Work has started to lay fibre in pockets throughout the island with trials under way in the area of St Peter Port north. According to Justin Bellinger, chief executive of Sure Guernsey, 500km of fibre is in the ground already.
By the end of next year, Mr Bellinger wants to see more than 7,000 properties connected to the network with more added steadily until the network is extended to every property in Guernsey by 2026.
Precise details about locations and relative times cannot be given yet, but Mr Bellinger said customers will see pockets of the island speed up over the next few years with road disruptions kept to a minimum.
‘We share road closures with other utilities where we can,’ he said.
The current works at Rouge Rue are shared by both Guernsey Electricity and Sure for fibre installation. Instead of installing and connecting properties to the fibre network parish by parish, Sure will be working in pockets to trial connectivity around the entire island.
Sure is building a wholesale network, which means all licensed operators will have non-discriminatory access to the network at regulated rates approved by the island’s competition regulator.
Mr Bellinger said the base wholesale pricing would be the same for both the new fibre network and for the old copper network. However, at its most basic, fibre speeds will be twice as fast with the capacity to provide speeds up to 50 times faster than today’s basic broadband.
In exchange for its £25m. investment, Sure is expecting to see GDP improvements and a return on investment over the course of many years to come.
‘[This investment] is like mineral exploration – we put the foundation underground and we hope to build off the infrastructure for years to come,’ he said.
By 2026, Sure aims to switch entirely from the current copper broadband network to fibre. Mr Bellinger said Sure cannot run both networks in parallel because it is not cost effective.
Although everyone will eventually need to switch to the new network, he said properties will first be given the choice to move to the new system for a period of time before it becomes a necessity. He does not expect much resistance from islanders.
Fibre is currently available to most businesses and schools, but Mr Bellinger said the fibre expansion is important because it makes swift internet access ‘ubiquitous and equitable’ for everyone.
Fibre is comprised of tiny strands of glass, each thinner than a human hair. Mr Bellinger explained that fibre wires are passive, meaning information travels through the strands using lasers. Copper networks are powered by electricity passing through the cables. Because the fibre network is less power intensive, Mr Bellinger said it is ultimately a greener system.
Furthermore, distance will no longer be an issue. Mr Bellinger said a property’s distance from an access box will no longer affect speed and connectivity.
Mr Bellinger said the new network will provide more security for people working from home, and he expected more creative businesses would sprout up across the island, as network availability and location will no longer be a barrier.