Connecting Shropshire

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Boost for Shropshire homes and businesses as Connecting Shropshire reaches half-way

February 10, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Around 31,500 homes and businesses across the county are now within reach of faster fibre broadband thanks to the Connecting Shropshire partnership.

The achievement marks the half-way point in the roll-out, which is on course to connect more than 63,000 premises by the end of 2016.Connecting Shropshire is a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

The local milestone comes as the Government today announced two million homes and businesses around the UK are now able to get superfast broadband as a result of BDUK.

The arrival of the new technology has been welcomed by James Frizzell, manager of Bridgnorth’s Majestic Cinema – a traditional three-screen cinema, which dates back to 1937. James said: “It used to take us a day to download a three-minute trailer. Now, since upgrading to faster fibre broadband, we can download a whole film in about an hour.”
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “Connecting Shropshire has done much already to bring faster broadband speeds to rural communities – from Adderley to Yockleton, and Homer to Ightfield. Whilst it’s great news to have reached this milestone in the current phase one contract, we know that there’s still much work to be done to provide faster fibre broadband to even more communities.

“The ongoing procurement for a phase two, and the announcement (on January 29) of additional funding for Shropshire Council to support the roll-out of fibre broadband, demonstrates our continued commitment to connecting as many homes and businesses to fibre broadband as possible.”
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation broadband, said: “Today marks a giant step forward in the roll-out of fibre broadband in Shropshire and across the UK. Here more than 142,000 homes and businesses now have access to high-speed fibre broadband thanks to Connecting Shropshire and BT’s own commercial fibre broadband programme. We’re now reaching into the hearts of scores of communities across the region that have so far been beyond the reach of this vital technology.

“There can be few areas of modern life which are not influenced in some way by broadband – whether it’s supporting how we work, how we learn, how we communicate with friends and family, or how we entertain ourselves. Now’s the time to embrace high-speed broadband and switch to the superfast lane.”

People wanting to find out if fibre has gone live in their area should log onto the Connecting Shropshire website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/

Once an area has ‘gone live’, people will be able to get download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of up to 20Mbps*. Residents and businesses wanting to upgrade should contact their chosen broadband service provider.

The Connecting Shropshire programme is being delivered by a team of more than 50 people planning, building and commissioning the network in the Shropshire Council area.

Further information

* These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

Connecting Shropshire phase 2 procurement underway with further funding confirmed

January 30, 2015 / 4 comments / Permalink

In February 2014, Shropshire Council was allocated £11.38m as part of the Government’s commitment to improve broadband nationally and to provide access to superfast speeds for at least 90%[1] of premises in the Shropshire Council area by 2017. The funding was offered to the Council provided it could locate committed match funding on a £1 for £1 basis.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has subsequently committed to supporting Shropshire Council with a further procurement up to the value of £11.38m, regardless of the Council’s ability to secure the necessary full match funding beforehand. The agreement was based on Shropshire Council’s commitment to continue to seek match funding. Yesterday (29 January) Culture Secretary Sajid Javid MP was in Shropshire to announce a £7.7m contribution to the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to support the roll-out of fibre broadband in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. The allocation for the Shropshire Council area is likely to be £5,150,000.

Following a Cabinet decision in December[2], Shropshire Council is progressing with a phase 2 procurement that is currently out to tender under the existing ‘framework contract’ arrangements that BDUK have in place. The tender process and contract negotiations should be completed by the summer, although any work is unlikely to start until the current phase 1 contract is completed at the end of 2016.

The phase 2 procurement will be funded entirely from the £11.38m from BDUK. The match funding element from the Marches LEP will be used to assess the next most economical procurement route once the phase 2 procurement process has completed.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said: “This is great news for the people who live work and visit Shropshire. It means that we’ll be able to provide access to fibre based broadband for even more of the people who are struggling with slow and unreliable broadband speeds.”

“Whilst I acknowledge that there’s still much work to be done, I’d like to publicly commend the Council officers involved in the Connecting Shropshire programme in getting us to this advantageous position.”

Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “This additional funding is excellent news for Shropshire and the extra funding from BDUK will help take superfast broadband to 90% of premises in the Shropshire Council area. The UK already does more business online than any other European country and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to Shropshire’s economy.”

[1] The national commitment is for 95% of premises to have access to superfast broadband (i.e. download speeds above 24mbps) by 2017

[2] The Cabinet report can be found on the following link: http://shropshire.gov.uk/committee-services/documents/s5312/19%20Connecting%20Shropshire%20Phase%202.pdf

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact Callum McLagan at the Shropshire Council press office on 01743 252826 or email callum.mclagan@ipande.co.uk

(All Shropshire Council news stories can be read at http://shropshire.gov.uk/news/)

About Connecting Shropshire

The Connecting Shropshire programme is bringing fibre based broadband to areas where it isn’t economically viable for commercial companies to provide do so.  It’s a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) that will enable more than 62,000 homes and businesses in Shropshire (excluding Telford and Wrekin) to access faster broadband by the end of 2016.

Connecting Shropshire programme website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/

Photos showing the rollout of Connecting Shropshire can be downloaded for free from: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1gij7M

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race.  The portfolio is comprised of three elements:

  • £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017
  • £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
  • £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services

Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life. For further information, see: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

 

Fibre fact-finding expedition

January 14, 2015 / One comment / Permalink

Following my last trip to see the work ‘in the field’ for Connecting Shropshire, this time I was sent to where the journey begins for fibre optic broadband – the main telephone exchange or ‘head end’ exchange.

Armed with a host of questions, a notepad and a pen, I turned up at the Shrewsbury telephone exchange and met Mike Gardiner again – my nominated tutor on these trips. We began by heading into the depths of the building to where it all starts. My aim was to see how this unseen part of the journey works, then find out more about the build that may not be seen by everyone.

To the untrained eye, it instantly reminds you of the footage of a computer from 1960s. Huge blinking, electrical cabinets fill the room, whirring away like a caffeinated wasp.

Where it all starts

The very start of the fibre optic journey is here, in the intriguingly named Optical Line Termination (or OLT to its friends). Fibre cables are attached to individual connecting points – or ports – here, each flashing merrily away if they are fully operational, before stretching out and into another, similarly large, cabinet called the Optical Consolidation Rack (OCR).

Optical Line Termination

 

Optical Consolidation Rack: The trays wrap the individual fibres.

The OCR acts to organise the individual fibre optic lines, first separating them out from the OLT and then streamlining them into larger cable bundles of 12. These are then grouped together into the cables that go on the long journey through the ducts and then to the green roadside cabinets of glory.

Perfectly organised, clean and crisp branching of cables which are then grouped into the needed numbers and then sent out the OCR, above our heads and out of the room on to the next stage of the fibre’s journey at the exchange is in the aptly named cabling room.

Optical Consolidation Rack: The groups of 12 fibres are put together into the larger cable that goes to the Cabling Room

In here you can really see the size difference between fibre and the chunky copper
cables as both come in and out of this sorting room (of sorts) for cables. The fibre cables (yellow in the photograph) enter the room and then into a Cable Chamber Joint to be spliced and coated ready to leave the strange world in the exchange. So having whizzed through all this, I ask how this all fits in to the big build.

The Cabling Room. The yellow cables are fibre cables whereas the much larger grey cables are copper.

“Well, the first stage is the planning for the OLT, OCR,  jointing and cabling. Once the calculations have been made, the work to build  each of these begins, with the cabling typically taking the longest.” Mike  explains.

“So, what people see is the cabling and duct work, but behind the scenes we’re building the less glamorous but cleaner things! Part of the work we do while cabling is to test the connections as we go along, so if there is an issue we can pick it up early.”

Seeing as he’s mentioned it, I feel it’s my duty to ask about any particular challenges:

“At this point the main thing we might come across would be a blockage in the ducts. The guys would know right away whether it’s something like a build-up of silt from all the flooding that they can clear with a high pressure water jet or if it’s going to need a lot more work. They’ll test with a rod from both ends of the duct so they can measure where the blockage is, or if there is potentially another one further along.”

The real issues come when the ducts are badly blocked. To clear this they have to dig down to the duct to clear the blockage manually, which predictably takes longer than for blockages that the water jet can clear. Things are further complicated by the fact that accessing the ducts is made even more difficult because much of the modern world’s infrastructure is built over the top of them. Mike continued:

“It’s really unfortunate when you run into these problems as you know it will take longer to sort – you just want to complete the job. The lads have had lots of people come up to them to talk about how they’re looking forward to fibre and the difference it will make to them.”

Once all the cabling has been done, any issues cleared, then comes the connections to the cabinet.

“It takes about 10 days to what we call ‘stand’ or commission a cab, so we try to get that done before we need it, just so it’s ready to go when we get there. Connecting power can sometimes be a little difficult for some of the very rural cabinets, but we normally find a way to do this and then it’s final stage of checks and tests.”

Mike’s diagram shows the connection from start to finish. (TJ = Track Joint – this is where fibre cables can be sent in differing directions towards their final destination)

Leaving the cabling room, Mike shows me the equipment used to make these final tests. With everything connected up, a light signal is sent from the exchange and someone at the cabinet looks at their gizmo and, if the reading they get is within a certain range, then the fibre cables are doing their job and it’s ready to go – any issues and the machine will be able to tell them how far down the line it is so they know where they need to go to fix it.

Once again, Mike has to head off as his phone has been ringing like a mad thing the entire time but it’s been an eye opening trip for me. The main thing that’s stuck with me is how much work it takes to run over a thousand miles of fibre cabling and how fragile it all looks at the start in those optical trays in the exchange.

Superfast broadband comes to Much Wenlock

January 7, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

More than 1,000 further Shropshire homes and businesses can benefit from superfast speeds

More than 1,000 residents and businesses in medieval Much Wenlock are being encouraged to sign up for superfast broadband, following the arrival of the new technology in the town.  This comes as part of a national Government campaign* to raise awareness of the benefits faster Internet speeds can bring.

The public sector is investing £1.7 billion in the UK’s digital infrastructure so that, by 2017, 95 per cent of businesses and homes across the UK will be able to access superfast broadband.  This includes investment in Connecting Shropshire – a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK.

Superfast broadband is already available in 78 per cent of UK premises.  Locally, the Connecting Shropshire rollout has brought around 29,000 homes and businesses within reach of the fibre broadband network.  However, some people are not aware whether they can get superfast broadband where they live, or what they need to do to take up the service.  Shropshire homes and businesses can check the availability of fibre broadband on the Connecting Shropshire website: www.connectingshropshire.co.uk.

Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow, was out in Much Wenlock recently inspecting the work of the Connecting Shropshire programme, which has now made superfast fibre broadband available to more than 1,000 premises in the town.

Connecting Shropshire Programme Manager, Chris Taylor, and Philip Dunne MP

Philip Dunne said: “This is great news for Much Wenlock.  Superfast broadband is essential to local businesses, and I’m certain that it will be a catalyst for the creation of new jobs in the town.  It will also transform the lives of local families, whether they’re using the technology for working from home, entertainment or education.”

David Turner, local Shropshire Councillor for Much Wenlock, said: “The arrival of superfast broadband in Much Wenlock creates exciting opportunities for us all.  Many of the services we use are now accessible online, and with the explosion of online shopping and online streaming services, now’s the time for residents and businesses to check out whether they can benefit from superfast broadband by visiting www.gov.uk/gosuperfast, www.connectingshropshire.co.uk or by contacting their chosen Internet service provider.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “As the birthplace of Dr William Penny Brookes – who inspired the modern Olympic movement and one of the official mascots for London 2012 – Much Wenlock has become increasingly well-known around the world.  It is, therefore, fitting that it can now boast world-beating fibre broadband speeds.

“The people of Much Wenlock  join more than 85,000 households and businesses across Shropshire** who already have access to fibre broadband as a result of BT’s commercial rollout and the Connecting Shropshire programme.”

Research*** shows that UK homes are getting more connected, with the average number of digital devices in the home increasing rapidly.  Superfast broadband can help meet the need to operate computers, tablets, set top boxes and smartphones at the same time, and help users to enjoy the options of working at home, running a small business or catching up on favourite TV programmes and films.

Media enquiries:

Contact Callum McLagan of ip&e Communications on 07876 886823 or email callum.mclagan@ipande.co.uk  (All Shropshire Council news stories can be read at http://shropshire.gov.uk/news/)

Or

Emma Tennant at the BT regional press office on 0800 085 0660 or email: emma.tennant@bt.com.

Further information

* For more information about the Superfast Britain campaign see www.gov.uk/gosuperfast.

** Excluding Telford & Wrekin

*** Superfast coverage in the UK is highest among EU5 countries (higher than Germany and Spain and five times higher than Italy and three times higher than France).  Source: Ofcom European Broadband Scorecard – March 2014.

More information on the Government’s investment of Superfast Broadband: www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk.

Village downloads early Christmas present from Connecting Shropshire

December 19, 2014 / 5 comments / Permalink

An historic village in north east Shropshire has received an early Christmas present from the Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband partnership that will put it at the forefront of the digital information age. Villagers in Adderley, near Market Drayton, can count on their broadband speeds improving significantly following the arrival of faster fibre broadband – with some homes and businesses who opt for an upgrade seeing a 100-fold increase in their broadband download speeds.

Adderley Parish Councillors celebrate the advent of fibre broadband with Shropshire Councillor Paul Wynn (on the right hand side)

The early Christmas present was delivered by Connecting Shropshire partners, Shropshire Council and BT. The majority of the village’s 100-plus premises will be able to access superfast broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above, and the average download speed will increase from 0.45Mbps to nearly 59Mbps.

Chairman of Adderley Parish Council, Marius Coulon, said this is “a fantastic advance for the community that will allow both children and businesses faster access to the internet – thank you Shropshire Council”.

It’s just over 12 months since the first community benefitted from the roll-out of fibre broadband by the Connecting Shropshire partnership.  Since then the Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband roll-out has continued at a pace, with more than 28,000 premises across the county now able to access faster fibre broadband as a result of the programme.

In addition to rolling out more than 300 kilometres of fibre optic cable, engineers from Openreach – BT’s local network business – have installed around 140 new road-side cabinets, which are needed to connect local people onto the new network.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “Connecting Shropshire has done much already to bring better broadband speeds to rural communities like Adderley, where download speeds previously were under 2mbps. This is one of many cabinets that we have built and will continue to build as part of the first phase of the contract with our partners. The approach being taken is consistent with Government policy to get to as many premises as possible for the money available.

“As part of the Government’s continued commitment to delivering superfast broadband to more premises in Shropshire we agreed at Shropshire Council’s Cabinet to begin a second phase of procurement using the £11.38m provided by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). This is very positive news for Shropshire and will mean that fewer people have to struggle to access the internet and all the benefits that brings. We are continuing to work on finding ‘match funding’ and remain optimistic that this will be achieved early in 2015.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “Increasingly the internet is touching our lives in new and exciting ways, which is why our teams are working hard to roll-out faster fibre broadband to more communities as quickly as possible.

“The dramatic improvements that people in Adderley will now be able to experience will change the way they communicate forever. Whether it’s families needing to connect several devices to the internet at the same time, or people wanting to work from home or shop online, everything is faster and easier with fibre broadband.”

Paul Wynn, Shropshire Councillor for Prees, said: “I’m really pleased that fibre broadband is now available to order in Adderley village thanks to Connecting Shropshire; better broadband has been high on local people’s wish list for some time. Whilst this is great news for local businesses and residents who have been struggling to connect to the World Wide Web, I’d like to remind people that it is an opt-in service and broadband speeds won’t increase automatically. To upgrade to fibre broadband contact your chosen internet service provider.”

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