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“Ultrafast” Dark Fibre Broadband Network Comes to Colchester in Essex

Posted Friday, February 17th, 2017 (2:26 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 870)
fiber optic cable blue

Around 900 businesses in Colchester (Essex, England) are slowly starting to gain access to a new “ultrafast” (1Gbps+) broadband network, which follows a Dark Fibre roll-out deal that was signed in September 2016 between Colchester Borough Council and an independent network operator.

The new Colchester Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFBB) network, which has initially gone live at the town’s new creative businesses centre, forms part of the local authority’s wider inward investment campaign (Colchester: Ultra Ready for Business). However it will eventually cover “most town centre businesses” and appears to harness a recent upgrade to the council’s existing infrastructure (e.g. the CCTV system).

Otherwise very little is actually known about the network and its product offerings, except that the contract to operate, commercialise and market the new newly installed Dark Fibre platform in Colchester Town Centre was won by County Broadband in September 2016, “following a competitive tender process“.

Not that you’d know the service existed after visiting the ISP’s website, which only seems to mention their fixed wireless broadband products for digitally disadvantaged / rural areas (we might have just overlooked it somehow). On top of that their Twitter feed has been silent since September last year and the Facebook link doesn’t seem to exist. Good start.

Paul Smith, Leader of the Council, said:

“Colchester is just one of a handful of cities and towns to be investing in Gigabit connectivity in the UK. The pure fibre network brings forward affordable connectivity and enormous opportunities for both the town’s existing businesses to improve and expand, but also for new business investing in the borough.

It opens up new markets and is also a further driver for the already flourishing creative and digital sector in Colchester. We have aspirations to roll out UFBB to the Northern Gateway and University of Essex and be at the forefront of 5G connectivity. There are ambitious plans in place and we will continue to work hard to build on Colchester’s growing reputation as a hotbed for innovation and creativity in business.”

Colchester Town Centre now aims to be “one of the best connected places in the country” and they have an aspiration to extend UFBB further in 2017. Apparently the “first phase” of this new network will pass around 850 businesses, with key “focal points” existing at the new Creative Business Centre (37, Queen Street), the High Street, North Hill and Middleborough business clusters.

Business that connect to the network, assuming they can find any useful details about how to do that, should in theory be able to access symmetrical speeds of up to 1Gbps (Gigabit per second). The description is a little vague, although we understand that the network will also be Open Access for other ISPs to use and sell services over.

The network will also aim to reach other key regeneration and economic growth zones during 2017, particularly the key Northern Gateway development zone adjacent to the A12. Funding for the new network has come from the S106 and Local Growth Fund money, channelled through the South-East LEP.

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12 Responses
  1. Fastman

    interesting comment as they only operate a local wireless network and have no fibre customers

    • Fastman

      interesting that they are using S106 and LEP money or trying to as I would assume that would require some state aid clearance as that is all public money and could be considered overbuild as majority of that area has had BDUk spent on it by Superfast Essex / Commercial programme

    • MikeW

      Unless de minimis applies

    • Fastman

      diminiumus I think is 200k in any one year — that going to be well over that figure

  2. Fastman

    will be very interesting to see what you can actually get and more important who you can actually get it from if and when it comes

  3. GNewton

    The article says:

    “We have aspirations to roll out UFBB to the … University of Essex”

    The Essex University already has ultrafast internet, it uses the Janet network, see https://www.jisc.ac.uk/janet

    • MikeW

      Students? Halls?

    • 125uS

      JANET isn’t broadband.

    • GNewton

      @MikeW: It’s the whole campus which includes halls, offices, student accommodations. Having said that, the Essex University also has various student’s apartment blocks outside the campus, in different parts of Colchester. It could be that Paul Smith was referring to that part.

    • MikeW

      I was initially surprised that Janet would offer itself as backhaul for private internet access (as opposed to academically-based internet access). But it seems they do offer access to 3rd-party ISPs for this purpose – effectively wholesaling the backhaul.

      That’s rather different from when Janet started … with just two terminals in our computer centre connected to an X.25 PAD running at 9.6kbps. The Essex MUD was a favourite target then…

    • CarlT

      I believe B4RN uses, or at least used, JANet resources for backhaul, Mike.

      They also pay others for dark fibre and active bandwidth so I can easily imagine the University renting dark fibre to connect sites.

    • MikeW

      I thought B4RN used a GEO fibre that was part of their route from Manchester to Scotland.

      B4RN certainly benefitted from the experience that Barry Forde gained from his Janet experiences, but if they’ve benefitted from less abstract resources, then I’ve not heard about it, or not realised what I was being told.

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