What does connectivity mean to you?

Getting connected is not just a procurement process – the trick is to target tangible, long-term benefits for you and your citizens

There’s a connectivity sea-change happening in Scotland right now: communities are demanding to know why they must put up with sub-par broadband speeds and access, compared to those of their neighbours south of the border.

The message is beginning to filter through. With the ever increasing pressure on public sector budgets, connectivity is high on the agenda of public sector organisations, and councils are recognising the value of enhanced connectivity for the delivery of public services, particularly in education.

Yet while the government is making headway with its “Reaching 100” (R100) programme which aspires to deliver superfast broadband access to every single Scottish premises by 2021, copper on its own does not go far enough to solve Scotland’s connectivity crisis. Despite a large footprint of Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), local authorities and their inhabitants are still battling with bandwidth constraints and the availability of infrastructure.

Full-fibre is needed for increased speed, more reliability, and better performance – and can deliver gigabit broadband speeds of up to 1000Mbps, well above the 24Mbps minimum definition of superfast broadband. Yet currently, only 3% of Scotland is connected to full-fibre.

Now is the time to be ambitious in connecting Scotland…

This has sparked some ambitious local authorities to take their own action to roll out full fibre to their communities, as part of a transformational solution that will have tangible political, economic, social benefit, as well as a technological one. This all starts with viewing connectivity procurement through a different lens. The combination of more full fibre providers like CityFibre making investments, new technologies such as 5G and SDWAN, and funding initiatives from the Department of Culture Media & Sport (DCMS), is giving public sector organisations a window of opportunity to really consider their options when it comes to connectivity.

One example of this is the recent rethink of the Wide Area Network (WAN) procurement process in Stirling, which led to the city being announced as Scotland’s fourth Gigabit City in January 2017. By working in partnership with MLL Telecom and leading fibre infrastructure provider, CityFibre, over 30 Stirling Council sites including schools, libraries, offices and community facilities will now benefit from a state-of-the-art new full-fibre infrastructure.

For those local authorities like Stirling that are looking for a partner, the procurement of WAN connectivity services is an opportunity to properly engage with suppliers, allowing prospective partners to understand unique requirements, and giving these partners the opportunity to shape the future. For many, it will be a chance to think about how they can do things differently, and how they can engage with alternative providers to deliver services in a more efficient and cost-effective way. It’s also a chance to consider the different applications and services that they will need to deliver connectivity in the future.

Now is the time to be ambitious in connecting Scotland. That starts with thinking about new ways to deliver much-needed connectivity infrastructure cost effectively, while also benefiting local communities.

Craig Scott is Regional Director at MLL Telecom.