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‘Connected Guernsey’ plan just weeks away

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MORE islanders will be able to access broadband up to 10 times faster than the UK as Guernsey aims to be one of Earth’s ‘most digitally connected places’.

Digital connectivity was the focus of the Guernsey IoD's mid-term review. (Picture by Chris George Photography)

Alongside broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second to homes, transformative 5G technology and fibre links to business districts are being prioritised in a digital connectivity blueprint being published by the States within weeks.

Working in partnership with industry and regulators, the telecommunications strategy will build on existing digital infrastructure – which already includes existing super-fast broadband coverage. The document will also set out timeline targets when it’s published.

News of the upcoming digital connectivity blueprint was announced by Andrea Dudley-Owen, the lead for digital policy in the States, at the Institute of Directors mid-term review event at St James yesterday.

‘First, fibre to business districts.

‘Second, up to 100 megabits per second to home, which will be 10 times greater than the UK strategy that was only published in December last year, and third, next generation mobile technology 5G, at least as fast if not faster than the UK,’ said Deputy Dudley-Owen, who is also vice-president of Economic Development.

‘It will make Guernsey even more connected – in fact, it will make us one of the most digitally connected places on Earth.’

Colin Vaudin, the States’ chief information officer, told the event that analysis indicated 100Mbps speed would serve the needs of ‘complex’ families and small business using residential circuits. It was aspirational but deliverable, he added.

Linda Johnson, the chair of Guernsey’s IoD, welcomed continuing investment in the island’s ‘outstanding’ digital infrastructure, but warned against complacency as technology and competition was moving so fast.

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‘Let’s be ambitious and let’s be aspirational. This is not just about streaming Netflix,’ she said.

‘It’s a genuine call to aim high to ensure that we remain not only competitive, but a genuine global leading international financial centre. In fact, the best, the most savvy international financial centre in the world.’

The event also heard a range of views about Guernsey’s digital connectivity from the panel of guests from government, the regulator and telecoms industry.

Michael Byrne, chief executive of the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities, said there was a perception issue around the telecoms sector.

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‘We are not this monumentally expensive jurisdiction,’ he said. ‘We are in a far better position than is commonly understood and I think that’s a failing of Cicra and of communicating to people what this market looks like, and I think to some extent it’s a failing of telcos.’

Mr Byrne suggested there was a ‘marketing job’ to be done by the sector with low take-up of existing fast broadband services.

A quarter of Guernsey households have access to 100Mbps broadband, but just 19 households have taken it up.

Some 75% of household can get superfast broadband of 40-60Mbps, but take-up has been just 17%. All households can get regular broadband up to 20Mbps.

Cutting-edge online businesses were already on-island, said Sure’s chief digital officer Justin Bellinger, with his biggest customer using more internet capacity than the whole of Panama out of Guernsey.

Lucy Witham, head of digital at Economic Development, said: ‘We are very humble about what do, to the point we are not being loud enough.’

Phil Male, a non-executive director with JT, highlighted the island’s ability to get decision-makers from government to business and regulation in one room – although he warned against trying to fit ‘policy around particular numbers’ because technology was always changing.

Will Green

By Will Green
Business Editor

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