Portsmouth based IT and telecoms business easyNetworks has designed and installed a gigabit fibre broadband network within the Stansted Park Estate, connecting the residents with superfast internet without damaging the Grade II* listed ancient forest and parkland in the South Downs.

The project has brought internet connection speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) to properties throughout the 1800 acres of estate, with no visible damage to the environment.

Earlier this year, Lord Bessborough, chairman of the Trustees of the Stansted Park Foundation, had become increasingly unhappy with the provision of broadband services to the 35 properties on the estate tenanted by residents and businesses.

Where internet connections were available on the estate, tenants were experiencing low speeds and had become frustrated that they were unable to use the streaming apps that many of us rely on.

The income from these properties contributes significantly to the costs of conserving Stansted Forest, so it was vital that an internet provider was found that could dramatically improve connectivity while protecting the environment.

Cost was also a major factor as rural internet projects have often already been overlooked by national providers such as BT as they are not cost-effective. In order to improve the quality of broadband connectivity in remote areas, the UK Government has been supporting communities with Gigabit Broadband Vouchers, a funding mechanism for Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to invest in rural networks.

The solution was a fibre-optic network designed, installed and managed by easyNetworks and financially supported by West Council Sussex Council, which offered tenants a Gigabit Broadband Voucher top-up scheme to facilitate the investment.

Despite the availability of funding, the challenge was still significant: to find a way to connect disparate properties spread across 1800 acres of ancient forest, farmland and landscaped parkland with a gigabit speed fibre-optic network while protecting the environment. easyNetworks met the challenge in only 12 weeks from start to finish, to the satisfaction of the tenants, businesses and trustees of the charitable foundation that manages the estate.

easyNetworks managing director Richard Gwilliam said of the project: “Bespoke projects like these allow us to bring our engineering and project management skills together with our expertise in data cabling. Once we had cleared the hurdle of voucher funding, we got to work designing a future-proof gigabit network and carefully managing the contractors, in order to protect the grounds.”

Installation of the fibre was completed in just 8 weeks. easyNetworks employed two secret weapons to achieve this with no lasting damage to the estate grounds. The first was a mole plough, employed to bury the fibre optic cable one metre below ground without needing to install a duct. A mole plough was recently featured in episode 2 of Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime Video, where it was used to install a new water pipe.

The other secret weapon was a directional drilling rig, a very clever piece of machinery to drill horizontally under the ground up to distances of 60 metres, which we used to install a small duct under roads and from the main fibre route to each property, without any digging. Thanks to the skilled engineers and their care taken, it was not possible to identify any visible signs of the cable installation just two months after the completion of the project.

Lord Bessborough reflected on the quality of the installation: b“We were happy with the way the environment was protected because the contractor observed very careful procedures, didn't go across fields, didn't make holes in hedges... you wouldn't be able to know where they had been now, so it's been a very good tidy job.”