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Laying the Foundations of the Future

Posted: Friday 13 April 2018

Later this year, Jersey will become the world’s first ‘full-fibre’ Island, with every household and business broadband directly connected to JT’s ground-breaking network.

Full-fibre means that the entire link between the property and the telecoms network will comprise fibre, which ensures that JT can deliver guaranteed data speeds to the front door without any loss of signal strength along the way. It is this loss of signal that has plagued copper networks since broadband was first introduced and was a key driver behind JT’s decision to entirely replace its copper broadband network with a full-fibre broadband network.

When JT embarked on the Gigabit Jersey project in 2012, many commentators doubted the predictions in relation to: a) the extent of data forecast to be carried to and from households and businesses; or b) the number and capability of devices that would need to connect to the internet at the same time. But the significant changes to how people use technological services and live their lives, as well as the absolute requirement for reliable and consistent levels of connectivity, has placed full-fibre telecom networks at the heart of meeting customer requirements.

While choosing to replace a copper network with a full-fibre one was the most difficult choice available to JT in 2012, it was also the right one that put the needs of our customers and the Island first. It also meant that we started the journey of rolling out the network years in advance of the point at which it would be required.

It was always clear that a network rollout of this scale would involve a lot more than ‘flicking a switch’, which is why we started the extensive, far-reaching and challenging programme of work when we did. The result is that it is now finishing at the point at which people are starting to make real use of the consistent experience and increased guaranteed speeds.

Nationally and internationally, commentators have praised Jersey for its foresight, and the CEO of the States of Jersey, Charlie Parker, recently said that others would give their eyeteeth for the full-fibre network that has been rolled out in Jersey. While this is always pleasing to hear, from a JT perspective our focus is now turning to how we ensure we drive the maximum value from the strategic investment that has been made and the opportunities that it presents.

As part of this, attention now switches to the products and services provided across the full-fibre network. Next month, JT Fibre Broadband customers will begin to enjoy the fastest standard data download speeds in the world, when we more than double minimum download speeds from 100 Mb/s to 250 Mb/s and increase the minimum upload speeds from 10 Mb/s to 50 Mb/s.

These are the minimum entry level speeds that will be available and, to put things in context, it is worth referring to the Speedtest Global Index, which compares internet speed data from around the world on a monthly basis. The country with the fastest download speed in February 2018 was Singapore, with an average of just 161.53 Mb/s compared to our 250

Mb/s. The plan over subsequent years is to increase the standard speeds to 1 Gb/s, which will continue to keep Jersey in front of the chasing pack. Such moves will ensure we delivery on the policies and promises contained in the Chief Minister’s Digital Policy Framework and Telecom Strategy, which is something that we have been pleased to develop with the team at Cyril Le Marquand House over the last two years.

The move will allow all Islanders to benefit from the investment in full fibre and it will deal with the growing demand for internet-based services and higher data speeds. Households in Jersey now have an average of 15 devices directly connected to the internet and some homes have more than 150 separate devices connected to a single wireless router. This is a trend that will increase in light of automatic communications between devices and further integration into daily life.

These enhanced data speeds confirm Jersey’s position as a world-leading digital Island, and a great place to live, work and do business with. JT Fibre Broadband customers also benefit from free JT Fon Wi-Fi with access to over 20 million hotspots worldwide on the Island’s fastest broadband network.

By making these enhancements, JT hopes that our customers will be able to get more from their JT Fibre and enjoy the exciting products, services and apps that are increasingly making our lives easier.

While the Gigabit project has not been without its challenges, it has provided significant opportunities and hundreds of jobs in the Island. There are 150 people in the full-fibre team, around 100 of whom are field engineers connecting properties to the network on a daily basis. Other parts of the JT business have also contributed to the project. Clearly, laying over 3,000 km of individual fibre-optic cable to more than 30,000 homes and almost 5,000 businesses has been a considerable challenge and JT has made sure that project staff are fully trained. We have put people through the City & Guilds Fibre Optic Cabling qualifications and a number have gone on to become members of the Fibreoptic Industry Association. This training does not just encompass installation but includes how to help customers to make the most of full-fibre once they are connected.

Although the completion of our full-fibre network will be a significant milestone, it will not be the end of the journey. For over a century, our voices, faxes and data have travelled down copper wires, but this aged technology has passed its useful life and future is undoubtedly full fibre.

That said, full-fibre is not an end in itself; it is an enabler which helps other services and technologies to be used and deployed. With this in mind, JT does not expect a fanfare when the last property is connected to the full-fibre network. Instead, we hope that the Island – with its new robust, speedy and scalable communications infrastructure – takes full advantage of the digital revolution to develop new services, find new efficiencies, identify new USPs and add new economic strings to its bow. Jersey can lead in areas were others will follow.

With full-fibre, technology enters the realm of the possible, with the growing influence of the Internet of Things (IoT), fintech, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, chatbots and blockchain – which are all predicted to have a profound impact on our key industries.

Becoming the world’s first full-fibre jurisdiction has had its challenges but thanks to the work of an incredibly dedicated and resourceful team, we have risen to it. Jersey now has laid one of the key foundations for many years of prosperity.

 

To read JT’s article on ‘Building a Full-Fibre Future for Jersey’ in Connect Magazine click here.

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