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VoIP Unlimited goes the 'extra mile' to connect Dorset fossil museum

Tuesday, January 10th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A broadband provider that brought superfast connectivity to a state-of-the-art fossil museum on the Jurassic Coast is celebrating after scooping a Cable.co.uk award.

The multi-million pound Etches Collection, home to the world-renowned finds of collector Steve Etches, opened in the Dorset village of Kimmeridge last year.

But with no broadband infrastructure and poor mobile coverage, it was facing a future without any sort of connectivity.

That was before the installation of a new superfast wireless network by Poole-based VoIP Unlimited, work that has since earned the firm a Cable.co.uk broadband award for going the ‘extra mile’.

Cable.co.uk reported in November 2015 that the museum’s only hope of getting online was to ‘piggy back’ on a wireless solution mooted by a local fuel company.

The situation for Kimmeridge residents wasn’t much better, with average speeds of about 250Kbps and a shortage of landline connections.

VoIP Unlimited’s managing director Mark Pillow said the company was first asked to provide a phone service because the village’s existing cable only supported 50 phone lines – 48 were already in use and two were broken.

“Obviously, you can’t open a museum without a phone so we were asked if there was anything we could do on VoIP,” Mr Pillow told Cable.co.uk.

“But we looked at the bigger picture and the village was really suffering, so we looked at all the options and decided that a radio link was the best way to go.

“It so happened to be that the guy who owns Portland harbour lives in the next village from Kimmeridge so we got in touch with him, put our plans in and he thought it was a great idea.

“We installed fibre into Portland, put a load of roadside cabs into Portland, ran four kilometres of cable through the harbour, through the Portland area, up a hill and used licensed radio gear across the bay and stuck a mast in Kimmeridge.”

Challenging work

Mr Pillow admitted the work itself was challenging but said that’s just the way he likes it.

“The biggest problem when we did the install is that we couldn’t use mobile phones, which was very frustrating because you appreciate how much you rely on them,” he said.

“We had to hire two-way radios just to be able to communicate. It didn’t really dawn on us until we started off just how remote this place was.”

The result of that work is a reliable broadband connection and internet-based phone services, both for the museum and for Kimmeridge’s long-suffering residents.

“The residents are currently using a 50Mbps service, we can go anything up to a gigabit there so as time goes by we’ll upgrade the service and keep up with the industry,” said Mr Pillow.

The Etches Collection now has a future-proofed fibre broadband connection

John Woodward, project director of the Kimmeridge Trust, the charity that built the museum, said: “We’ve gone from nothing to whatever we want.

“It’s certainly enough for all of the administration and everything else that the museum needs but in the long term, once we get going more on research and the academic side and we have people there researching, then we will want more.

“The whole village has benefited from this, there were times in Kimmeridge when kids couldn’t do their homework and would have to stay in school or their mums would drive them to the top of the hill and they’d sit in the car where they could get a stronger signal to do their homework.”

On winning one of Cable.co.uk’s broadband awards, a spokesperson for VoIP Unlimited said: “For us to be recognised for literally going the extra mile and taking on a project that a lot of larger companies wouldn’t normally do is something that we really appreciate.

“It puts a spotlight on some of the smaller ISPs that might be doing some of the bigger things.”

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