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Gigaclear kicks off rural gigabit fibre broadband project in Kent

Fibre broadband ISP Gigaclear has started to roll out gigabit fibre broadband as part of the Ultrafast Underriver project in western Kent. 

The project, expected to be completed by the end of Summer 2014, will see over 2,300 homes and businesses able to access the Gigaclear network, which provides download and upload speeds of up to 1Gbps (1,000Mbps). 

Gigaclear products start at £37/month for a 50Mbps broadband service, for those who don’t yet have the need for a gigabit connection.  

Dig for Victory: Gigaclear finally begins to connect rural Kent to gigabit fibre broadband

There’s also 100Mbps and 200Mbps products as well as a 1Gbps service for homes and businesses who do need a bigger pipe. These services cost £42, £49 and £69/month respectively, plus a standard £100 installation fee, which includes a gigabit wireless router.  

All Gigaclear services are symmetrical, meaning the maximum download and upload speeds are the same. 

Underriver resident and project founder Mike Clyne said: “Ultrafast broadband will have an immediate impact on many of those living and working in the area – from families and would-be home workers to local employers – including agricultural businesses who are now required to make regular online submissions to Defra. 

“Ultrafast broadband will be key to the sustainability of the area. I think the biggest impact will be felt in a few years’ time as new, currently unthought-of online services and applications, are developed and higher speeds required. The Underriver network is future-proofed.”

The Ultrafast Underriver network will be built in two stages. The first stage, expected to be completed by early July, will connect over 400 properties in Wildernesse Estate, Blackhall Lane, Godden Green and Underriver – from where the rural broadband project gets its name. 

The second stage will extend the network eastwards, initially connecting Bitchet Green, Stone St, Ivy Hatch before mobving on to Plaxtol, Shipbourne and Ightham Common and finally the village of Seal. 

It’s been a long time coming for residents of Underriver and the surrounding areas. Clyne first set up the project and reached out to Gigaclear in September 2012. Digging was initially supposed to kick off in Summer 2013, but pledge targets and discussions with Kent County Council, to keep Ultrafast Underriver and the council’s superfast broadband plan from overlapping, saw the project put on hold. 

Sealing the deal: Gigabit FTTP for 2,300 properties by the end of Summer 2014

Now the spades have finally started hitting the ground. A connection to the Vodafone national fibre backbone network has been made in the A25 in Seal and cables from there to the first cabinet in Godden Green are being installed now.

Gigaclear is confident that patience will be rewarded. Matthew Hare, Gigaclear’s chief executive said: “A large part of the success of this project has been down to the support of local residents, and the effective collaboration and information sharing from Kent County Council and Sevenoaks District Council throughout.  

“We look forward to seeing the community reap benefits from the network in the short and long term future.” 

Mark Dance, Kent County Council cabinet member for economic development added: “This is an exciting day for the community and we are delighted that Gigaclear is taking forward this scheme in Kent. 

“This is great innovation and will bring superfast broadband into even more homes and businesses – which perfectly complements KCC’s total commitment to extending the reach of superfast broadband across Kent.” 

The Making Kent Quicker project, due to be completed by the end of 2015, will see 95 per cent of the county connected to FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband by BT. 

FTTC lines currently provide top download speeds of 80Mbps, but speeds decrease the further away a property is from the nearest street cabinet. A number of properties will also benefit from FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) lines, delivering download speeds of up to 330Mbps. 

By contrast, all of Gigaclear’s connections are FTTP lines, meaning that everyone covered by Ultrafast Underriver will be get a future-proofed connection. 

BT has launched an FTTP on Demand programme, which lets you upgrade the copper ‘last mile’ of an FTTC line with fibre, but this service is currently limited to businesses only. FTTP on Demand is currently available from over 300 BT exchanges

Image: Gary & Anna Sattler/Flickr

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