SuperConnected Cities & Subterranean SuperConnected Cities
What would we do without our connectivity?
It is so easy to take for granted the way we use technology to run our business. I am multi-tasking while writing this blog sitting at home on a Sunday evening with three devices on our corporate network. I have been exchanging emails with one of my customers about a critical video conference on Monday, exchanging emails with one of my colleagues, monitoring some of my customers’ networks and I am logged into my company web site.
Last Tuesday I was working on the train in full communication with my team and my business applications – albeit a bit patchy at times. On Wednesday I was working from a customer’s premises testing an IP video conferencing installation and later that day I was working from a coffee shop in London. On Thursday morning we had a management meeting and a video conference where we shared presentations with our team around the UK.
”…I was out of range of my SuperConnected City while walking around a Subterranean City 50m below the streets of London.”
Our remote workers can make and take calls from their home or wherever they are on the road as if they are sat at their desk in the office. Our telephone lines are delivered via SIP so in the event of our office being taken out of service our voice lines can be diverted to an alternative location or even to mobile phones if we wished. This is all made possible by our high speed communications infrastructure. I can’t live without it. I have to confess though, on Thursday afternoon I was totally out of circulation. No Internet connection, no VPN connection, no mobile connection nothing! But I suppose that is expected as I was out of range of my SuperConnected City while walking around a Subterranean City 50m below the streets of London.
When I was recently asked to write a blog on SuperConnected Cities I wanted to make a connection to something in the past and two days later by pure coincidence I received an invitation from The Institute of Telecommunications Professionals (The ITP) for a tour around the Kingsway Tunnels. I jumped at the chance to take part in the Kingsway Tunnel tour as I am very interested in telecommunications history and I am also very interested in the history of London. The Kingsway Tunnels are often referred to as a “city under a city”. I believe they could have been referred to as a SuperConnected City under a city.
”…towards the end of the war by a Military Intelligence group similar to Q section in James Bond films”
The tunnels are an amazing feat of engineering. Originally built in 1940 as an air-raid shelter for up to 8,000 people but they were never actually used for this purpose. When the government passed large construction projects of this nature there had to be a potential future use to ensure the construction had a potential value after the war. The original intention was for the Kingsway Tunnels to become part of a latter day cross rail plan. That didn’t happen either and the tunnels were taken over towards the end of the war by a Military Intelligence group similar to Q section in James Bond films before passing over to the Post Office and later British Telecom.
The tunnels were fully self-supportive with power generation, water from an artesian well, air handling plant and communications. Around 200 staff worked in the tunnels and they were catered for with a restaurant, bar and games room. The tunnels were part of the critical national infrastructure and bearing in mind they were in operation throughout the Cold War they were designed to remain operational in the event of an atomic strike. If locked down the staff could live in the tunnels for approximately three months.
”… Bandwidth is the great business enabler”
The tunnels were fully equipped with a Strowger electro-mechanical exchange linking to many other telephone exchanges and government locations in the UK as well as being the termination point for TAT1 the transatlantic cable. TAT1 carried the Moscow to Washington hotline between the US and Soviet heads of state. So, at the time the Kingsway Tunnels were a SuperConnected Subterranean City – but now they have served their purpose I will forgive them for taking me out of circulation.
It did make me think though that many businesses do not take full advantage the technology available to them. I have always been nervous of just promoting technology for technology sake. I look for the business benefits and then apply the technology in a way that has specific value to the business. One of the most critical factors in any communications technology is bandwidth. Bandwidth is the great business enabler.
”…businesses could be missing out on the significant benefits high speed communications bring to their business.”
A few years ago the government set aside some money to invest in delivering fast, reliable broadband to homes and businesses. The intention was to help homes gain access to online services and to help businesses to compete globally. There is also a longer term view that it will position the UK as “Europe’s technology centre”. Initially ten cities were included in the programme. However, since then a further 12 cities have been added to the scheme which expires in March 2015.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is the part of Department for Culture, Media and Sport and is responsible for the SuperConnected Cities programme (SCCP). The programme helps businesses by providing financial support to cover the costs of setting up a high speed (20Mbps+) fibre connection. High speed communications can transform business operations through access to a wide range of communications technologies. Initially the SCCP was open to 10 cities in the UK but a further 12 have been added. The 22 SuperConnected Cities In the programme are:
- Brighton & Hove
Businesses may qualify for a voucher worth between £200 and £3,000 excluding vat to cover the cost of the fibre installation. Businesses located within one of the cities listed above requiring a minimum of 30Mbps bandwidth to their business are already eligible. There are a number of other factors that will determine whether you qualify for a voucher such as your business needs to be an SME, charity or social enterprise, the connection must be to your business premises (there may be exceptions to this), please contact us for more information on the qualification requirements.
In some of the cities the take up has been very low and this may be due to a lack of publicity around this offer or because businesses feel the qualification process is complex. Many businesses could be missing out on the significant benefits high speed communications bring to their business. The scheme is being run on a first come first serve basis and it is time limited so business could miss out on this opportunity if applying too late. High speed communications allows you to work smarter at any time, from any location where you have Internet access. Discover the true benefits of mobility with secure access to your business applications.
High speed communications give your business access to productivity improving services…
High speed communications give your business access to productivity improving services including Voice over IP and IP video conferencing. With both of these services your business can establish a local/national business presence, take advantage of free on-net calls and make it easy for customers to contact you with a single number whether you are at your desk or on your mobile phone. IP video conferencing allows you to reduce costs through more effective meetings, reduced travel, while provide a richer communication experience leading to increased productivity.
You can also take advantage of SIP services to cut telephone line and call costs, significantly improve resilience, take advantage of inherent Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity as well as having the flexibility of being able to increase and decrease capacity in line with business demands.
” There are many productivity improving services on offer…”
Many SMEs are also missing out on the potential Cloud or co-located services can bring to a business. Cloud services allow you to reduce hardware and software costs by taking advantage of shared services within the Cloud. There are many productivity improving services on offer including business applications, CRM solutions, document sharing and many more. Many of the issues that can take up valuable time such as back-up and retrieval, upgrades and compliance become someone else’s problem and all part of the Cloud or co-location services package. Security becomes less of an issue as the Cloud provider will have security specialists responsible for looking after all of the data and applications within their Cloud offering.
We take advantage of the technology ourselves and we could not function without it. Our team can and do work from anywhere as if they were in the office. We collaborate via video conferencing that is just as easy to install as it is to use and we can even send an email with a link to someone to download an application to join the conference call.
The Institute of Telecommunications Professionals
If you are interested in the telecommunications apprenticeship scheme, historic visits, technology updates or just telecommunications in general, I recommend joining The Institute of Telecommunications Professionals. We currently have two of our team going through a formal apprenticeship with the ITP which we are very impressed with. Having apprentices in our business has injected enthusiasm across the company. If you are a telecommunications company interested in introducing an apprenticeship scheme or you are interested in becoming a telecommunications apprentice get in contact with The ITP. My apprenticeship led to many exciting projects in equally exciting locations. It was great to see the introduction of the new telecommunications apprenticeship scheme, I am sure it will bring some fantastic opportunities to young people entering our industry.
To close I would like to thank The ITP for organising the Kingsway Tunnels visit and for the invitation to join them on this fascinating tour.
- Astro SuperConnected Cities page here
- Interesting article from a supplier’s perspective by Clare Greenall, Marketing Manager for one of our business partners Timico Partner Services Ltd – It’s Not Size that Matters, it’s What You Do with it that Counts
- The Institute of Telecommunications Professionals – The ITP
- More information on my tour of the Kingsway Tunnels on my personal blog here
- More Kingsway Tunnels photos on the Astro Communications Facebook page here
- A fascinating film showing the tunnels in operation – British Pathe
- The Rotundas, Marsham Street, London – Subterranea Britannica
- Subterranean City – Beneath the Streets of London by Antony Clayton
- London’s Secret Tubes by Andrew Emmerson & Tony Beard