YORK is in the process of being transformed into a gigabit city - but what does that actually mean for the businesses and residents that live here?

In technical terms the city is to be first Ultra Fibre Optic (UFO) city in the UK, meaning it is first to have city-wide full fibre broadband all the way from the exchange into homes or businesses, offering speeds of 1 Gigabit (1000Mbps)

The project, which forms part of a multi million pound private investment by national supplier TalkTalk, has already seen York Outer constituency named as having the fastest download speeds in the country at 128.9Mb/s according to research by the House of Commons Library, using information provided by Ofcom. The data also showed that York Central has the second fastest at 82.4Mb/s almost double that of the national average of 44.6Mb/s.

TalkTalk’s city wide full fibre network is currently being constructed, and when complete will reach 50,000 homes and businesses across the city in the next two years.

York’s Ultra Fibre Optic network has already been installed in an initial pilot towards the north of the city, and is currently available to 15,000 homes and businesses across Rawcliffe, Clifton, Huntington, New Earswick and parts of the Groves. In November last year work then started in Dringhouses on the second stage of the project which is set to reach another 40,000 homes and businesses.

TalkTalk’s chief executive Tristia Harrison talked to The Press about why York has been chosen to trail such a pioneering scheme.

“The volume of internet traffic is set to double every two years and the UK is far behind many other developed countries in regards to fibre to the home or premises coverage.

“Fibre to the premises is a very important investment for the long term future of the UK. If you think about infrastructure in its broader sense, roads and transport dominates. But digital connectivity is fundamental. What people will start to see if much more Government investment in this type of infrastructure.

“Broadband needs to be treated as a fourth ‘utility’ with sufficient capacity to allow data to flow at the volume, speed and reliability required to meet the demands of modern life. This is the approach we are taking in York,” explained Tristia.

“In terms of why York,” she continued, “the relationships with local councils are very important with these sorts of things.

“We found City of York Council very approachable and very forward thinking. They can see the benefit of a connected York, and have been very supportive and helpful.

“Trailing this sort of thing in smaller cities works well for us and we have been very pleased with what we have seen here. York is an ideal size and type of city to test a cost effective method of building full fibre network.

“What we see in York are two very important metrics. The first is significant take up from customers.

“We have been really delighted with what we have seen in the first phase with nearly a third having taken it up, which was ahead of our expectations. If you are investing in fibre to the premises then key to the success is customer take up and satisfaction. We are very happy with what we are seeing.

“The cost per home is the other driver. We needed to find ways of delivering this that would be efficient and low cost while causing the least disruption to the local community as possible. Our solution has been narrow trenching.”

TalkTalk has developed engineering techniques to make installing the network as quick and efficient as possible.

This starts with ‘narrow-trenching’ - a specially developed digger makes a 15cm channel in the pavements along the streets which are being connected. Every home and business will have a 10cm square connection port installed outside their property (whether they are connected or not), which is connected to the narrow trench by a lateral connection, and then to their home by a 4cm trench.

The network, which once connected can be scalable to take speeds not yet conceived in a bid to make it futureproof, allows a house or business of internet users simultaneously complete tasks such as download and upload videos, music, photos and apps in a matter of seconds.