgeshire over the next three years.

The programme is striving to raise 3G and 4G mobile coverage which it described as “poor” and is going to be tackled by addressing the issue with mobile phone operators, as well as through a county council review of its current mast-hosting policy.

Connecting Cambridgeshire says its ambitious plans can be achieved without extra cost to the county council - which put up £20million for the project in 2011 - primarily by re-investing £10million ‘gainshare’ profits from BT - generated by the take-up of fibre broadband, which is among the highest in the country, together with government and EU funding.

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Councillor Ian Bates, chairman of the council’s economy and environment committee, which oversees the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, said: “An up-to-date digital connectivity infrastructure is essential for Cambridgeshire to maintain our position as a leading digital county and for future economic success.

“Digital technology underpins almost every aspect of modern living across work, travel, leisure and health, and internet access is now widely viewed as the ‘4th utility’.

“Our Connecting Cambridgeshire programme has made great progress and is on track to bring superfast broadband access to 95 per cent of premises in the county by the end of this year.

“But there is more to do to reach remaining households and businesses, using the latest broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi technologies to ensure our connectivity is world-class.”