Government has selected the North East as one of 8 national trial areas to receive a share of the £4 million Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA). It will fund the Future Connectivity Partnership, led by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, to boost vital 4G/5G connectivity in the region.

The project will modernise the way Local Authorities work with mobile network operators. It will enable local councils to share information with mobile telecoms operators so they can easily see what infrastructure is available, such as streetlights, tall buildings and pockets of unused land, that might help them broaden their coverage and reach.

This new partnership sees a joined-up approach to streamlining access and processes, creating simple standard commercial agreements across the region that will help accelerate the transformative roll-out of 4G / 5G capability to people and businesses. This will enable Northeast communities to flourish and maintain the region’s position at the forefront of Digital Innovation and Connected Places activity.

The Future Connectivity Partnership includes five local authorities and is part of a wider programme of work to improve digital connectivity in the North of Tyne, Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Building a strong, robust network is more important than ever after COVID-19. It will be a big factor in determining the pace and success of our region’s recovery. Improved connectivity will future proof our economy, improve access, tackle inclusion, and enable innovation in local services. It is central to maintaining the region’s position as a great place to live, study and work.

Newcastle and the region have a growing tech and digital cluster. This investment with Government will help strengthen the sector. It will add to £20m+ of existing investment through ‘NTCA Digital’ which is driving digital innovation, growth, talent and inward investment for the benefit of the region. These plans also help the region be ready to take advantage of future infrastructure investment by Government and the private sector.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: “Currently, mobile companies are finding it difficult to get the data they need to check that a lamppost, bus shelter or public building is suitable for hosting their kit. These eight pilots will help solve this by modernising the way local authorities and operators work together in a way that ultimately delivers faster, more reliable mobile coverage for millions of people. It is all part of our joined-up strategy to deliver world-class connectivity to every corner of our country.”

Dr Henry Kippin, Managing Director, North of Tyne Combined Authority said: “This Government investment is important recognition of our drive to improve digital connectivity for businesses, residents and communities in the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA). Working with our Partners in Sunderland and South Tyneside and across the North East, we are building the collaboration that will keep the region at the forefront of 5G and digital innovation”.

Gareth Elliott, Director of Policy and Communications of Mobile UK, said: “Reducing the time it takes to deploy mobile infrastructure is important to enable mobile operators to roll out 4G and 5G across the country and to meet ambitious government targets. The DCIA trial and its project winners will provide positive examples of how local authorities can use technology to speed up processes and develop effective relationships with mobile operators to improve coverage for all.”

Liz St Louis, Assistant Director for Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “Our regional smart city framework is growing – the DCIA Pilot will enable us, as digital leaders across the combined authority area, to accelerate our progress in rolling out critical digital infrastructure to support the transformation of our cities and towns.”

Cllr Joanne Bell, Lead Member for Resources and Innovation at South Tyneside Council said: “Our Digital Connectivity Strategy aligns with the DCIA project and aims to fully exploit the economic, social, environmental and cultural potential of comprehensive deployment of open access, gigabit-capable, full fibre infrastructure throughout the borough by 2025. It supports the Council’s community priorities to creating the conditions for economic recovery and investment creating a highly attractive commercial environment for businesses, supporting engaged and skilled residents, informed and healthy communities all set in smart integrated places.”

We are working in partnership with our project suppliers Connected Places Catapult, Farrpoint and Sitenna, and here’s what they had to say:

Yalena Coleman, Solutions Architect, Technology Initiative at Connected Places Catapult said:
“The North East is an exciting ecosystem, home to a number of innovative businesses, people and research organisations. Connected Places Catapult is thrilled to be working alongside the NTCA Future Connectivity Partnership as a Data Discovery partner. Our work will help provide the visibility of asset data; buildings, land and street furniture, which can be leveraged to provide better mobile coverage across the country, accelerate the benefits that 5G promises and in the future serve the IoT market.”

Dr Andrew Muir, CEO FarrPoint commented: “This is a fantastic project which brings together valuable assets from the public sector together with demands from the mobile industry to jointly deliver on much needed improved connectivity. We are delighted to bring our experience of asset management and standardisation to support the project that I’m sure will bring real benefits to the region.”

Daniel Campion, CEO of Sitenna says: “We welcome the DCIA programme and the support that it provides to local authorities across the UK to promote the efficient delivery of next generation wireless networks. We are excited to work with forward-thinking partners NTCA, to grasp this opportunity and continue to offer premium site options to the industry through their platform”.

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