I’ve just had one of those days you feel good about.

So often I tend to get involved in broadband projects at the very beginning and my work is done before a single spade breaks earth – in some cases its been as long as three or four years between my involvement and anybody actually receiving a service.

However, there are now several fibre projects live today, in very different locations and run by very different people, which I’ve been lucky enough to have some hand in at the very beginning. So today it was great to spend the morning in Bournemouth with the guys at Fibrecity to see how they’re getting on.

It was back in 2008 when I spent some time with a group of maverick entrepreneurs trying to work out what was the best passive architecture when delivering fibre across a city using as much of the sewers as possible. I learnt more about sewers in those few weeks then I ever thought possible but at the end of it we came up with what seemed like a pragmatic but potentially blistering open access solution.

In an ideal world everyone would have liked to deliver an ultimately flexible point to point fibre solution which could support either GPON with the splitters in the POP or Ethernet or both but the size of cable permitted in the sewers meant that it had to be PON. However we worked the topology of the sewers to minimise the splits to make sure today’s GPON equipment would deliver a 100Mbps symmetrical service with no contention in the access network so it could match anything a point-to-point Ethernet could deliver – more splitters could be added in the PoP to keep port costs down if needed but the lower splits could be used to deliver the fastest services possible should the need arise.

Two and half years later they have now passed 21,000 homes and the first real customers are starting to benefit from the work put in back then. Seeing the network in action it was great to see the early work really paid off. The 100 Mbps really was a 100 Mbps, except they have the optional burst turned on which meant they were demonstrating 1 Gbps – and there was no doubt it was 1 Gbps. HD movie files were downloading in seconds and speed-tests were heading off the scale.

There is no doubt that Fibrecity are mavericks – but its entrepreneurial mavericks that are needed just now if we are to break the mould. They are in the process of restructuring the company to bring the UK networks more in line with their international projects. I wish them all the very best of luck with that!

And when you see ads or news articles telling you some 50/100/200Mbps service is the fastest in the UK, remember, the UK already has Gigabit out there – I know I’ve seen it!

  1. cyberdoyle says:

    brilliant! Long live the JFDI mavericks, that is what this country needs to shame the incumbents into action.
    The tiny village of Ashby in Lincolnshire also has gigabit capacity, and as it grows this will prove to be the killer punch. It is happening, and the more it happens the quicker this country is gonna rock. Well done to everyone, and I certainly agree, actions are speaking louder than all the adverts can ever do. Shame the projects in question probably cost less than the advertising budget of infinity innit?
    We know the future can only come through fibre. We just have to keep proving it until the dinosaurs believe us. I remember you showing us the orange ducting at harrogate colloquium years ago…
    Keep rockin.

    • adrian says:

      Not sure I’d quite put Fibrecity in the JFDI camp – I think they’ve spent something like £20m so far in Bournemouth (biggest fibre project in the UK so far) and taken years planning it – but they’re no less ground breaking for that. And I’d say they’d rather the incumbent wasn’t shamed into action – Infinity pottering along at up to 40Mbps suits them, you, me and the broadband market rather better 😉

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