Delivering a sustainable future – what role can full fibre play?

Climate change is a topic that’s never far from the headlines, and whatever your views, most agree that with conscious change and new ways of thinking, living and working, we can help to address many of the environmental challenges heading our way.

Many of us are already reducing our use of plastic, minimising travel and scrutinising the products we consume. But there’s much more work to be done.

At CityFibre, we believe that harnessing the power of technology can drive a more sustainable shift in habits and behaviours, unifying disparate forms of technology together into truly effective solutions.

Smart and sustainable communities

Some of you may have a device in your home that you talk to, and almost all of you will have a mobile device that you now rarely ever use as an actual phone. However, these smart, connected devices are only as good as the networks they run on.

For example, from a sustainability perspective, various sensors can now be deployed to monitor air pollution near dense traffic areas. On its own that information is useful, but largely, it cannot be used to do anything about the pollution. Now, imagine those sensors are linked directly to a road traffic system which can alter the flow of traffic depending on what the sensors are telling it.

By marrying two disparate pieces of technology, we can create a seamless union that tackles a very real problem like pollution. If you take this to the nth degree, you could have an entire city, and the devices within it, working in unison to make the environment better. That is the basic premise of Smart Cities.

This is something that has been around for many years now, but it’s only recently started to take off. This is because having such a symphony of devices speaking to each other takes up a lot of data.

Why infrastructure matters

If you think of traditional copper networks as single track roads, these roads have been struggling with the constant stream of motorway traffic (data) being put through them. It is because of this, the UK is now committed to using full fibre networks. These networks, built from fibre optic cables, carry data on rays light – a bit like turning the single track roads into a multi-lane highway, ready to take on a tsunami of traffic.

At CityFibre, we are working to create that network capable of handling the huge amount of data we are expecting to come from smart city initiatives, finally unleashing the digital age.

This is already happening here in Milton Keynes, where we are investing £40 million in bringing next generation, gigabit-capable full fibre network within reach of almost every home, business and public service.

Full fibre networks also have a host of practical environmental benefits. Firstly, they are passive. They don’t require constant power to operate, unlike electrified copper networks, so the energy consumption is dramatically lower.

Secondly, optical fibres are only slightly thicker than a human hair - a fraction of the size and weight of copper wiring. This makes it possible to deploy using a technique known as ‘micro-trenching’, which is cheaper, quicker and less environmentally destructive.

Finally, the passive, robust nature of fibre and its track record for fewer faults means it needs significantly less maintenance over time and less re-excavation.

Technology as a solution

We are at a very early stage of what technology can do. But, with full fibre, we can guarantee the network bandwidth, speeds and reliability required to deliver connected environmental solutions, now and in the future.

This is a topic we explored recently with Carbon Smart in a study that found that ubiquitous high speed, high capacity full fibre broadband could help drive a reduction in global carbon emissions by up to a fifth.

For instance, it reported that increased teleworking in the UK could deliver the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road long term, and if large businesses were to support this shift by switching to reliable, high-capacity shared data networks, they could reduce their overall emissions by 50%. These impressive stats can be put down to lower fuel consumption and a reduced office footprint, which will also save businesses hard earned cash.

The study also highlighted that the adoption of smart solutions in buildings, such as temperature and motion sensors that automate lighting and climate controls, could potentially reduce global emissions by 16.5% per annum by 2020.


These are just a few examples that demonstrate the role technology can play in making communities more sustainable. And, with a whole raft of innovation taking place in the smart city space, who knows how far away we could be from a game changing innovation which really helps to turn the tide.

What is for sure is that in order to harness the potential this technology has, it will need the solid foundations of a full fibre network in order to flourish. The good news is Milton Keynes is already ahead of the game.


For more information visit www.cityfibre.com