SUNDERLAND is set to be the first British city offering blanket superfast broadband coverage.
Homes and businesses on Wearside will have some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country when the service is rolled out in the coming months.
The service is being brought by BT, which aims to hook up 90 per cent of homes and businesses by next summer.
Businesses will be able to benefit from technology previously only affordable to corporate giants and improve internet access at schools and homes.
City leaders say the announcement represents a “significant commercial investment” in Wearside and will prove a massive boost to Sunderland’s fortunes.
Bernie Callaghan, chief executive of Software City – set up to encourage growth in Wearside’s technology sector – said: “This is a very significant development.
“The fact that Sunderland as a city is going to be one of the most connected in Europe, if not the world, is a huge boost to businesses.
“It is one of a number of activities that are going on but it is a significant one in terms of putting the city on the map when it comes to connectivity.”
The announcement comes ahead of the upcoming opening of the new Software Centre being developed in Tavistock Place which will house dozens of software companies.
Mr Callaghan said it would make Sunderland a very attractive option for IT businesses in the sector.
He said: “If you look at the whole picture, the landscape is changing, definitely for the better, which can only be good for the city’s economy.”
Wearside has already made national headlines when it comes to its internet successes in recent years.
The city was hailed as the best-connected in terms of broadband in 2008, and was named Facebook capital of the UK last year.
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said: “Being able to announce that Sunderland will be the first city in Britain to offer wall-to-wall access to superfast broadband is the result of our vision, ambition and commitment.
“This is a step in the right direction towards our long-term vision for Sunderland.
“The city council recognises that superfast city-wide broadband infrastructure is a vital ingredient for economic growth in the city.”
The superfast broadband connection to 90 per cent of homes by next year will add to the presence of other providers in the city and plans for further expansion.
It is expected to take Sunderland to almost universal superfast connectivity.
Bill Murphy, managing director of Next Generation Access at BT, said: “Sunderland is hitting the superfast broadband highway at full speed.
“Sunderland City Council’s vision and ambition has created the right environment for BT to make significant investment in the city’s infrastructure. We now look forward to working in partnership with the city council to extend roll-out even further.”
The service will use technology known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology.
FTTC provides download speeds up to 40megabytes-per-second (Mbps) and upload speeds up to 15Mbps.
FTTP provides download speeds of up to 100Mbps and upload speeds up to 30Mbps.
The speeds are set to increase next year. FTTC speeds will roughly double while FTTP will deliver download speeds of up to 300Mbps.