Broadband from the Belfry

The church of St Cyriac and St Julitta in the Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Prior not only has an unusual name but is soon to find itself an unusual new use.

The tower of the church is set to be the site of a radio installation which will help to bring high speed broadband to villagers – something which has previously evaded them.

Reach and Swaffham Prior (RaSP) community broadband is a group set up to provide broadband access to members within the Reach, Swaffham Prior and latterly Upware Villages. The group is voluntary and strictly not for profit, but delivers a high quality broadband service where other providers cannot. All users are members of the RaSP group and are encouraged to learn more about the group and be part of the on-going maintenance and improvement.

Hugh de Lacy, one of RaSP’s technical support personnel says:

‘RaSP was set up to bring faster broadband to a rural area of Cambridgeshire with very poor service. Growing demand has led to severe peak-time congestion on RaSP’s network: the radio point on St Cyriac’s will be a key element in an ongoing upgrade programme to improve the service to our users’.

The RaSP network makes use of a privately leased fibre-optic cable that terminates in Reach to provide a high speed internet gateway. RaSP subscribers are linked in to the fibre gateway using a wide area outdoor wireless network. The radio units that make up the network are mostly located on various members’ houses but this can create difficulties because of the relatively low height of many of the radio points. This problem is particularly acute between Reach and Swaffham Prior because of a ridge that lies between the two villages; this has hitherto required a two-stage ‘dogleg’ connection which has reduced speeds and aggravated network congestion. The tower of St Cyriac’s (one of the highest points in Swaffham Prior) will provide a direct link back to Reach using recently developed higher speed radio equipment.

RaSP believes that they can give a number of benefits over and above other providers and the group says that it is technically superior to the standard offering that most telecoms companies provide due to its reliability, availability and higher speed.