Fibre to the Font helps Peterborough Cathedral stay connected

Mathew Setchell (Airphone), Ben Flanz (Openreach), Canon Tim Alban Jones (Vice Dean at the Cathedral), Phil Royal (Openreach), John Forde (Airphone) and Tom Read (Openreach)

Some of the fastest and most reliable broadband in the UK is heading to Peterborough Cathedral thanks to an innovative link-up between Openreach and local Telecoms and IT specialists Airphone

Ultrafast full fibre broadband is set to transform the online fortunes of the iconic Peterborough landmark, which includes around 20 apartments and houses, three businesses and Light Project Peterborough’s Garden House within its Precincts.

The new connection will bring much faster speeds, improved reliability and is future proof for years to come. It’ll be used to live stream services, improve connectivity for those living and working across the site, support the current CCTV and security setup, and will be available to use for major events.

Engineers from Openreach’s Chief Engineer Team – the company’s equivalent of the ‘telecoms SAS’ – built the new network after Airphone got in touch. They’d been working hard to find a way of getting access to faster speeds on behalf of the Cathedral and quickly joined forces with Openreach.

Canon Tim Alban Jones, Vice Dean at the Cathedral, said: “During the pandemic, when we were live streaming services and trying conduct business online with an unreliable connection, we became acutely aware that we needed to improve our broadband. I do not underestimate how difficult it was to do this on our historic site, which has Scheduled Ancient Monument status. We are so grateful that the skill and persistence of Openreach and Airphone means we can rely on our broadband for the first time. Worshippers online, residents working from home and all those who hire our facilities can now benefit from that service. It also means that we have the confidence to conduct more business online, helping to reduce our carbon footprint, and in the not-too-distant future develop more ‘virtual’ tour experiences for visitors to the Cathedral in person and online.”

John Forde, CEO of Airphone, said: “We’re delighted to have been able to bring this project together and help make full fibre available. From the outset, we’ve worked closely with the team at Openreach to plan and manage a difficult and complex build, due to the historic nature of the Cathedral site. It took a great deal of planning to make sure we worked sensitively and without disturbing a historic and important location.

“We were initially contacted to see if we could come up with a full fibre solution and we knew we were up for the challenge, even though others had not been able to make it happen. It’s not been easy, and we’ve had to draw on three decades of experience to get this over the line and it probably wouldn’t have been possible without the tenacity of Airphone’s Mathew Setchell who was instrumental in making it happen. The new full fibre connection is fast, reliable and future-proof and will make a huge difference to day-to-day life at the Cathedral.”

In order to connect the site, engineers were able to bring nearby fibre into the Precinct. Across Cambridgeshire, around 40,000 premises already have access to full fibre and that number continues to increase.

Andy Whale, Chief Engineer for Openreach, said: “The work we’ve done to connect Peterborough Cathedral illustrates perfectly how fast, reliable broadband is essential for us all. The Cathedral is a really important part of daily life for the Peterborough community and good connectivity is vital.

“Our engineers worked quickly to build the network here including one – Chris Flanz – who celebrated 50 years with Openreach during the build, but they had to work carefully and sensitively, given the importance of our surroundings. We consulted with archaeologists before starting work to ensure we didn’t disturb anything of historical importance, and we’ve kept all our work to a maximum depth of 300mm on their advice.”

Openreach plays an important role across the East of England. More than 3,300 of our people live and work here. Recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) highlighted the clear economic benefits of connecting everyone in the East of England to full fibre. It estimated this would create a £5.4 billion boost to the local economy.

Openreach recently made a number of announcements on its latest build plans for the region where more than 700,000 additional homes and businesses - including 150 mainly rural and harder to serve areas – will get access to ultrafast fibre broadband. The company is also working in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council as part of their Connecting Cambridgeshire programme.

With download speeds of 1 Gbps, future-proof full fibre broadband is up to 10 times faster than the average home broadband connection. That means faster downloads, better quality video calls and higher resolution streaming.

You can also use multiple devices at once without experiencing slowdown – so more people can get online at once and you won’t experience stuttering, buffering or dropouts. Full fibre is also less affected by peak time congestion.