Connecting Shropshire

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Connecting Shropshire: 60-second briefing

March 15, 2018 / Leave a comment / Permalink

What is it?  Connecting Shropshire is a £45m programme to bring faster broadband to all parts of the Shropshire Council area where private companies are not going to provide it as part of their current commercial plans. We invest money with suppliers to make it commercially viable for them to invest and deliver. The networks are owned by these companies once completed.

What have we done so far?  Since 2013, we’ve attracted over £37m of public investment and provided over 54,000 homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband (with download speeds in excess of 30mbps).

What technology are we deploying?  Our first two contracts commissioned BT Openreach to build out their fibre broadband network. Our third contract is with a company called Airband, who have been deploying high-speed wireless broadband in rural counties since 2002.

Image of Airband logo

Airband delivers broadband connectivity via a fixed wireless network. This technology allows the broadband signal to be transmitted wirelessly to a receiver. The receiver is about the size of a two-pint milk carton that is fitted to the property, within clear line of sight to an Airband transmitter. Once fitted, a cable runs from the receiver into the property and plugs into a Wi-Fi router just like any other broadband connection would.

What’s next?  Connecting Shropshire, Fastershire and Superfast Telford have now received approval from DEFRA for £10.5m of European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) funding to run the Marches & Gloucestershire Viable Clusters Broadband Project. The project aims to provide further superfast broadband coverage for around 1,400 premises in the Council area. The tenders have been issued and are due back in May 2018.

What’s left to do?  Connecting Shropshire’s current contracts are expected to continue into 2020 and will provide superfast broadband for a further 18,000 premises. We believe that, if all commercial providers meet their current commitments and our current contracts complete as planned, we will be close to achieving our aspiration of ensuring that all premises in the Shropshire Council area have access to better broadband by the end of 2020.

How does this benefit me?  If you haven’t already switched to faster broadband, use the information on our website to check if you can upgrade, see: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/. Once better broadband has been enabled in your area you will need to order an upgrade from an Internet Service Provider.
Your broadband connection will not speed up automatically.

Does it cost more?  Not necessarily! The broadband infrastructure that we‘ve commissioned is open to a variety of internet service providers, so we recommend that you shop around to get the best deal by using a comparison website, such as: http://www.uswitch.com/broadband/.

What’s the alternative?  If superfast broadband is not yet available in your area, you might consider applying to the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme. If your application is successful, the Scheme will provide support towards the cost of the installation of a broadband connection.

How do I find out more?  Check out our website, and if you still have a query, send the details (including your address & landline number) to: connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk.

Picture gallery

Green box mounted on telegraph pole

Part of the ‘fibre to the premises’ network in the Leighton area, which provides access to download/upload speeds of 330/50mbps.

 

View from transmitter overlooking Shropshire countryside

View from the first live Airband transmitter site, which serves over 300 homes and businesses in and around Kemberton, Sheriffhales & Shifnal.

 

Fibre cabinet with ploughed field in the background

New fibre cabinet serving premises in Uffington.

 

New fibre cabinet serving premises in Cheswardine.

New fibre cabinet serving premises in Cheswardine.

Airband – first customer connected

February 15, 2018 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Airband has announced that the first customer on the Connecting Shropshire project has gone live in Tong, near Shifnal, Shropshire.

The project, part of the UK Government’s superfast broadband rollout and supported by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, is part of an £11.2m contract to extend Superfast broadband to 14,000+ local premises by 2020.

IT security manager Andrew Lee and his wife Sulayma are the first to be installed with Superfast broadband under the first phase of the project. The couple have been waiting for faster broadband for four years and are delighted to now have a Superfast broadband connection from Airband.

Connecting Shropshire superfast broadband customers

Andrew and Sulayma Lee are the first customers to be installed with superfast broadband by Airband under the Connecting Shropshire programme. Photo credit: James Greenoff-Cairns.

Andrew said: “We live in a tiny village with just 46 houses three miles from Shifnal, close to Cosford airbase, but our communications have always been poor. When BT upgraded the exchange in Albrighton it didn’t make any difference to us, so we were really keen to get a better connection with Airband.”

“It’s a challenging location so installation wasn’t straightforward. I think this is because we are in a valley and it took a while to establish line-of-sight connection and also because our house is a listed building. They were very patient and thorough and to be honest I’m overjoyed with the results.”

“Before our Airband connection, we had download speed of 2.5 Mbps. Streaming stuff was awful – it was always buffering, and working from home was almost impossible. Now we have 30 Mbps and I am able to work from home when I need to.”

Dave Lloyd, project manager at Airband, said: “Rural Shropshire suffers with some of the poorest broadband speeds in the UK, and we are delighted to be playing a significant role in turning this situation around. This key milestone highlights the progress we’re making to help connect rural residents across the county. The project will be going live in five phases. Phase 1 of the project is due to complete in Spring and involves 28 transmitter sites. During this period, Airband will be making Superfast broadband available to 7,000 homes. Further areas will be going live incrementally as the network is created.”

At present, Airband is offering a range of Superfast broadband packages to suit everyone, from £10 to £42 per month, dependent on data and speed requirements.

Nic Laurens, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, commented: Making superfast broadband available to 14,000+ homes and businesses by the end of 2020 will be a boost to Shropshire’s economy. We want to improve the personal and professional lives of people in Shropshire and delivering better broadband services is a key part of this aim. The first live customer on the new Airband network is a landmark that we feel very excited about. We’re very pleased with the progress Airband is making and we look forward to their roll-out of this project over the coming months and years.”

This week’s first live customer announcement comes just a few weeks after Connecting Shropshire and Airband announced the live launch of the first transmitter site, serving over 300 homes and businesses. The transmitter provides superfast broadband connectivity of 30Mbps to parts of Sheriffhales and Shifnal parishes, and other communities further east, such as Tong. Now that the network for phase 1 is well underway, it is anticipated that Superfast broadband will be available to 7,000 homes by the end of Spring this year.

Airband’s deployment of fixed wireless broadband works by sending a radio signal from a transmitter site to a small receiver attached to the property. A cable is then run into the building allowing the end-user to access the internet in the same way as any other broadband connection.

January 2018 update

January 3, 2018 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The latest programme update providing information on:

  • Contract 3 update
  • Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband
  • Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme – extended
  • Broadband grants available to eligible businesses

To view, please click on the hyperlink title of this post or paste this link into your web browser: /wp-content/uploads/2018/01/20180102-Monthly-update-January-2018.pdf

Case Study: GPC74 in south Shropshire

December 6, 2017 / Leave a comment / Permalink

A South Shropshire business, which specialises in a diverse range of construction and facilities management services throughout the UK, is reaping the commercial benefits of their recent upgrade to superfast fibre broadband.

Robin Guest, IT Support at GPC74 Ltd, based on the outskirts of Cleobury Mortimer, said the new technology has transformed the way they work in the four months since they upgraded, enabling them to share information more easily and complete jobs more quickly.

As a result, the family-run business, which currently employs 13 people at its Upper Baveney Park headquarters, and a further 18 staff who are out and about serving rural client sites around the country, is set for further expansion in the coming months.

Mr Guest said: “We upgraded following the roll-out of the Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology by Openreach, which meant we had the option of choosing a service with download speeds of between 80 and 300 megabits per second (Mbps). We opted for the 80Mbps download and 20Mbps upload service from BT, a more cost-effective, quicker and more reliable service than our previous satellite broadband facility.”

The company, which operates from its award-winning business park, offers secure industrial and office accommodation within its grounds for lease. It is confident the availability of ultrafast fibre broadband at the site will encourage other small and medium businesses to relocate to this beautiful, peaceful rural location and provide local employment for people in the area.

Mr Guest added: “Being able to offer these superior speeds to other businesses relocating here is an advantage and it’s comforting to know that we have the option to upgrade to an even faster service, to support growth or movement into other online systems such as videoconferencing, should the requirement arise.

“Our work often involves sharing large files and images with customers, contractors and colleagues, and we can now do this with ease and in a fraction of the time it once took. We can also stream live video clips to the office from a site where we’re working, which is invaluable.

“Other benefits include being able to download software upgrades to our computers more quickly, and retrieve photos and videos from iCloud in a fraction of the time. Superfast fibre broadband also offers us the unparalleled flexibility to work remotely – even from home, if we need to.”

Across Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin more than 218,000 households and businesses can now access faster fibre broadband as a result of public sector partnerships or private sector investment by companies such as Openreach, with around 198,000 able to get superfast speeds of 24Mbps and above.

Steve Haines, managing director of next generation access for Openreach, the business responsible for Britain’s largest phone and broadband network, said: “Fibre-to-the-premises technology is just one of the ways we can overcome the challenges of reaching more rural businesses in remote areas like Cleobury Mortimer and demonstrates our commitment to making high-speed fibre broadband as widely available as possible.

“High-speed broadband breaks down the barriers to doing business in the digital world. This helps to empower small businesses to find new markets, sell new products, try new models and compete on an equal footing with larger businesses. Next generation broadband is no longer a nice to have – it is a must have.”

Robin Guest added: “Today’s businesses are primarily concerned with communication and data, and being able to move that data around freely is a huge bonus. We believe having superfast broadband has the potential to open new doors and markets for us. We are delighted that businesses are no longer forced to remain in towns or cities in order to access ultrafast broadband – with this being available in rural locations like ours, the world really is on-line.”

Connecting Shropshire announces £11.2m broadband contract

July 11, 2017 / 3 comments / Permalink

On Monday 10 July 2017, Connecting Shropshire announced that Airband Community Internet Ltd will be the delivery partner for the next phase of Shropshire Council’s superfast broadband programme.

Since 2002, Airband has been providing high-speed wireless broadband access to rural areas. The Worcester-based company will be responsible for delivering superfast broadband to over 14,000 homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area over the next three years.

Airband will be deploying wireless broadband, which works by sending a signal from a transmitter on a mast, to a receiver attached to the property. A cable is then run into the building allowing the end-user to access the Internet in the same way as any other broadband connection.

Nic Laurens, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “I am delighted that we have secured a technology partner that can deliver superfast broadband to some of the most rural parts of the county. When this contract is completed, we expect 98% of premises in the council area to have access to superfast broadband. This means that even more people living, working and visiting Shropshire will be able to benefit from access to faster Internet connection speeds, enhancing their quality of life. The Connecting Shropshire programme runs until 2020 and will continue to work towards providing superfast broadband to all premises without access to it, and we remain confident in being able to achieve this aspiration.”

Graham Wynn OBE, Chairman of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “Slow Internet speeds are a significant barrier to business growth, which is why we secured just over £5m in our Growth Deal with the Government to help us address the issue working with our partner, Shropshire Council. As well as connecting up thousands of businesses with superfast broadband, this investment is also expected to boost our regional economy by around £220m.”

Redmond Peel, Managing Director of Airband, commented: “We are delighted to have won the contract to deploy our fixed wireless network in Shropshire. Knowing how essential high-speed broadband is, we are looking forward to working with local residents and businesses to provide fast and reliable Internet connections.

“Our experience of building masts to deploy wireless broadband services in the Midlands, Wales, Dartmoor and Exmoor has given us extensive insight into dealing with the geographical challenges that we will come across in Shropshire. Our solution uses state-of-the-art radio technology, ensuring high-speed connections where fibre broadband is not available. Using wireless overcomes many of the speed and reliability issues that are experienced with long copper cable lengths, meaning that many who have long suffered from poor broadband due to their locality will soon be able to access speeds comparable to those of their urban counterparts.”

For more information, please go to: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/contract-3-airband/

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