Wireless technology used for the first time in Essex to connect villages to Superfast Essex network

Two villages in Essex are among the first in the UK to benefit from a new wireless technology bringing superfast broadband to remote communities.

Two villages in Essex are among the first in the UK to benefit from a new wireless technology bringing superfast broadband to remote communities.

Engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, have used the latest Wireless-to-the-Cabinet (WTTC) equipment to make superfast broadband available in Broxted and Brick End as part of the Superfast Essex broadband programme. A total 170 homes and businesses now have access to the fibre network in the two villages.

The technology was installed for the first time in Essex instead of the usual Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) link to avoid the cost and disruption of digging up several kilometres of local narrow roads.

It is one of a variety of innovative technologies used by Openreach to expand the reach of superfast fibre broadband. WTTC is being considered to help the Superfast Essex programme reach further remote rural locations, which do not yet have a superfast broadband service.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Partnerships, said: “It’s great to see new and innovative approaches being used to bring the superfast network to Essex communities. The fact that this wireless approach has the potential to help us provide the same broadband access to some of the more difficult-to-reach areas of the county is exciting news for the future.”

The WTTC technology is capable of providing broadband download speeds of up to 80Mbps, the same as FTTC, and avoids the need for underground cabling. WTTC is not the same as fixed wireless broadband which provides a wireless broadband connection from a mast into a property.

The WTTC microwave link involved engineers installing a small football-sized transmitter dish at the top of Sibley radio mast. It beams radio waves to a receiving antenna nearly 4 kilometres away linked to two green fibre broadband cabinets (Henham 2 and Henham 3) serving Brick End and Broxted villages.

Tony Smith, Superfast Essex Senior Project Manager for Openreach, said: “We were determined to find a way to make superfast fibre available to these villages. However, the cost and disruption caused by laying several kilometres of new duct and fibre made the usual ‘Fibre- to-the Cabinet’ operation prohibitive.

“The microwave link uses a dedicated radio spectrum so there is no possibility of the signal being lost or interfered with. For people using broadband in the villages, it will be exactly the same as if they were connected using fibre optic cables in the ground. The increase in speed and subsequent benefits are exactly the same. Customers’ premises are connected up to the fibre cabinet in the usual way so there is no need for any special equipment in the home.”

WTTC technology has so far only been deployed by BT in a limited number of locations in the UK, such as Northern Ireland, Suffolk, North Yorkshire, parts of South West England and now Essex.

The Superfast Essex programme is currently on track to reach 120,000 homes and businesses by 2019, providing superfast broadband access to 95 per cent of the county.

Find out the latest broadband rollout information for your area at www.superfastessex.org/maps.

Anyone not covered by the Superfast Essex programme can register their demand for superfast broadband by completing the Make the Connection Survey at www.superfastessex.org/getinvolved.