Broadband provider aiming to reduce rural digital divide in Shropshire

A broadband provider is investing in its plans to reduce the digital divide in rural areas.

SWS has been operating in Shropshire and Wales since 2005 and now provides a superfast broadband connection to more than 2,650 properties.

It is in the process of upgrading its existing wireless mast infrastructure and installing equipment in local telephone exchanges to provide gigabit-capable broadband.

This will enable SWS to upgrade whole towns to a Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband solution at the same time as adding future-proof technology to much smaller villages across its current coverage area.

SWS has recently completed the first phase of its 100Gbps (100,000Mbps) Dark Fibre network around south Shropshire. This initial loop includes the towns of Shrewsbury, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Bishop’s Castle, Pontesbury and Minsterley.

SWS will now start delivering fibre broadband services throughout the areas by upgrading both residential and business properties to full-fibre infrastructure.

SWS has started work to convert an initial 24 rural villages into ‘Gigabit Villages’ which would otherwise not be able to access the technology had it not been for SWS’s broadband network.

The company has also identified an initial 17 larger communities within the Shropshire area which are eligible for the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and which can be upgraded by SWS to a future-proofed FTTP broadband solution.

The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme – being run by Building Digital UK – enables community groups to access up to £1,500 per domestic household and £3,500 per business.

SWS is registered as a communication provider under the scheme. Shropshire has provided an additional boost by registering under the scheme to provide top ups to the basic national voucher value; this brings the fund up to a value of £4,000 per domestic household and £7,000 per business which lie within the county boundary.

SWS has already registered and ringfenced voucher funding for the villages of Stiperstones, Woolston and most recently Habberley.

It has contacted most of the villages over the summer and still continues to gather interest for gigabit-capable connections from more eligible communities.

If anyone lives or work in Shropshire and would like to get gigabit-capable broadband for their property/business and community, contact SWS via its website or email gigabit@swsbroadband.net.

Where the funding is not yet available, SWS is rolling out the upgraded fixed wireless access technology which enables premises to enjoy speeds of up to 90Mbps. This is an increase from the current available speed of 30Mbps.

With the investment in both Dark Fibre and the FWA network, SWS is progressing its plans to link local communities to the upgraded network and deliver a broadband service via fibre to each premises. This means that the broadband coverage around rural south Shropshire will become extensive and comparable to the service available in any UK city.

Chris New, chief strategist and technical officer, said: “Our goal is to support rural communities, both in Shropshire and in Wales, to access broadband services equivalent to those in major cities and towns by removing the digital divide through the implementation of future-proof, gigabit-capable infrastructure. We are delighted to be updating our three-year target which we set in October 2020 from 5,000 to 15,000 customers.”

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