Dig­i­tal leader’

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

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)

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