IDNet Community Wi-Fi Project Connects Villagers in Rural Essex

Ramsden Bellhouse could be described as a quintessential English village. Set in a beautiful rural location, with historic church, local pub, a shop and riverside walks. It’s easy to see why this Essex parish is a very attractive place to live.

Even though Ramsden Bellhouse is a short drive from the bustling towns of Billericay and Basildon, many villagers have felt cut off by the lack of decent internet connectivity.

One local resident, Michael Spooner decided to do something about it.

I’ve lived in Ramsden Bellhouse for almost 26 years” says Mike.  “I have my own Independent Financial Advisor business called GreenSky Wealth, and work from home a lot because the business is located in Norwich.”

He continues “My road is quite a way from the BT cabinet, and speeds were around 2meg download and 0.2 meg upload … quite simply it was virtually unusable at times, Netflix forget it, any type of streaming resulted in constant buffering, downloading content meant downloading today to watch tomorrow! From a commercial point of view, it made working from home and communicating with colleagues very difficult.”

Mike heard about IDNet from a neighbour. Specifically, the work networks manager Steve Waters had successfully delivered in North Bucks and South Beds where rural communities with similar challenges found a reliable fast internet solution. Mike contacted Steve and the two agreed to meet to initiate a site survey to test the feasibility of bringing IDNet’s EtherWifi solution to Ramsden Bellhouse.

EtherWifi is a point-to-point secure radio transmission which, subject to location, can provide synchronous internet speeds of up to 100Mbps. Because its wireless it can relatively quickly and inexpensively be deployed when compared to digging up roads and laying cables. This makes it an excellent option for rural communities and people living on the outskirts of towns.

Mike took the mantle of local broadband champion and began to canvass his community.

Initially I was able to get several neighbours to express an interest in taking the service. We each paid a deposit with 20 neighbours signing up.  I had to get an agreement in principal from the Village Hall Committee to host the mast and the infrastructure.”

With everything agreed Openreach were contacted to install a fibre connection to the Village Hall from where IDNet were able to beam the signal around the village to any house that wanted it.  

Steve and IDNet were brilliant from start to finish” says Mike. But it wasn’t all plain sailing as we had to deal with Openreach and that was challenging at times!

I think we have around 50 sites in the village now using IDNet EtherWifi, we get a constant 30 meg up 30 meg down at any time of day.  It’s been very easy to use.  Any issues have always revolved around people getting the wifi signal around their own house and not the strength of the signal to the router.”

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