Engaging with Communications

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City Tower

Once Europe’s largest microwave communications hub and which still plays an important role in keeping the city connected.

Grid reference:

A map showing the location of City Tower

A picture showing the array of microwave antennas on to of City Tower
A view showing some of the many microwave dish communication antennas located on the top of City Tower.

City Tower (formerly Sunley House) is a 30-storey, 107m (351ft) skyscraper situated in the Piccadilly Gardens area of Manchester. It was completed in 1965 and designed by Covell, Matthews & Partners. Its height is what gives it an important role in the communications services of the city. Providing high capacity communications links between buildings can prove expensive within a city where that invovles digging up roads and pavements. An alternative is to return to the early days of the telephone and provide these connections over-head, not through the use of wires but very high frequency, microwave radio, point to point links. The roof of City Tower provides the clue to this for it is covered in an array of microwave dish communication antennnas. Each one of these is providing a point to point radio link to a similar dish located on a different building but in line of sight. In the 1990s City Tower was Europe’s largest microwave communications hub.

In addition to being a microwave communications hub, City Tower is one of Manchester’s main broadcast transmission sites, hosting the antennae of local radio stations XFM, Rock Radio, Capital on FM and digital radio multiplexes Digital One, BBC, MXR North West and CE Manchester.