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Church tower project provides rural broadband boost for villages around Framlingham

Fram Broadband is installing high speed connections at the top of churches in the firm's local area. L-R: Graeme Hall (chair of parish council), James Halsall (diocesan advisory committee and pastoral secretary), Tony Eaves (Fram Broadband) and David Clough (tower captain) pictured at Hacheston Church

Fram Broadband is installing high speed connections at the top of churches in the firm's local area. L-R: Graeme Hall (chair of parish council), James Halsall (diocesan advisory committee and pastoral secretary), Tony Eaves (Fram Broadband) and David Clough (tower captain) pictured at Hacheston Church

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A rural broadband provider is taking internet access to new heights by using church towers to connect a network of Suffolk villages.

Fram Broadband already has a number of access points in the Framlingham area, providing up to 10Mbps (megabits per second) of upload and download speeds to about 150 homes and businesses.

The firm plans to expand to more villages and towns by installing aerials on tall buildings like Hacheston church, which is receiving a signal straight from the top of its tower.

Edward Leigh, one of three company directors, said: “Churches have historically been the centre of information for villages. Our intention is to work with the diocese to provide better rural broadband. We hope to fulfil a need that massive multinational companies may not see as core to their business.”

Fram Broadband now hopes to install more aerials in the area. The transmitters comprise three 120-degree aerials, providing a wireless network feed in all directions.

“We’d like to talk to more churches, and plan to move further out towards the A140 and the coast, and up to the Norfolk border,” said Mr Leigh.

Although the service does not meet the Government’s 24Mbps download target – which it wants to extend to 95% of the population by 2017 – Mr Leigh argues that speed is not decisive, but that what matters is a stable network with low contention ratios – potential maximum demand measured against actual bandwidth.

“We run a symmetrical network, meaning you get the same upload and download speeds,” he said.

“Most networks borrow upload megabits for downloads. That was fine in the past, when people were downloading a lot more than uploading – but now you’ll find uploads can be a tenth of the speed advertised. It can have a major impact if you’re having a Skype conversation, gaming online, or even doing internet banking.

“People just want to know if they can download music, or do their homework without having to visit the library. If the service works, you won’t need to be checking the speed.”

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