NORTH Wales has undergone a “digital transformation” that now makes it a European leader in terms of connectivity.
That was the message from the regional director for Openreach Ed Hunt who said it was time to sell this to investors.
But business leaders say while improvements have been made there was more progress that had to be made to ensure all firms had access to fast broadband.
Mr Hunt said: “Wales is in the midst of a radical technological transformation which has the potential to provide a stepchange in the way we live our daily lives and boost our economy.
“Heavy industry and manufacturing has declined while new industries have begun to emerge.
“What we are witnessing now in Wales, as we embrace an increasingly digitally connected economy, will also pave the way for new opportunities.
“It’s important that potential investors know how good our digital capability is in skills and infrastructure.”
Public cash investment through the Superfast Cymru campaign has helped with the roll-out of fast broadband, taking the technology to areas where private sector firms say it is not commercially viable for them to invest.
Mr Hunt added: “Despite its geography and immense technologic challenges, Wales is among the European leaders in digital performance and connectivity.
“More than 90% of Welsh homes and businesses now have access to fibre broadband speeds, thanks to a combination of commercial investment and the Superfast Cymru partnership.
“The latter, led by the Welsh Government and delivered by Openreach engineers is a huge civil engineering project.
“According to independent industry experts Thinkbroadband, more than 92% of premises are able to connect to superfast broadband at speeds greater than 30Mbps.
“In reaching beyond our cities and towns to remote communities, from Holyhead and Aberdaron to Llangollen and Prestatyn, Welsh engineering know-how has shown the world what it can do. With around a third of homes and businesses having upgraded to fibre already, there’s plenty of potential for more families and businesses in Wales to benefit from the advantages the faster speeds bring.
“That people in towns like Wrexham, Bangor and Pwllheli can order the same fibre-based services and speeds at the same cost as those living and working in central London is a fantastic digital leveller.”
He added: “Meanwhile, any business or organisation with more significant bandwidth demands can buy dedicated ultrafast services from services providers at a range of gigabit speeds.
“We work with businesses to deliver what they need, where they need it most - not just in parts of city centres.
“With these high-speed networks widely available, and further investment in ultrafast technologies happening now, it’s time that our national debate shifted to how we can best exploit our digital capacities.
“As people increasingly expect to communicate online, from booking appointments to reporting problems or even having a video call with their doctor, it’s vital that as a nation we’re ready to support that demand.
“History has shown us how advancements in technology can bring about not just economic change but social change, helping people to reach their potential in life.
“By taking hold of what we’ve already achieved and pushing the boundaries even further, Wales is well placed to be a world-leading digital economy.”
Mike Learmond, FSB North Wales Senior Development Manager, said: “We are always pleased to welcome strides forwards in terms of SMEs accessing superfast broadband.
“However, only 72 per cent of SMEs have access to superfast broadband which is below the Wales average.
“With technology moving forwards at such a pace, there is a danger of becoming complacent on this issue.
“There is still more work to do in order to get businesses properly connected, and to raise awareness of the schemes available to help SMEs benefit from superfast broadband.
“Broadband infrastructure has vastly improved however thought needs to be given to the 5 per cent of users who are hard to reach, and how they are catered for.
“We hope to see that digital infrastructure will form a part of the upcoming Welsh Government’s economic development strategy.”
Colin Brew, Chief Executive Officer, West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce, said: “Whilst work over the last few years has provided much needed opportunity for business to make use of high speed broadband Chamber members and local businesses across North Wales are still facing barriers to access and specifically in our more rural towns.
“Momentum must continue in this key area of infrastructure which is desperately needed to allow for the continued growth and development of our regional economy.
“Whether we are discussing broadband speeds, mobile signals or transportation it is essential that we continue to focus on the connectivity we need to provide local business the opportunity it needs to grow.”
● North Wales has undergone a ‘digital transformation’ says regional director for Openreach Ed Hunt (inset)