An expanding company is using innovative techniques to help some of the most rural areas of Northumberland access superfast broadband.
And for many, this connectivity is proving to be vital, dramatically improving life for residents and businesses in remote parts of the county.
Alnwick-based Alncom showcased its work on Friday at a special event at Ellingham Hall – one of the venues to have benefited from the firm’s broadband strategy.
The company, which recently relocated from the town centre to Cawledge Business Park, is working in a ‘unique way’ to help parts of Northumberland get connected.
Alncom aims to complement rather than compete with traditional telecoms providers, such as BT. The company maps BT’s planned cable broadband rollout and follow-ups to provide wireless internet to businesses and houses that BT cannot connect to.
“It means that no one misses out, even where BT can’t deliver,” said Alncom’s managing director Stephen Pinchen.
“With Alncom rural broadband, everyone within a home or small business is able to do what they want online without any annoying buffering.”
Alncom uses several techniques to make this happen. One method is to connect to a source from a fibre-enabled area and send this to the remote location, up to 45km away, using line-of-sight wifi links.
Another approach is to incorporate a mix of technologies, including TV white space (the unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum) in the most remote locations and areas where line-of-sight links are not possible, giving connection up to 20km between the fibre-enabled source and the wifi receiver.
Stephen said: “We have a history of providing solutions where other telecoms providers can’t. We deliver innovative and bespoke solutions that are scalable, delivering to a single house or multiple properties over several sites.”
Among those to have benefited is Linhope Estate – located seven miles up a single-track road deep in the Cheviot Hills.
There was no possibility of any broadband or fibre installation at Linhope Lodge – a guest house accommodating up to 18 people with a farming and sporting tourism business supporting the local economy – while clients had unsuccessfully tried satellite broadband.
In came Alncom, which pinpointed a small area on a hillside where superfast broadband could be received to a small mast from Powburn six miles away.
After planning permission, the mast was installed, powered up and Alncom secured 84 megabits per second to the living room of Linhope Lodge, while various other farms and cottages were able to be linked up with superfast broadband.
Lord James Percy, of Linhope Estate, said: “This has revolutionised life, connecting the remote community to the benefits of the internet, enabling business to develop and people to communicate and feel part of the 21st century.”
Another example is at Northumbrian Water’s Fontburn Reservoir site, where Alncom overcame challenges such as vast distances, hills and trees to bring superfast broadband to the area, aiding Northumbrian Water and also 150 residential properties over nearly 100 square miles.
As part of its forward-thinking approach, Alncom uses drone technology to quickly survey the landscape and plan solutions.
Alncom is also about to embark on becoming the first broadband provider to make use of Gigabit Vouchers for a wireless broadband installation at full fibre speeds.
The vouchers – a grant contribution towards upgrading business broadband to a high-speed connection – are funded by BDUK and have Northumberland County Council support from iNorthumberland.