Durham skydiving firm is flying high after signing up to superfast broadband

The Skydive Academy says customer numbers have jumped by more than half after streamlining and expanding its operation with the help of fibre broadband.

The Skydive Academy says customer numbers have jumped by more than half after streamlining and expanding its operation with the help of fibre broadband.

Owner Ian Rosenvinge, who runs the academy from the Peterlee Parachute Centre at Shotton Airfield, said: “The impact that superfast broadband has had on the business has been quite incredible. It has completely revolutionised the way we work.

“We have expanded the business by adding a larger aircraft to take more passengers and improved our facilities, with additional equipment, a larger spectator area, additional toilet facilities and parking, but we could not have grown at the pace we have without superfast broadband. It allows us to punch above our weight because we can operate that much more efficiently.”

Ian said having a superfast connection had enabled the company to move its entire booking and admin operation online using ‘cloud’*computing so staff and customers could access booking and management systems remotely.

He said: “There are a lot of checks and forms to be completed before people can parachute. At one time we had to enter the data manually and you could end up doing that till midnight prior to an operating day. Now customers can upload a lot of the details we need online beforehand –saving considerable time and cutting out a lot of paperwork.”

Ian added that moving online superfast had allowed them to handle almost double the numbers without the cost of taking on extra staff.“Before we had superfast, when we were busy we would have a queue of 40 to 50 people waiting to be checked in at opening time and to expand further would have required extra staff to manually process them all in time. Now there are no queues because people have entered most of the information we need online before coming. And when it is busy, such as for regional or national competitions with large numbers of visiting jumpers, we can open up additional virtual booking-in stations simply by logging on wirelessly with a laptop.

“We’ve definitely got more people coming through our doors now – three years ago we were doing around 4,500 jumps a year, its now more like 7,500. We couldn’t run our business to the level we do without having superfast behind it.”

An additional benefit is that customers can now use the centre’s wi-fi to upload photos or videos of their experience. Customers can also use a ‘departure viewer’ accessible from their smartphone or other online device – to see what flight they’re on and get news and weather updates from the academy.

“Before we had superfast, anyone coming in and logging onto our wi-fi would cause the broadband to just grind to a halt, which made getting the bookings processed an absolute nightmare,” Ian said.

“Whether a jump goes ahead is dependent on the right weather conditions. Now I can send out multiple updates to customers’ online accounts so they know if their jumps are going ahead and this saves them turning up to discover parachuting has been cancelled. That’s something I couldn’t do without the fibre connection. Everything is just so much simpler and quicker now.”

More than 86,000 homes and businesses are now able to connect to faster, fibre broadband thanks to the Digital Durham programme. This is in addition to the 260,000 homes and businesses that already had access to fibre as a result of BT’s commercial roll-out in the county.

On average, engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, are switching on 22 new street cabinets and making the new fibre network available to around 4,700 more premises every month.

A second phase of fibre deployment is already planned to begin in July 2016. This will see a further £9 million invested in the programme area. It includes £2.82 million from the Government’s Superfast Extension Plan and £4 million from BT, with the remaining investment split between the local authority partners. An additional 29,000 homes and businesses will benefit as a result. By the end of the roll-out, 97 per cent of premises within the programme area will have access to fibre broadband.

Thousands of homes and businesses across the Digital Durham programme area have ordered fibre broadband and are now enjoying faster broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.[1]

It’s an ‘opt in’ service, but because the Openreach network is ‘open’, residents and businesses wanting to upgrade have a choice of fibre broadband providers, with more than 140 companies now operating across the UK.

The Digital Durham broadband programme is delivered by Durham County Council and BT.In total, £34 million has been invested by BT, Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and public sector partners in Sunderland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the Tees Valley.

For more information about the Digital Durham programme please visit www.digitaldurham.org

[1]These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary