Press Release | 13 Sep 2017

‘Digital Super Towns’ hold the key to UK growth

‘Digital Super Towns’ hold the key to UK growth

From Tynemouth in the north to Bath in the south, more than 50 towns and cities across the UK have digital potential just waiting to be unlocked, new research commissioned by Vodafone reveals.

From Tynemouth in the north to Bath in the south, more than 50 towns and cities across the UK have digital potential just waiting to be unlocked, new research commissioned by Vodafone reveals

More than 50 towns and cities in the UK have the potential to become ‘Digital Super Towns’, or places where local businesses and communities are fully exploiting their digital resources to drive economic growth, a study commissioned by Vodafone shows.

These Digital Super Towns of the future can be found right across the country, and by fostering their development, the Government and local policymakers can help boost UK growth and productivity. As research by Tech City1 has shown, digital tech industries already generate £161 billion of turnover for the UK economy.

A scorecard of future digital leaders

‘Digital Super Towns: Unlocking the UK’s Digital Potential’ is the first of two2 studies Vodafone has commissioned as part of a new campaign to promote regional development and support the UK as a global digital leader.

Authored by Steve Hughes, a former Bank of England economist, the study focuses on towns and cities across England3 with populations of over 40,000, and looks at three factors that are critical to the UK’s future as a digital leader. These are digital infrastructure, such as 4G coverage; a digital economy, which includes businesses such as software companies; and digital skills, which are estimated using indicators such as school performance data. The study uses these three elements of digital potential to create a scorecard of the towns and cities best-placed to become tomorrow’s digital leaders.

Included in the scorecard are a range of towns and cities ideally suited to become Digital Super Towns. These are:

  • Altrincham
  • Tynemouth
  • York
  • Solihull
  • Bath

Altrincham, situated eight miles away from Manchester city centre, earns high scores in all three categories of digital potential because it has widespread 4G coverage, a skilled workforce, and a cluster of digital businesses in close proximity to one another.

Building Digital Super Towns

To pave the way for Digital Super Towns, Vodafone is calling on the newly elected “metro mayors”, as well as local and national government, to establish Digital Enterprise Zones in the towns and cities highlighted in the study. These Digital Enterprise Zones are designated geographic areas created to help local companies and communities fulfill their digital potential. They could do this by:

  • Performing a data audit to better understand the digital economies and digital skills of each locality.
  • Investigating whether SMEs could benefit from a voucher scheme to support digital marketing.
  • Examining how funding for digital skills that is raised locally could be used locally.
  • Incentivising investment in full fibre and 5G networks, and ensuring that mobile providers wanting to install additional masts have access to existing infrastructure, such as ducts and street furniture.
  • Encouraging network roll-out by introducing planning reforms and ensuring access to public sector land and buildings for network infrastructure.

Nick Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK, said: “The UK is already a leader in digital industries like the Internet of Things and virtual reality, and there is much more we can achieve if we make the most of our nation’s digital potential. The report Vodafone commissioned shows that this potential exists right across the country, from small businesses looking to use digital tools to open up new markets, to a student learning coding skills to develop a new app. With the right approach, the UK can unlock this potential and lay the groundwork for a wave of Digital Super Towns capable of delivering economic growth throughout the country.”

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said, “We are already seizing the opportunities of the growing tech industry, with our digital economy worth more than £118bn a year and employing more than 1.4 million people.

“We are determined to keep up this momentum and plans in our Digital Strategy to boost the nation’s digital skills, infrastructure and innovation will help make sure it happens.

“I welcome Vodafone’s interest in this area, its ongoing work to help unlock digital growth and look forward to studying these interesting proposals in more detail.”

– ends –

Notes to Editors:


2 The second study, due to be published soon, will detail how Digital Super Towns could be created across the UK.

3 This study focuses on places that have recently been given new powers from central government, but the policy ideas can be applied to any town or city in the UK.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed line connections, home and office broadband and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Having made the UK’s first mobile phone call and sent the first text message, Vodafone has a history as a tech pioneer. In 2018 we made the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G, and were first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. We now have 5G in more places than anyone else, with multiple locations now live across the UK and the rest of Europe.

Today we serve more than 18 million mobile and fixed line customers in the UK, with 4G network coverage at 99%.  Our customers voted us the UK’s Best Mobile Network at the 2018 Trusted Reviews Awards – for the second year in a row. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 15 UK towns and cities through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach.

Connectivity is at the heart of what we do as it gives us a huge opportunity for good. We are using our network, products, talents and technology to help society prosper and respond to significant social and environmental issues.  Our free Digital Parenting magazine is helping families and schools across the UK to navigate the online world safely. Meanwhile, the Vodafone Foundation’s work with researchers at Imperial College is developing personalised cancer treatment using the processing power of smartphones.

We are part of Vodafone Group, one of the world’s largest technology communications companies, with mobile operations in 26 countries, partnerships with mobile networks in 55 more, and fixed broadband operations in 19 markets.  As of 30 September 2019, Vodafone Group had approximately 625 million mobile customers, 27 million fixed broadband customers, and 22 million TV customers – including all of the customers in Vodafone’s joint ventures and associates.

For more information about Vodafone UK, please visit:


Vodafone UK Media Relations

Telephone: +44 (0) 1635 693 693

Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews


Vodafone Limited

Registered Office: Vodafone House, The Connection, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2FN

Registered in England No: 1471587