New wireless broadband to boost Norwich internet speeds

Sam WilliamsA new wireless broadband service is set to boost connection speeds in Norwich this summer - but swathes of the county will remain in the internet slow lane.Sam Williams

A new wireless broadband service is set to boost connection speeds in Norwich this summer - but swathes of the county will remain in the internet slow lane.

The network, developed by engineering firm Babcock International, is aimed at offering faster broadband speeds to home and business users in virtually every part of the city via a chain of small rooftop antennas.

The project will enable broadband service providers to offer connection speeds of up to 30 megabits per second (Mbps) - far higher than the 3.6 Mbps average currently enjoyed in the city - although in some areas the speed offered may be just one Mbps.

Launched in partnership with Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, the network has been hailed as a boost for the city's businesses, which are increasingly reliant on fast broadband to send large reports and for video conferencing and home working.

But while officials at Babcock say the network will be rolled out to other parts of Norfolk where demand is high, it is unlikely to benefit families or companies in rural areas.

As reported in the EDP last month, East Anglia has been left out in three successive waves in BT's roll out of superfast broadband, and many areas still have no or very slow broadband coverage.

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Richard Lewis, project director at Babcock's Next Generation Networks arm, said: 'What this will offer is broadband where there isn't broadband and greater broadband capacity for those businesses that need it.

'In Norwich and Norfolk there is a shortage of broadband connectivity and we aim to serve the business community by providing more connectivity.'

He said service providers were currently being sought to offer broadband and internet packages to both home and business customers using the Babcock network, adding: 'This is good news for business and for the people of Norwich.'

As well as business services, faster broadband speeds allow home users to browse the internet more quickly and offers better online access to television, film and gaming.

Details of service providers, pricing and products offered via the network will be announced at the B2B10 Spring conference on March 31, organised by Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.

Caroline Williams, chamber chief executive, said: 'This is the good news on broadband Norwich has been waiting for.

'This investment will improve the communication infrastructure in Norwich, supporting existing business, but will also help attract further economic development.'

And Peter Davies, chairman of Norwich technology firm Breakwater IT, called the announcement 'a very positive first step' in delivering broadband speeds companies 'have been crying out for'.

The network is not linked to the �1.35m OpenLink wi-fi coverage previously offered in Norwich in a two-year trial scheme managed by Norfolk County Council, which ended in 2008.

Broadband services using the Babcock network are scheduled to begin in early summer, and the company has urged businesses interested in new or faster broadband services to register an inquiry.

To contact Babcock email or call 01623 684000, quoting Norwich wi-fi.