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Government superfast broadband pilot connects two Hampshire villages

Thursday, October 1st 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Two Hampshire villages are getting superfast broadband as part of a trial to help get faster speeds to hard-to-reach areas.

Ropley and Bramdean, near Winchester, were selected to take part in a Government Innovation Fund trial to extend superfast coverage to areas that might not otherwise get it.

The villages were not originally included in Hampshire County Council’s superfast rollout because of the challenges of getting faster speeds to them.

But as part of the Innovation Fund trial, broadband supplier Call Flow is using a range of technology to make superfast services available to around 1,500 properties.

The government’s £10m innovation fund, which aims to explore ways to take superfast broadband to the most remote and hardest to reach places in the UK, has seen eight shortlisted pilot projects look into alternative technologies including fixed wireless and satellite networks.

The trial has seen an extra £1.2m investment into Hampshire, on top of the county council's existing £28m investment to extend superfast broadband from 80% to more than 95% of premises by 2018.

Call Flow’s trial features ‘hybrid’ solutions including Fixed Wireless Access and fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband, all of which will support a 30Mbps service.

Council leader Roy Perry welcomed the arrival of superfast broadband in Ropley and Bramdean.

He said: "Without this trial, these residents would not have the opportunity to increase their internet speeds – something which is becoming an essential requirement for modern-day living.

“It’s important that local residents are now made aware they can upgrade their broadband service – because the more people that sign up and prove this trial to be a success, the better chance for other rural and more remote areas in the county to access superfast broadband in the future."

'Smoke signals'

Call Flow's first cabinet in the area went live in March 2015, serving premises in and around Cheriton and Hinton Ampner and two more cabinets in the Bramdean exchange area went live in June covering parts of Cheriton and Bramdean.

50% of the planned network is already live, and 90% will be live by the end of 2015, with the upgrade due for completion by April 2016.

Residents in the trial area will need to switch their internet service provider (ISP) to Call Flow to upgrade to superfast broadband.

Earlier this week, Cllr Perry called for rural areas to be a ‘test’ of broadband policy.

In a letter published in the Financial Times, he said that in some parts of Hampshire, “smoke signals” would probably be faster than the broadband connection.

“Frankly, nowhere in Hampshire can fairly be described as remote or inaccessible but villages even on the edge of Southampton or Portsmouth can still have poor broadband access.

“Once you are half a mile down a lane in the New Forest or in the South Downs you might find smoke signals quicker.”

Hampshire County Council has previously called for local authorities to be given clear legal powers to demand that new developments have access to superfast speeds as part of the planning process.

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