Thousands of homes and businesses could benefit from a multi-million pound scheme to rollout ultrafast broadband across the North of Tyne area.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA)  is seeking £12m from the Government to upgrade its digital infrastructure, leverage significant private sector investment, and enhance the area’s global competitiveness.

On Tuesday 4 December, cabinet members will be asked to commit £100,000 to help develop a bid for a share of the Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund and support ongoing negotiations with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

If successful, the money would be used to install ultrafast fibre optic cabling in up to 900 public buildings across the area by 2024, with the ability to extend access to businesses and residents nearby.

The project would significantly improve internet speeds and bandwidth to those premises.

The investment, totalling £24m, would be 50% Government-funded and 50% match-funded from member councils’ existing network running costs.

It would attract new private sector investment and allow service providers to create additional connections for tens of thousands of local homes and businesses.

It would ‘future-proof’ high speed networks and support the introduction of new 5G mobile networks in the North of Tyne area.

It would make the North of Tyne more competitive on a global scale, alongside ambitious private sector investments to develop powerful new links between Newcastle and Stellium Data Centres in North Tyneside to Denmark, Ireland and North America.

The Stellium data centre, Cobalt Business Park, North Tyneside

The project aligns with the combined authority’s Network of Connections priority to build better-connected and more inclusive communities, which is one of six ‘pillars of ambition’ outlined in the Home of Ambition economic vision document.

A report to go before the authority’s cabinet states:

“Improved digital connectivity is revolutionising our quality of life, from how we work and how our children learn, to how we spend our leisure time, how we do our weekly shop, and how we engage with public services.

“For Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, having widely, high-speed, affordable and reliable connectivity to businesses and residents is crucial in maintaining economic competitiveness and achieving social inclusion.

“Increasingly this means fibre to the premises and whilst 95% of UK premises can now get superfast broadband, only 3% have access to gigabit-capable full fibre infrastructure.

“It will also improve the proposition to high value inward investors, who are now increasingly driven by connection speeds to operate their data-reliant businesses.

“This full fibre infrastructure is capable of connection speeds over 60x faster than the current national average for broadband connectivity.

“The additional speeds delivered by these networks are required for businesses to work and collaborate effectively and to enable future rollouts of next generation services 5G, Smart Cities and Internet of Things (IoT), Telehealth, Autonomous Vehicles and Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics.”

North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE, said: “One of our six key priorities as a combined authority is to develop a powerful network of connections, with faster digital infrastructure to create stronger links across the North and internationally.

“We already have one of the fastest-growing digital sectors in the country and this funding, if we are successful, will enable us to continue to build from a position of strength and make sure our businesses have the digital infrastructure they need to be competitive on a global scale now and in the future.

“It will help us build better-connected communities and boost economic productivity across the region. We will continue to speak to residents and the business community as this exciting programme takes shape.”

Further fibre rollout across the area will complement and enhance large-scale private sector investment in international connectivity – ensuring that economic benefit can be generated in the region – notably by Aquacomms, who are investing in linking Newcastle and the Stellium Data Centres in North Tyneside to Denmark, Ireland and North America.

This investment will provide high-speed low-latency communications from the North East to major financial centres in Europe and North America.

These investments will put the North of Tyne area at the forefront of transatlantic data traffic and significantly enhance our competitiveness globally.