A Monmouth IT company has found an innovative solution to rural broadband ‘not-spots’ by using existing mobile phone masts.
BlueGlow IT Management Ltd is installing broadband systems into remote locations for commercial and domestic clients across Monmouthshire.
The technology works by taking 4G data from the same cellular towers mobile phones connect to and converting it to superfast broadband.
Customers then simply sign up to a monthly broadband deal with a mobile phone provider.
Ben Summers, managing director of BlueGlow, says he has had “huge success” in obtaining speeds of between 30Mbps and 84Mbps - without the need for specialist community equipment.
He started developing the system six months ago in response to the “clear need” for reliable and fast broadband in the county, specialising in demographically challenging areas where there is very poor BT coverage or no Wi-Fi signal.
“I’ve assembled a number of pre-existing components into a fast, proven and reliable system that works in all weather conditions,” said Mr Summers.
“The genius of this is that it’s using infrastructure already in place. 4G is not just for mobile phones. It was designed for high data use, therefore enabling this sort of technology.
“Broadband is not merely a commodity anymore. It has gone from being a lifestyle choice to a necessity, with poor connection hindering economic growth, rural and agri-businesses and domestic users.
“This rural broadband solution has been developed here in Monmouthshire for Monmouthshire by a company conceived, based and run locally.”
And with 5G now being talked about – a faster version of 4G – Mr Summers believes it could be the final death knell for fibre optic cabling.
“The technology we are riding on the back of is enjoying investment estimated to be around £1.5m a day,” he said.
“It is neither a fad nor a cheap fix. It is reliable technology with a future, especially as data is becoming more affordable.
“We do have the ability to help ourselves in Monmouthshire and we certainly don’t have to suffer anymore.”
One resident already benefitting from the new system is Toby Elliott, who lives in Maypole.
He was able to offset £800 of the installation cost by successfully applying for a grant under the Welsh Government’s Access Broadband Cymru scheme.
Regularly achieving download speeds of 35Mbps to 45Mbps, and uploading at between 10Mbps and 20Mbps, he pays £30.50 per month to mobile operator EE for 64G of data.
“This new system is going to be transformational,” said Mr Elliott.
“Before, using BT broadband and landline, I was lucky to get a download speed of 0.8Mbps – hopeless as we all know.
“We now have a Wi-Fi fast-speed broadband service throughout the house for all users and the maximum EE mobile broadband data plan is more than enough for us.
“There is no mobile signal in the house at the moment, so I hope BlueGlow will get Wi-Fi calling working. I can then use my mobile phone in the house for telephone calls, as well as for broadband.”
Mr Elliott’s intention is to do away with his BT landline altogether.
“I think there is quite a running cost saving when I am able to do all that!” he added.
Monmouth MP David Davies has been to view the broadband in action.
“Toby was forward-thinking enough to see the potential of this technology and is reaping the rewards,” he said.
“I was fully expecting to be greeted by some sort of obtrusive mast but instead there was a small, high-gain antenna attached to the side of the property.
“Obviously, it would be inappropriate for me to endorse any particular commercial organisation. However, the installation at Maypole clearly demonstrates there is an alternative and viable option worth exploring through a reputable and locally-owned company.
“For the many people in Monmouthshire who still cannot get broadband, this could be the solution they are looking for.”