Ultra-fast internet is coming to Bolton, Preston and Hyndburn

This is exciting stuff. After a very successful Blackburn launch, we are now rolling out our ultra-fast broadband network to more towns across the North West.

The expansion is starting in Bolton, Preston and Hyndburn, with plenty more towns and cities in the pipeline.

You might have already read about the new roll-out in a couple of places, but the general upshot is that an additional 15,000 premises will be connected over the next few months alone.

There are a few reasons why we are getting a bit enthusiastic about this:

  1. We know from Ofcom’s own research that an ultra-fast network can benefit a town’s local economy to the tune of tens of millions of pounds and thousands of jobs.
  2. The expansion is proof that there really is an appetite for our new generation of wireless broadband technology.
  3. It’s another step towards our ambition of serving 4 million households by 2022.

Work is just beginning in these towns, with fibre-optic cables being installed via telegraph poles to wireless transmitters throughout the neighbourhoods. This can be done without any of the noise, disruption or expense of installing traditional fibre optic broadband technology.

The transmitters will then send ultra-fast broadband to receivers on each premises via radio wave, starting at 100 Mbps for £21 with nothing to pay upfront for eligible properties.

If you’re interested in seeing what the fuss is about, enter your details here and we’ll let you know once everything’s ready to go.

Blackburn is lighting up with ultra-fast internet

It’s been a couple of months since we launched our ultra-fast internet service in Blackburn and it’s fair to say we’ve made a few headlines.

Quite

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Few

I think that one reason we’ve had such a good reception is the lack of service that a lot of people feel they get from the ‘big’ ISPs.

We’ve heard from residents who had previously bought the fastest, most expensive broadband in their area, yet still didn’t get the advertised speed with any kind of regularity.

Part of this is down to technology and part of it is down to cost. Even the biggest internet service providers are struggling to roll-out ultra-fast broadband with any consistency.

If you live outside of big cities or in areas that aren’t chock-full of double garages and golf courses, it can easily feel like you’ve been overlooked. But we’re changing things.

We believe Blackburn will become the blueprint for how broadband will be delivered in the future. For the first time, ultra-fast broadband will be available to an entire town for a price that is lower than what most people already pay for their standard internet.

And speaking of blueprints, we are now rolling out the network to other towns, so keep an eye out for news in your area. In the meantime, check if you’re eligible by entering your postcode here.

 

What gigabit internet means for your home

Gigabit internet is something that you will hear more and more of over the next few years, so we thought it was probably best to explain how it will affect your life.

You’re probably used to your internet speeds increasing gradually as technology improves. Last year, for example, average download speeds increased 28% from 36.2 Mbps to 46.2 Mbps.

Gigabit internet means speeds of 1,000 Mbps or more. That’s an increase of more than 2,000%. It’s not just faster. It’s a genuine game changer.

We’ll get into what that means a bit later, but first let’s cover the basics.

What on earth is a gigabit?

A gigabit is a measurement of the amount of data that is transmitted by your internet, and is the equivalent of 1,000 megabits (or – if we want to break it down even further – a billion ‘bits’). What gigabit internet really means is that your broadband is capable of transmitting a gigabit of data in a single second.

So your speed is actually measured in gigabits per second, which is often shortened by providers to Gbps, or even just Gb.

1 Gb Internet? What’s the point?

I think we’d all agree that the internet 20 years ago was pretty rubbish. Well, the difference between 1 Gb internet and what you’ve got now is about the same. The change will be enormous.

It’s the kind of difference that is difficult to visualise. Just as not many people in the 90s were anticipating the boom in social media, the move into gigabit internet will open up an entirely new realm of possibilities.

This includes the stuff that sci-fi writers have been predicting since they could pick up a pen. From immersive 360 degree virtual reality to interactive robots in-tune with your kitchen appliances.

It’s not just about being able to game or stream 8K Ultra HD tv in every room of the house, it’s about having a genuinely interconnected home – all designed to make your life easier.

Where can I get gigabit internet in the UK?

While the largest providers are not yet capable of delivering gigabit internet in the UK, there are a number of smaller companies like 6G Internet which already have the technology.

There is no national infrastructure for delivering these sorts of speeds, so each company is installing its own network. This means that coverage is very patchy, because smaller companies that use fibre optic cables need to see if there’s enough demand in a specific postcode to justify digging up the roads and installing their cables.

Work is underway to speed up the installation of new fibre optic cables in towns, but this can take several years, millions of pounds and a lot of noise and disruption.

On the other hand, 6G Internet can install its wireless network within a town or city relatively quickly, enabling the vast majority of premises to receive its signal.

This is what’s happening in Blackburn right now, where 38,000 homes and businesses will be able to access gigabit internet within the next 12 months, with speeds rising to 6 Gbps by 2025.

This is just the start of 6G’s plans to reach 4 million homes within three years.

To see when we’re coming to your town, check your postcode now.

The difference between superfast, ultrafast and hyperfast internet

When you’re looking for the best broadband deal, you tend to get bombarded with terminology. Sometimes providers use different terms for the same thing. For example, some ISPs display their speeds as ‘Mb’ and others use ‘Mbps’, which both represent the measurement of megabits per second.

But there are times when you really do have to pay attention to the words, because not all broadband is created equal. So in case you’re ever curious as to what exactly you’re getting, we have produced this handy guide to the differences between superfast, ultrafast and hyperfast internet.

What Ofcom says about superfast and ultrafast internet

The law of averages says that if you’re reading this at home or in the office, it probably has access to superfast internet, which Ofcom defines as anything between 30 Mbps and 299 Mbps.

The same Ofcom standards put anything over 300 Mbps into the realm of ultrafast, but the general consensus is that these categories are too broad to really prove useful.

It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to consider someone with 30 Mbps and another person with 250 Mbps as receiving the same level of internet speed, which is why the industry has now added a few more categories.

Superfast vs ultrafast internet

Providers generally now categorise superfast as up to around 76 Mbps, as this is the fastest realistic speed that can be delivered by the existing copper cables that connect your premises to the internet exchange.

Anything more than that requires some additional infrastructure, whether steel coaxial cable, fibre optic or (our personal favourite) wireless broadband delivered to a small receiver on the roof.

Both Virgin’s steel coaxial cables and 6G Internet’s wireless broadband can deliver ultrafast speeds starting at 100 Mbps. Ultrafast is now considered to cover anything up to 500 Mbps.

Hyperfast vs gigabit internet

This is the point at which speeds move into hyperfast, ranging from 500 – 1,000 Mbps. Virgin cannot achieve these speeds as of yet, while 6G Internet’s network in Blackburn is expected to hit 1,000 Mbps within the next 12 months.

Otherwise known as gigabit internet, speeds of 1,000 Mbps upwards can only be achieved by digging up your road to connect fibre optic cables to your premises, or by connecting 6G Internet’s receiver to your roof. By 2025, our Blackburn network will be capable of delivering 6,000 Mbps, or 6 Gbps.

We are continuing to expand across the UK and aim to serve around 4 million households within the next three years.

If you want to know when we arrive, check your postcode today.

 

The best fibre optic broadband deal doesn’t use fibre optic

You know the drill by now. You search online for the best fibre optic broadband deal and get the same results -the same companies, the same deals, the same sinking feeling.

Like groundhog day but without the light-hearted ending.

The problem is you want the fastest internet possible and you’ve been told that fibre optic is the only way to go.

You might have even checked whether it’s available and seen the huge monthly fees or the long wait until a company has installed fibre in your area.

Well those aren’t your only options. Because without wanting to sound like a stage-hypnotist, you’re not actually looking for fibre optic broadband at all. You’re looking for ultrafast internet.

The difference is not just semantics. In numbers, ultrafast is anything over 300 mbps, which requires technology beyond the standard copper cable that connects most homes to their internet. But that doesn’t mean you have to replace one cable with another.

Our wireless broadband is capable of ultrafast speeds, and because installing it doesn’t involve digging up every street in town, it’s much cheaper for us to run compared to fibre optic broadband.

That means two things:

  1. We can bring ultrafast internet to an area much quicker than other companies
  2. We can charge our customers much less for speeds that previously only fibre optic cables could achieve

It’s still early days, but we are already in the process of making Blackburn one of the first-ever gigabit-capable towns in the UK, meaning residents will soon have access to speeds of 1,000 mbps as standard.

Speeds are currently capped at 100 mbps for £21, but will soon get faster as we get our network fully established.

If you’re a Blackburn resident you might also be eligible for the government’s Gigabit Voucher scheme, meaning your connection to our network could be completely subsidised.

Why not check if it’s available in your area.

Five uses for your now redundant telephone line

The landline is dying a remarkably quick death. Having kept families in touch for the more than a century, house phone calls have halved in the last 6 years alone.

Unsurprisingly, the growth of internet data being used by households is showing no signs of slowing down. More people are using web apps like Skype or WhatsApp for calls, with record numbers of the older generation getting online to stay connected with their families.

The joys of internet without line rental

Internet without line rental happens to be one of the nice little extras you get with 6G Internet’s wireless broadband, which means you don’t even need a landline to stay online.

With no need to use it for the internet or calls, your telephone line is pretty much useless when you join us. So what’s the point in keeping it around?

Well, I suppose it depends on how much you enjoy paying line rental. If you still want to pay the monthly fee to keep your telephone line, we have come up with five helpful options so you can make the most of it.

Uses for your now redundant telephone line

Hmmmm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Secondary washing line
    Summer’s just around the corner and the weather is already veering between scorching and slightly damp – that precious time when hanging washing outside leaves you on a constant emotional knife-edge.

Should you dash outside and save your clothes from those ominous grey clouds, or risk leaving them out for that gloriously small chance of getting them all dry on one go?

Why not double the fun by hanging even more washing out on your telephone line? It’s all the fun of the casino with the added bonus of clean bed-sheets.

  • High difficulty badminton net
    It’s a game of energy and deft flicks of the wrist, but have you really even challenged yourself if you haven’t played badminton over a net as high as the roof of your house?

Granted this is very much dependent on whether your telephone line stretches across a busy road. No one wants their badminton match interrupted by an HGV.

  • External display for your children’s artwork
    Anyone with small children cannot help but be bewildered by the level of artwork they bring home on a daily basis. The front of the fridge can only hold so much and the thought of throwing it away is equivalent to burning it in front of them.

Problem solved! Show off your pride and joy’s creations to the whole neighbourhood. Who’s the best parent? I think we know.

  • Tight-rope for your pets
    Sure, there are a lot of unanswered questions for this one. Like how do you get your Labrador onto the telephone line in the first place? How much training will it need before it can travel across, and how do you get it down afterwards?

On second thoughts, this is probably a terrible idea.

  • Extra-dangerous zip line
    Yeah, this could end in tears too. Mea culpa. This one should have never left the brainstorm.

If you’ve got any better ideas we’d love to hear them. Or if you want to taste the joys of internet without line rental for yourself, why not see if you’re eligible today.

Digital inclusion in the spotlight

As more and more services move online, digital inclusion is a problem that is likely to become more pronounced for a significant section of the UK population. That’s because while the majority of Britain takes the internet for granted, there are still 11 million people lacking basic online skills.

According to Ofcom, if you are elderly, a low-earner, unemployed or live in social housing, you are less likely to be able to access the internet from your home or have the digital skills to take advantage of being online.

Thankfully, this issue has been given oxygen by ITV’s Tonight programme, who visited a project that we have been involved in with Leeds City Council to combat digital exclusion by connecting two of the city’s tower blocks to free broadband.

The partnership is part of the council’s 100% Digital Leeds programme aimed at giving every resident the access and skills to make the most out of the internet.

Leeds City Council estimates 38% of its 57,000 social housing residences don’t have permanent access to the internet. As part of the 14 month trial, we connected 160 social housing residences to free wireless broadband. It is streamed to the Grayson Crest and Clyde Grange tower blocks via radio antenna and offers 5 Mbps broadband residents to log on whenever they want.

It resulted in some absolutely brilliant feedback.

Grayson Crest resident Oliver had been searching for a job for three years without an internet connection. Four days after he was connected to 6G internet, he secured a job he found on Gumtree as a warehouse forklift driver.

He told us: “It’s the difference between being on £46 a week benefit and earning a good wage. £46 just goes in a day – I couldn’t do anything with my kids. Now I can take them swimming or to the seaside. I’ve started saving money for a better car and I can meet my friends without worrying about money.

“Without an internet connection I was searching for a job by buying newspapers or going to the library. After three years it gets disheartening – you just give up. Phone credit wasn’t cheap – if you want unlimited internet you’re talking £30 a month, so it was even difficult being able to talk to friends on social media. Now I can use my laptop at home. It’s made a big difference.”

Our partner at Leeds City Council, tenant engagement manager Ian Montgomery, said: “We know people suffer from a lower quality of life as a result of being unable to access the social, educational, financial, recreational and health benefits of being online.

“By connecting these flats to the internet and supporting people to learn how to use the technology, we are helping residents to find improved deals and save money, apply for jobs, manage finances and maintain contact with family and friends. It also helps the council to be more efficient, as residents are able to access online services to claim benefits, report issues and make payments.”

We are very proud of our work to connect more people to a better quality of life through free broadband. If you’re part of a local authority and interested in partnering with us, you can make an enquiry here.

Blackburn: Welcome to wireless

We are delighted to be able to announce that we are bringing gigabit-capable wireless broadband to Blackburn. After working closely with Blackburn with Darwen council, we can confirm that we will soon be beginning work to connect the entire town over the next 24 months.

For the vast majority of Blackburn residents, this will be the first chance to access this type of technology, which will be capable of delivering speeds of up to 6,000 Mbps by 2025.

To kick things off, we are offering 100 Mbps ultra-fast broadband at £21 – a price that is up to 50% cheaper than Virgin. Our speeds will then increase significantly year-on-year while still remaining much cheaper than major providers. It also means Blackburn will be one of the first towns in the UK where residents have the option of gigabit fibre speeds as standard.

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, the way we roll-out our network means there is usually very little disruption to residents. However, we have put carefully thought-through plans in place with the council to ensure that this continues to be the case.

There will be very little road-digging and most of our infrastructure can be installed within a day or two. We will have liaison officers on the ground during installation to make sure everything is going smoothly, and if there are any issues, residents will be able to call a helpline that will be dedicated to supporting them from the moment work begins.

We will continue to keep you updated as we get more confirmations, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, why not check if you’re eligible today.

What is wireless broadband?

Believe it or not, there are those of us who are old enough to remember when the internet consisted of squeaky dial-up connections, pages downloading at a rate of one per day and not being able to get online until your mum was off the phone.

Then came broadband, WiFi and speeds that increased a hundred-fold from 53 kbps (kilobits per second) to 5,300 kbps in a matter of a few years. Glorious, beautiful, life-changing internet became possible. But apart from gradual improvements in download speeds, the technology hasn’t really changed since it was introduced 20 years ago.

Well, now change has arrived, and it’s come in the form of wireless broadband that will increase the speed of your internet more than a hundred times over again, from the current average of 46.2 Mbps (megabits per second) to 6,000 Mbps by 2025. It means that in the years to come, we will start thinking of our current broadband connections in the same way as we remember dial-up: comically slow and hopelessly unable to achieve what we take for granted from our technology.

We think wireless broadband is the future

Wireless broadband has nothing to do with how you connect your devices at home; it is about how the internet reaches your home in the first place. Traditional broadband travels via high-speed fibre optic cable from national data centres to local exchanges and then by copper cable to your house. Because copper is terrible at carrying signals over any distance, providers are now in the process of switching them for fibre optic cables, resulting in ‘full fibre’ connections capable of up to 1,000 Mbps. This will take many years to complete, because it involves digging up every road to lay the new cable directly to people’s houses.

Regardless, traditional broadband travels a long way and is limited by the type of cable that carries it, even the most sophisticated fibre optic technology. With wireless broadband, the internet is sent to houses via radio signal at the speed of light, with no need for local exchanges and a far shorter distance to travel between the transmitter and receiver. It is broadcast via wireless transmitters installed on roof-tops, telecommunication masts, monopoles and street poles, creating a network that completely covers the town or city. As long as your home is within line-of-sight of one of the transmitters, you can receive wireless broadband, which is much faster and has better latency than anything that comes via cable.

The benefits of wireless broadband

The positive aspects of wireless broadband are not just limited to its speed (although the headline numbers are pretty impressive). With home phones slowly becoming a distant memory for newer generations, residents will be able to completely ditch their landlines if they want to. It also means there will be no such thing as ‘peak’ usage anymore. Currently, your home’s internet can slow down if lots of other households are online at the same time. That’s because the whole street often relies on the data from a single optical fibre split between houses. The wireless broadband connection provides every house with its own, individual link to ultra-high speed internet, unshared by any other household. It means that no matter how many houses on your street are streaming the latest 4K Ultra HD films, your home’s connection will not slow down.

One of the most exciting things about wireless broadband is that we are still at the very early stages of its development. Sure, 6,000 Mbps sounds fast now, just as 6 Mbps sounded fast in 1999, but as more and more money continues to flow into R&D for wireless technology, we will inevitably see speeds increase even further. The world is only a few years away from realising the potential of a completely new digital landscape. If you have been in any way excited, entertained or enraptured by the internet over the last 20 years, just imagine what the next couple of decades are going to bring.

The public sector must start working together to address digital inclusion

Poverty costs everyone a lot of money – from the families themselves via the poverty premium, to health and social care services, schools and housing. In fact, the impact of families living in poverty affects every part of the public sector, taking up 25% of health spending, more than a third of the housing budget and 60% of children’s social care expenditure.

A 2016 report by Heriot Watt and Loughborough Universities found that dealing with the consequences of poverty costs the public purse £78 billion a year – that’s £1,200 for every person in the UK. While it falls to the whole of society to take action to address the underlying causes, it is also the duty of each public service to manage the consequences of poverty as effectively and efficiently as possible. This means reducing its impact on families while also finding ways to reduce the impact on each service’s budget, allowing it to free valuable funds to help more people.

The allure of digitising services

The squeeze on public finances has run parallel to the boom in technology, with every organisation now searching for digital solutions to help improve the service they provide and save money at the same time. Unsurprisingly, each public service is focused on solving its own problems, but this has led to the mistaken impression that each problem is unique to them.

The NHS is continually exploring ways in which new technology can benefit its patients. Telehealth, for example, involves the use of health technology to monitor patients’ conditions remotely, meaning they are no longer required to stay in hospital and can live more independent lives at home. An NHS telehealth trial in Kent was found to reduce hospital admissions by 50% for the disease that was monitored, while home visits were also cut by 80%, resulting in savings of £1.2 million.

In a previous post, we mentioned a number of ways in which social housing providers are looking to digitise, including using artificial intelligence and big data to improve services to their tenants. Similarly, local authorities are searching for new ways to engage residents through digital services, reducing expenditure while allowing users to access adult and children’s social care services via apps, online portals and digital self-assessment forms.

The problem of digital exclusion

The focus on digital helps to cut costs and offers users the chance to engage on their own terms, but organisations are relying on the assumption that their users will have the means to access digital services. This is far less likely when dealing with families in poverty: Ofcom figures show that working-age people living in the poorest households are three times as likely to not have internet access compared to the national average. This leaves a sizeable portion of deprived service users at a further disadvantage: unable to benefit from digital services with alternative options dwindling as the channel shift picks up pace.

The point here is that digital exclusion affects every public organisation that has a duty of care to its service users. More often than not the responsibility for ensuring everyone can access online services falls to landlords or an individual department within a local authority, but this needs to change.

Instead of focusing on solving universal problems such as digital exclusion in silos, public sector organisations will achieve a far greater impact by pooling their respective resources, expertise and capabilities.

The causes of poverty cannot be addressed by a single charity, organisation, business or community, and neither can the consequences.