One of the UK’s oldest cycle shops has become the first business in the North of England to trial a new type of ultrafast broadband technology from BT.
M. Steel Cycles, which has been selling bicycles for the last 80 years, is owned by two-time Olympic athlete and Commonwealth gold medallist Joe Waugh, who is testing the cutting-edge technology, on its Gosforth premises.
The trial, which is being delivered by Openreach, BT’s local network business, in the Gosforth area of Newcastle, is one of three trials taking place in the UK.
Two thousand homes and businesses are now covered by the trial which is already delivering speeds of up to 330 megabits per second (Mbps) - more than ten times the current UK average - using G.fast, a new technology that has been pioneered by BT's R&D division.
Joe said the pioneering technology has had a big impact on his broadband service. “We had superfast broadband installed in the business before the trial so the speeds we were getting were already good. The big difference with ultrafast is that it’s so fast if you blink you’ll miss it – everything happens instantly.
“The tills in the shop are online and give us direct access to our suppliers’ warehouses. This means we can log onto their website from our tills and see if a product a customer is asking for is available, what price it is etc. Ultrafast lets you do that in real-time. You punch in the details and all the information you need is there in a flash – customers have been really impressed by how quick it is. We also download suppliers’ files onto our system, containing things like pricing information, bar codes, product details, which then automatically updates our website. These can be heavy files and could at one time take up to twenty minutes to download. Now it’s instant.”
Joe, who is testing the technology via his service provider Zen Internet, said he was now planning to take advantage of the faster speeds to move the firm’s accounting system online and into the ‘cloud’.
“Currently our accountant has to travel into the office to look at the books but with the new online system they’ll be able to log on remotely whenever and wherever they are, saving time and money. Everything is backed up in the cloud which gives you extra security and peace of mind,” he said.
Joe, who joined M. Steel Cycles in 1981 as a tester for the company’s hand- made, high quality racing bikes, said the changing nature of the cycle industry meant having high-speed online access was becoming a business critical tool.
He said: “A vast majority of the cycling trade is moving online. Wholesalers are losing out because the digital world means it is easier for the manufacturers to go direct to the sellers. It is a lot more competitive, you have to be online to survive and Ultrafast broadband is something that would give us greater agility and scope for doing more online, to give us that competitive edge. It offers a whole new world of possibilities.”
Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, added: “It is fantastic to see the difference ultrafast has made to Joe’s business. All our trialists in Gosforth are seeing speeds of around 300 Mbps as we expected and receiving a good service capable of supporting their broadband needs well into the future.
“We are still actively recruiting trialists so if you live or work in the area please go to our website at http://www.ultrafast-openreach.co.uk/for ordering and contact details as well as the latest news.”
G.fast technology changes the way today’s broadband is transmitted, delivering ultrafast speeds that have previously required fibre to be run all the way to the premises (FTTP). This is significant as it will enable Openreach to make ultrafast fibre available to a much larger number of homes and businesses, and in a shorter timeframe, than if it had focused on FTTP alone.
The Gosforth trial is open to all communications companies on equal terms. That means people trying out the new technology will have a choice of service provider.
If trials* like the one in Gosforth prove successful - and if UK regulation continues to encourage investment - Openreach aims to start deploying G.fast in 2016/17 alongside its existing fibre broadband services.
BT believes that G.fast will enable it to make speeds of 300 - 500 Mbps available to 10 million premises by 2020 and to most of the UK within a decade as the technology is developed further.
The trial in Gosforth will run for around six months, allowing Openreach and its growing base of currently eight communications company trialists, as well as BT’s R&D division to assess the technical performance of the technology across a large area.
Various methods of deployment will be used to provide a valuable insight into how the technology can be used on a day-to-day basis, including how usage might grow over time.
The speeds on offer will allow people to stream live ultra-high-definition 4K video content to multiple devices at once, all whilst simultaneously browsing the web, uploading videos and photos, or playing online games.
BT has pioneered research into G.fast technology since 2007 and has been heavily involved in driving the creation of global industry standards in that time. It is working on the trials with international vendors ADTRAN, Alcatel-Lucent andHuawei, and also with chipset manufacturers and global standards bodies, to drive the speed and performance of G.fast technology.
In its simplest form, the cloud is just a way to describe data stored somewhere on a collection of computers accessed through the internet