Connecting Devon and Somerset has announced this week that Airband will be the delivery partner for the next phase of the superfast broadband programme across Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. The National Parks represent some of the most challenging terrain for connecting remote rural communities to superfast broadband.
Worcester-based Airband, founded in 2002 and a specialist in high speed wireless broadband for rural areas, will be responsible for connecting some 5,800 homes and businesses through a fixed wireless access network based in the National Parks. This is in addition to the existing phase 1 rollout which is on track to deliver superfast broadband to around 90% of homes and businesses across Devon and Somerset by the end of 2016.
The company will be deploying wireless broadband, which is designed to overcome physical conditions such as trees, hills or structures. Its technology works by passing a signal from a radio on a transmitter or mast to a radio attached to the final building. A cable then takes the connection into the building allowing the end-user to connect to the internet the same way as via fibre or an ADSL connection.
Its main benefit is that there is no need to dig up roads and lay cables to connect with the exchange points. In addition, due to the lack of dependence on third party infrastructure, fixed wireless has the added advantage of quick deployment times and low install costs.
The announcement comes as the current CDS programme gathers significant momentum with over 600 cabinets and nearly 170,000 homes and businesses connected to fibre broadband.
CDS is the largest single superfast broadband programme in England and makes an important contribution to the Government’s national targets for the broadband roll-out. The National Parks roll out will involve a public sector investment of £4.6m.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, said: “We are delighted that Airband has been chosen to roll out superfast broadband across the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. They were selected for their innovative approach to delivering broadband in remote areas.
“This contract announcement represents the next big step towards our aim of achieving 100% coverage across the region. By the end of 2016, many more homes and businesses across Dartmoor and Exmoor will be able to access superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more. People will be able to benefit from this innovative technology and faster internet connection speeds, enhancing their lives and productivity respectively.”
Peter Harper, Chairman of Dartmoor National Park, said: "We are delighted that this contract has been signed; improved broadband coverage on Dartmoor is a top priority for the National Park Authority. We have worked hard with the Connecting Devon and Somerset Partnership to develop a specification that works with the unique nature of Dartmoor and are delighted that Airband has put forward some innovative solutions to reach our deeply rural communities.
“We recognise how important broadband connectivity is to Dartmoor communities – it is an essential service to help people, work, live, learn and play. We are pleased that this new phase of the programme will deliver superfast broadband to some of our most hard to reach homes and businesses. We will continue to try to find solutions and funding to ensure the remaining hard to reach areas can benefit from this essential service."
Dr Nigel Stone, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We are very pleased that this contract with Airband will improve the delivery of superfast broadband to a significant number of premises and in addition will ensure everybody across Exmoor will have access to improved broadband.
Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) said: “We are very pleased that the success of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project will benefit the business and resident communities of our two national parks with superfast broadband to help drive business growth.
“CDS is one of the main connectivity projects supported by HotSW LEP through the Growth Deal and Growing Places Fund - connectivity being a central aim of our Strategic Economic Plan – it’s also the largest superfast broadband project in England which helps us achieve another of our central aims: to increase HotSW’s contribution to UK plc. We are committed to continuing to work with CDS to deliver the maximum outputs possible for superfast broadband throughout the Heart of the South West area.”
Redmond Peel, Managing Director of Airband, commented: “We are delighted to have been chosen to deploy the first large scale fixed network within the UK. Knowing how essential high speed broadband is to both homes and businesses, we are looking forward to working with the local residents and businesses in Devon and Somerset to provide fast internet connections. Already providing internet services in many rural areas we appreciate the need for everyone to have access to the same high speeds. It is our desire to remove the rural/urban divide so everyone can have the same access to this essential service.”
“Our extensive knowledge of deploying services in the Welsh hills has given us experience and insight into dealing with the geographical challenges that we will come across in the National Parks and our use of a high proportion of existing structures and buildings to build a robust network will reduce planning issues and time lags for delivery. Our solution uses state of the art data radio technology with radios capable of up to 100Mbps in place of fibre, ensuring high speed connection where fibre is not available.”
Residents and businesses can keep up to date with the latest cabinets going live via Twitter @DCCSCCBroadband or via www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk, where you can search your postcode to check on superfast broadband in your area.