SOUTHAMPTON is all set to become the best-connected city in the UK thanks to a £50m upgrade of its outdated broadband network due to be unveiled today.

New telecoms firm toob has announced that Southampton will be the first city to benefit from its full fibre network rollout, delivering download speeds 20 times faster than the UK average and upload speeds up to 145 times faster.

The firm says it hopes to connect 100,000 premises in city – residential, commercial and public – to the new fibre optic network which will provide far faster broadband connection than the existing copper cable network.

Wherever possible toob says it will use the existing BT Openreach cable ducts for the optic cables. However, its says that some roads will have to be dug up for new cables to be laid.

This is the one of the first major examples of Openreach being obliged to share their network with another provider under a system developed by telecoms watchdog Ofcom called Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA). Under PIA toob will also be able to run cables from BT's poles to link individual properties to the network

The work is due to be completed by the end of 2021, say toob, but some customers will be able to connect to the network by the end of this year.

Toob, based in Portsmouth, says the project will employ, directly and indirectly, between 130 and 150. The firm is currently in discussions with the city council about setting up an office in Southampton.

For just £25 per month, toob will be offering 900Mbps average upload and download speeds to residential customers with unlimited usage and no line rental charges, which the firm claims is the most competitive consumer gigabit broadband service in the UK.

The company will also be providing a business broadband package with 900Mbps average upload and download speeds, premium installation, business support and the latest Mesh Wi-Fi technology for just £50 per month, excluding VAT.

Nick Parbutt, toob’s chief executive officer, said: “We are delighted to start the roll out of our full fibre network in the vibrant city of Southampton. In deploying its network, toob will create a full fibre infrastructure that will benefit residents, businesses and public services and enable the deployment of 5G and smart city projects throughout Southampton.”

Toob was founded by Mr Parbutt and chief financial officer, Mike Banwell, both former directors of Vodafone UK.

The management team was strengthened with the appointment of Charles McGregor as chairman. He recently served as the chairman of Gigaclear for five years and was previously the founder and CEO of Fibernet.

Southampton was chose by toob for its first major project because it is "regional powerhouse" said toob's sales and marketing director Guilhem Poussot.

"From a digital perspective it's a big regional hub and it has a large student population," said Mr Poussot. "However it's not been well served with fast broadband. It could thrive and accelerate thanks to a digital transformation."

Mr Poussot said that Southampton's fibre optic network was virtually non-existent and that the UK was lagging far behind most of western Europe, the USA, south east Asia, China and Japan when it came to broadband speeds.

"In the UK about seven per cent of the network is fibre optic – in Portugal it is close to 90."

The Southampton scheme is backed by backed by Amber Infrastructure with £75 million from its National Digital Infrastructure Fund.

Chris Hogg, Investment Director, Amber Infrastructure, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with such an experienced team at toob. Nick, Mike, Charles and the team at toob have extensive telecoms and fibre experience and we are looking forward to accelerating toob's fibre network deployment with our funding.”

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, said: “The amount of internet data used by people in the UK is growing by around half every year. So we’ll increasingly need full-fibre broadband services like this to provide faster, more reliable connections and capacity to our homes and offices. These plans are another example of full-fibre being used to build broadband that can support the UK’s digital future.”

An optical fibre is a flexible, transparent fibre made by drawing glass (silica) or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair. Optical fibres are used most often as a means to transmit light between the two ends of the fibre an can transmit data over longer distances and at higher bandwidths than electrical cables. They are also immune to electromagnetic interference, unlike metal wires.