Category Archives: The UK

Who will be the showcase smart city for the UK?

As the smart city idea becomes increasingly important in the eyes of the world, the United Kingdom is on the look-out for one city to become its showcase for the technology. The  Future Cities Demonstrator project wished to invest £25 million in the integrated city systems marketing with an aim of demonstrating how transport, communications and other items of city infrastructure can be integrated to improve quality of life, the local economy and to reduce the impact on the environment.

Around twenty cities, Liverpool included, will be competing for the grant. Smaller grants of £50,000 are being given to run feasibility studies and produce proposals as to how the new technology will be integrated into their city. Ultimately only one city will gain the prize grant money needed to carry out their plan.

Cities globally face massive problems in terms of congestion, waste, pressure on resources and changes in population and demographics.  The Smart Cities initiative aims to reduce all of these areas through the use of technology. For now, the question is, who will lead the UK on this venture?

Birmingham gets EU funds for ultra-fast broadband network

Birmingham is setting up an ultra-fast broadband network. This project is part of the government’s ‘super-connected cities’ competition. The aim of this competition is to construct high speed networks in ten UK cities and using the £100 million in funding that is available.

The project is also receiving a £4.8 million grant state aid from the European Commission since they found that the project is in line with EU state aid rules and it will be genuinely open to all operators and therefore promote competition.

The EU has Broadband Guidelines, and one of the reasons they granted this state aid to Birmingham is because their project is in some aspects exceeding the minimum requirements of these EU guidelines. The EU minimum to grant open access to alternative operators is only seven years, but Birmingham will be granting this open access for at least 25 years.

Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission and Commisioner responsible for competition,  said that it’s important to promote growth in line with EU’s Digital Agenda, and investments in ultra-fast broadband networks contribute to this. So another reason why Birmingham is getting the state aid is because their network was designed in a competitive manner.

The network will be available on a wholesale basis, which ensures more competition at retail level. Most of the time, these networks are built with the help of taxpayers’ money, so it is important that there is a thriving competition on the subsidized networks. Local businesses and citizens should be able to benefit from continuously improving broadband services at competitive prices.

There are two districts in Birmingham where private operators have no or limited investments plans in the next few years. This means that consumers would only be able to use basic broadband services or expensive leased line business services. Because of this, Birmingham will target theses areas with their new network. It will also offer some significant enhanced technological characteristics when you compare the network to other existing networks. These technologies are expected to meet demands from SME’s, especially those in the creative industries.

In addition to the £100 million that Birmingham wants to invest in this super-fast broadband network, they have announced plans to invest the same amount of money in a public Wi-Fi network in the city which would make use of infrastructures in the city like tower blocks or lampposts.