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