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6 February, 2016 - 21:40

Working towards a hyper-connected region

Faye Holland

Whatever our profession or lifestyle we all now take it for granted that we can communicate with anyone, anywhere and on any device, writes Faye Holland, chair of the Connecting Cambridge project group. 

Internet access has become critical infrastructure to connect residents, businesses, and communities alike to new opportunities – from improved community services, to new opportunities for businesses, to higher property values, to a stronger local economy. 

Cambridge continues to lead the field in innovation across many industries – so, too, it should look to improve the level of connectivity infrastructure and access that it offers.

Set up in spring 2015, the Connecting Cambridge project group’s remit at Cambridge Ahead is to provide a compelling, long-term vision for Cambridge focusing on the mobile, Wi-Fi, broadband, and other networks available and to recommend and influence future connectivity infrastructure deployment. The goal is to enable businesses and their employees the seamless opportunity to work, and to encourage residents to become more active and participative members of the community.

The group has been working on three distinct projects aimed at driving the right level of connectivity across the region:-

  1. A broadband connectivity matrix has been designed to help businesses make the right capital decision on their network infrastructure capacity based on their likely usage and number of employees. The matrix can be found at www.cambridgeahead.co.uk/connectivity-matrix
  2. A crowd-sourced initiative to understand where any points of weakness are – whether mobile, wireless or fixed. Launching in March, the #CambsNotspotter campaign will encourage residents, employees and students to take part, thus enabling Cambridge Ahead to collect data which we can then take to the carriers and providers. They will analyse this data and determine infrastructure improvements to resolve any areas identified as ‘not-spots’.
  3. Articulating the ambition for and improvement of the connectivity layer of the ‘Smart Architecture’ in Cambridge and the surrounding area. The group is investigating how Cambridge can be a test-bed for new technologies – looking at networks ‘for things’ as well as for people – which will stimulate further innovation in the region and should uncover opportunities for first-of-a-kind initiatives. More on this will follow later this year.

Geographically the initial project area is divided into three zones for data collection – Cambridge city centre, South Cambridgeshire, and parts of Greater Cambridgeshire representing a 25-mile radius as defined by Cambridge Ahead and Cambridge County Council mapping. In addition it also will cover the main transport routes into the region. A by-product of this work will be developing a metric for unacceptable, acceptable and world-class performance of connectivity to ensure the learned data is turned into measurable action based on current and future usage. 

Growth will happen elsewhere if not in Cambridge and having an always-on accessible connectivity infrastructure will help to provide a strong differentiator for incoming investment, businesses and people.

The group is not about ‘catching up’, but about preparing for where Cambridge should be in the future. Existing programmes underway in the region such as the Connecting Cambridgeshire broadband rollout, and the University of Cambridge network and wireless infrastructure, are all taken into consideration within the group which gives us a clear focus on helping to fill gaps to ensure true ubiquitous connectivity is available.

The development of fast, affordable, and reliable connectivity infrastructure for communities requires a range of stakeholders contributing in a variety of ways. 

The Connecting Cambridge project team has representation from business, entrepreneurs, the council and university and we are all working together on defining a set of objectives and deliverables aimed at making Cambridge a significant hyper-connected city.

• To find out more please visit www.cambridgeahead.co.uk/our-projects/connecting-cambridge/

Kiss Communications

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