A Year On(line)

Just over a year ago, the last connections were made in the pure fibre optic network that the Northmoor, Moreton and Bablockhythe project delivered, and the first users were already connected and live. Since then the verges have grown back, freshly-laid asphalt has accumulated enough mud to blend in with the rest of the road, and you’ll often find people sat down at the pub – itself a huge success story – checking their emails on the free wifi.

What now exists in Northmoor, Moreton and Bablockhythe is a long-term piece of infrastructure operating reliably and with the capacity required for today’s users and technologies – and with plenty to spare for the future, with a network already capable of providing 1Gbps download and upload speeds to every property as well as 10Gbps for businesses.

After a year, take-up has been better than our expectations, and the new network has transformed the lives of many. Gigaclear, the network installer and operator, revealed recently that the project has achieved 25% take-up across the entire network (counting all 521 properties covered by the project). By way of comparison, other superfast broadband projects around the country have taken several years to reach this sort of take-up, and only four or five have even managed that!

Improved connectivity has certainly lead to improved productivity and effectiveness for the many people in the village working from home or running businesses from their homes.

It has completely transformed my ability to work from home. Our business is international so working from home is often necessary to line up with other time zones. Now I can use video calling, screen sharing, and connect directly to my company’s servers on a VPN, all at the same time. It just simply works, and like having electric light you soon stop even thinking about it. Only when you find yourself in a hotel somewhere with dodgy wi-fi do you get the flashbacks!

Simon Harrison

 

Huge improvement for my paperless, cloud-based healthcare business. The kids are grateful for the prompt digital TV streaming too!

Titus Adams

As well as transforming the way that many of us in the village work and play, the fast connectivity has encouraged new families to the village.

It has been absolutely essential for us. I work at UCL in London but work from home two days a week and use broadband to Remote Desktop into work. This was almost impossible on the previous connection. Indeed, we most likely would not have moved into the village if we had not known that Gigaclear was on the way. The ability to work from home with fast internet was an absolute necessity for me when we were looking for our new home.

As a family, we routinely use it to watch television, browse the net (almost all of our shopping is done online) and even make telephone calls, having moved to Vonage. Overall, our bills have reduced as our Gigaclear broadband is less than the previous broadband and phone line combined.

Rachel Pearson

It’s fair to say that going from very poor connectivity to very fast connectivity can highlight problems with weak links in home networks, and more or less the only complaint that people have had with the service has been the wifi router provided by Gigaclear. Many houses in the village are old enough to have thick stone walls, and while BT’s connectivity was poor (or non-existent) the Home Hub does have quite good wifi for the last few dozen feet! Gigaclear are testing replacements for their currently used router, and both Gigaclear, Boxcom and members of the broadband team have been helping those with tricky wireless environments add additional wifi access points and ethernet cabling where needed.

All I have to say is FABULOUS – so pleased to have done it and the phones and to have put BT behind us for once and for all.

Helen Hutchings

Thanks and Congratulations

The project team would like to once again thank the team at West Oxfordshire District Council, particularly Phil Martin and Will Barton, as well as the procurement team at Oxfordshire County Council, particularly Nicky Atkin.

The procurement exercise for the project was wonderfully executed by them, and the support of West Oxfordshire District Council made the project possible. Four companies submitted bids for the project, and while one bid from a major telecommunications provider was unable to meet our technical or business plan requirements and had to be dropped, the remaining three bidders all provided highly viable solutions and business cases, making it a highly competitive tender. We’re very proud of the process that delivered this outcome, and hope that other government broadband procurements can learn from it.

We are of course grateful for the government and EU support of the project through Defra’s Rural Community Broadband Fund and the Broadband Delivery UK fund, and for the individuals in those organizations who helped us develop and deliver the project.

For some time, to the best of our knowledge, we were the only superfast broadband project in the UK awarded to and delivered by an entity other than BT, much to our surprise. Therefore, congratulations would seem to be in order to Gigaclear, who – after their first brush with public procurement in this project – have now won several contracts under the BDUK Superfast Extension Programme to connect thousands of properties across the UK.

And last but not least, the thanks of the team must be extended to the residents of Northmoor, Bablock Hythe and Moreton for their patience during the construction works and for their support of the project throughout.

Advertisements

Northmoor, Bablockhythe and Moreton project switched on by David Cameron MP

Opening Ceremony

Matthew Hare (CEO Gigaclear), Graham Shelton (Northmoor Broadband Team & Parish Council chairman), Stuart Cope (representing the Red Lion shareholders) and the Rt Hon David Cameron MP

In an event celebrating both the purchase and reopening of Northmoor’s Red Lion as a community-owned pub and the activation of the new fibre to the premises broadband network, our MP, the Rt Hon David Cameron, paid us a visit and officially switched on the network.

Gigaclear’s CEO, Matthew Hare, and members of the broadband team and village residents were also joined by video link by Malcolm Corbett of the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) and Dana Pressman Tobak of Hyperoptic, another FTTP ISP focused on deployments in cities.

David Cameron and Matthew Hare (Gigaclear) speak to Malcom Corbett (INCA), Dana Pressman Tobak (Hyperoptic) via Skype

David Cameron and Matthew Hare (Gigaclear) speak to Malcom Corbett (INCA), Dana Pressman Tobak (Hyperoptic) via Skype

The project is now mainly completed, with only the relatively straightforward task of connecting the caravans at Bablockhythe Caravan Park remaining before the project is complete. A large number of residents are now connected and enjoying the service, with takeup of the service expected to increase as installations are completed in the coming months.

David Cameron at the Opening Ceremony

The West Oxfordshire press release accompanying this news can be found here. Coverage of the event was also carried by the Telegraph, as well as Cable.co.uk and ISPreview. The Witney Gazette has covered the news in their leader column.

We’ll try and keep this post up to date with any further media coverage.

First subscriber goes live in Northmoor

We’ve reached another major milestone today with the activation of our first subscriber on the network. The cabinet, underlying network backhaul and other services are all live and the network is, in part at least, lit and ready to use!

Fibre cables before burial installed at a property

Fibre cables before burial installed at a property

Our first subscriber’s 50Mbps service is delivering precisely as expected, and represents the start of connections being made to the network. Over the next few weeks Gigaclear and their installation contractors (Boxcom) will be installing and activating everyone else who has already made an order, or sending out kits to self-install customers.

All the works with the exception of Thameside and the caravan parks are complete, with these works to be completed in the coming weeks.

Fibre to the Premises reaches Thameside

Our initial survey, conducted in early 2013, showed that a shocking proportion of the parish had no internet connectivity whatsoever. The majority of these properties were homes at Thameside Court at Bablockhythe, connected to aluminium/copper lines nearly 8 kilometres long and unlikely ever to receive an upgrade under normal commercial terms. These lines are often totally unable to even achieve ADSL sync, let alone attain speeds above a few hundred kilobits per second. Reliability was another problem – flooding and even heavy rain made whatever service was available disappear.

Outside Thameside CourtToday the first properties in Thameside were passed by the contractors building the network, providing a pure fibre to the premises connection capable of over 1Gbps. Even when it rains or floods. Continue reading

Installation – what happens next?

Now that the bulk of the network is installed – Thameside and other properties at Bablockhythe will be passed in the coming week and represent the last significant civil works to be undertaken – the only remaining bit of work to do to connect to the new network is to install the fibre patch between the connection point (“boundary box”) and the router in your home. Continue reading

What’s in the pot?

Gigaclear’s contractors, Boxcom and MKJ Communications, have been hard at work installing the fibre network. There’s a cabinet in the middle of the village, opposite the Village Hall, where the “backhaul” connection to the internet will be split out. Each house has its own fibre which is terminated at the cabinet and connected on to the high speed connections back to Gigaclear’s “core” network and from there on to the internet. The other end – the one that connects to the home – is terminated in a little black pot, or “customer connection point”. So what’s inside?

Three customer connection points

Three customer connection points, ready for connections

Continue reading

The cabinet has arrived!

The cabinet

The cabinet is here! This is the central point for the entire network and will house all the various bits of equipment required to connect properties to the backhaul networks and onwards to the internet, as well as the power supply system for everything. Power is being sourced from the buried cables in the village, and the fibre cables are already in place in ducts next to the cabinet!