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


City communications

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

11 August 2020

Jean Gowin city development manager MK at City Fibre

By Jean Gowin, CityFibre's City Manager for Milton Keynes.

At just over 50 years’ old, Milton Keynes is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK; and with its thriving economy and high standard of living, has been used as a model for new towns across the world[1].

To support its continuing growth and maintain a strong, sustainable economy, Milton Keynes aims to become a world-leading sustainable city – one which embraces innovation, creates high quality jobs and plays its part in tackling global climate change challenges[2].

Earlier this year, Milton Keynes Council unveiled plans to help the city become carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon negative by 2050[3]. This is no mean feat but I believe there are few cities in the UK better equipped to meet the challenge head-on.

From being at the forefront of sustainable building design and pioneering innovations in energy efficiency, electric vehicles and driverless cars to its tech-savvy population, Milton Keynes has always been a forward-looking city.

With its full fibre network - which aims to reach as many homes and businesses across the city as possible - almost complete, Milton Keynes is now primed to fully harness the power of Gigabit-speed connectivity. This will play an important role in driving a more sustainable shift in habits and behaviours by unifying disparate forms of technology together into truly effective solutions.

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. Subsequently, the UK is now committed to deploying full fibre networks across towns and cities. These networks are built from fibre optic cables which carry data on rays of light – a bit like turning the single track roads into a multi-lane highway. At CityFibre, we are working to create that network - a £40m investment - capable of handling the huge amount of data we are expecting to come from smart city initiatives.

Environmental benefits

Full fibre networks also have a host of practical environmental benefits. Firstly, they don’t require constant power to operate, so energy consumption is dramatically lower than electrified copper networks. Again, this feeds into the Council’s growth ambitions as it will contribute towards becoming zero-carbon by 2030.

Optical fibres are only slightly thicker than a human hair, making it possible to deploy using an economically viable and quicker technique known as ‘narrow-trenching’. The passive, robust nature of fibre and its track record for fewer faults means it needs significantly less maintenance over time, especially when built following CityFibre’s ‘build once build right’ approach.

Besides the physical benefits, full fibre can also facilitate sustainable behaviour change. We explored this topic recently with Carbon Smart, whose study found that increased teleworking in the UK alone could deliver the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road long term.

These are just a few examples that demonstrate the role technology can play in making communities more sustainable. And, with constant 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.


[2] MK Sustainability Strategy 2019 - 2050, p2