The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal – once the broadest and deepest in the world – proved no obstacle to innovative Fastershire engineers delivering faster fibre broadband to a picturesque Gloucestershire village.
They came up with the perfect technical solution – a microwave radio link stretching more than one kilometre between Hardwicke and Longney – as an alternative to laying fibre optic cable underneath the near 200-year-old waterway.
Thanks to this innovative approach by BT and Gloucestershire County Council, homes and businesses in Longney now have access to broadband download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of up to 20Mbps*.
Matthew Lloyd, BT’s programme manager for Fastershire, said: “Wireless radio technology is one of a number of innovative approaches BT is using to expand the reach of fibre broadband, and it’s proved to be the ideal solution in this case. As a result, villagers are now able to access faster fibre broadband at the same speeds as if they’d been connected to the fibre network via underground cables.
“Given the canal is more than five metres deep and, at around 26 metres wide, still one of the broadest in the UK, digging under it to lay new ducting and fibre optic cables would have been extremely time-consuming and costly. But we were determined not to let what used to be the world’s widest and deepest canal stand in the way of us enabling local households and businesses from getting better connected to the world wide web. It’s great to see some of them have already chosen to upgrade, and will be soon reaping the benefits of this technology.”
The link uses microwave ‘point-to-point’ technology between two specially built 12-metre high wooden poles, tall enough to have line of sight, just over a kilometre apart.
A radio unit – comprising a transmitter dish the size of a football – is mounted on the top of each structure. A broadband signal is beamed from one antenna to another across the canal using a radio wave signal. It is then relayed to a new road-side fibre cabinet in Longney village via an underground fibre optic cable, while the unit on the other pole is connected to the main network via an underground fibre optic cable to Hardwicke telephone exchange.
Neil Carmichael, MP for Stroud, said: “I am delighted at the completion of this innovative solution to deliver fibre broadband to Longney. There are challenges in rolling out broadband to several parts of the Stroud Valleys and Vale and I look forward to BT continuing to overcome difficulties to deliver faster broadband for all my constituents.”
Penny Cartwright, head teacher of Longney Church of England Primary Academy, said: “The internet is essential to learning for our pupils, both in school and at home. The faster broadband will allow more pupils to access the internet at one time and more quickly, which is great news for us here at Longney Academy and for the wider community.”
Matthew Lloyd added: “The microwave link uses a dedicated radio spectrum so there is no possibility of the signal being lost or interfered with. The job proved particularly challenging because we were unable to get the clear radio line of sight all the way to the village. This meant we had to use a combination of a shorter radio link and two sections of optical fibre to make the connection.
“Another challenge was getting electricity to the radio units. Due to their position, we had to build a stand-alone cabinet at a different location to power them. We believe it’s the first time this has been done as part of any broadband roll-out programme.”
Residents and businesses can follow the progress of the roll-out via the Fastershire website: www.fastershire.com, Fastershire’s Facebook page: facebook.com/Fastershire or on twitter: @Fastershire.
Upgrades do not happen automatically. Once an area has ‘gone live’ with fibre, local people are able to place an order with an internet service provider of their choice. More than 140 companies offering fibre broadband services are now operating in the UK.
More than 7,400 households and businesses in the Hardwicke area are now able to access faster fibre broadband as a result of Fastershire or BT’s commercial roll-out.
Notes to Editors
* These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.
Issued by Gloucestershire County Council and BT on behalf of Fastershire.
For more information please contact Gloucestershire County Council’s Media Team on 01452 425226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Fastershire is a partnership between Gloucestershire County Council and Herefordshire Council to bring faster broadband to the two counties, with funding from central government’s Broadband Delivery UK matched by the local authorities, and additional funding from the private sector.
- Phase 1 of the project, in partnership with BT, will see around 90 per cent of Gloucestershire having access to fibre broadband, with all premises in the project area being able to access a minimum of 2Mbps.
- Phase 2 of the project will extend fibre coverage further across the county. The Cotswolds is the first area to move into phase 2, with a contract awarded to Gigaclear which will make ultrafast speeds available to over 6,500 of the most difficult to reach rural homes and businesses.
The ultimate aim is that by the end of 2018 everyone in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire will be able to access the broadband services they need.
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% 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: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk
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For the year ended 31 March 2015, BT Group’s reported revenue was £17,979mwith reported profit before taxation of £2,645m.
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