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The GM One Network Platform – delivering the largest metropolitan area network in the world

Modernising the Greater Manchester digital network

Over the past five months UBDS has been working with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to deliver what will be the largest metropolitan area network globally, called the GM One Network Platform.  We have supported GMCA from concept to design and are now advising on the procurement of the platform, which formally launched on 30th April.

In early 2020, Greater Manchester launched a Digital Blueprint for the Greater Manchester City region, with an ambition to ensure the region has the digital infrastructure it needs to be a world class digital city region.

World class infrastructure can remove barriers to social, economic, and public sector reform objectives and whilst already important, the pandemic has highlighted the need for high quality digital infrastructure that can enable people to work, live and study differently.

As public sector finances are continually stretched it has become essential to find opportunities to enable modern working technology and prioritise spend on citizen facing activities.

Greater Manchester have been able to modernise their digital network and received government backing to lay 2,700km of dark fibre across the city-region. The £23.8m Local Full Fibre Network Programme (LFFN) will connect more than 1,500 public sites, and along with other investment makes this the largest government full-fibre investment project in the UK. This project is now substantially complete and is estimated to have already delivered a £11.8 million economic boost to the local economy.

With the LFFN foundation, local public services involved now need to consider how to collaborate to make best use of the investment.  Several partners agreed to investigate the potential benefits of a joint approach in utilising a network without bandwidth limitations.

Launching the procurement phase for the GM One Network Platform

The GM One Network Platform is a result of that collaboration. UBDS helped the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to build a compelling business case and launch the formal procurement for the GM One Network Platform, which will be the largest metropolitan area network anywhere in the world once completed, covering 2,700km of superfast fibre, 1,600 sites and 2.7m citizens.  The Platform will be the foundation of the ambitious vision outlined in the GM Digital Blueprint – driving increased collaboration across the Public Sector, removing barriers to digital inclusion and underpinning Greater Manchester’s vision of becoming one of the top Smart Cities in Europe.

Building on our expertise in designing and implementing large scale, complex and innovative digital networks, the UBDS team worked with the Partner Authorities to build a compelling business case, identifying strong Strategic, Economic, Commercial, Financial and Management drivers for an integrated Digital Network, for each Authority and collectively – including significant cashable savings.

UBDS worked with GMCA to scope and design a Software Defined Network Platform, and to build consensus among the 5 initial Partner Authorities on the Technical and Service principles to underpin the Platform (including Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Transport for Greater Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale and Stockport Councils).  The vision and ambitions of each Partner are striking, and we felt privileged to support their ambitions for using innovative technology to improve public services in their local areas and across Greater Manchester.

This project showcases the acceleration towards adopting modern working practices like remote and mobile working which companies and authorities have focused on, brought upon by Covid-19 lockdowns. Benefits include a wireless-first approach as well as an improved user experience with users able to move seamlessly between public spaces across Greater Manchester and using Zero Trust principles to work securely wherever they are.

Our partnership with Greater Manchester is of key significance to UBDS.  We are investing in a range of Social Value initiatives and are committed to building opportunity across the city-region.  We will also shortly be opening our dedicated, state of the art, Network Operations Centre in the heart of MediaCityUK, Salford Quays, which will be the base for managing our customers’ network services and will enable UBDS to be the employer of choice within the local technology community.

The procurement phase of the GM One Network has now commenced. More details on the tender process and requirements available via The Chest. Applications close at 12pm on 28th May 2021.

UBDS are proud to be able to support Greater Manchester as it continues its journey to deliver outstanding digital services for its citizens.

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