Openreach pledges to keep Yorkshire connected

It seems scarcely believable that just a month ago, towns and cities across Yorkshire and the Humber were packed with shoppers and workers going about their daily business.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 7:34 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th April 2020, 12:11 pm

Life was as close to what used to pass for normal.

But since then, everything has changed.

Our homes have become much more than just places to live.

A view towards Fargate. Picture: NSST-26-03-20 Empty Sheffield 7-NMSY

They’re doubling up as offices and school classrooms.

We’re still able to socialise, but online please rather than in person.

This huge lifestyle change places great pressure on the broadband network and here at Openreach - the UK’s biggest provider used by customers of BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet and Vodafone – we’re keeping people connected.

A question we’ve been asked lots recently is can the network cope?

Video conferencing has massively increased as people work from home

Are you able to handle all these extra people working from home and spending more time online?

The short answer is yes, we’re not experiencing any issues and we don’t anticipate any.

In terms of capacity, our network is built to cope with large amounts of traffic and already manages very heavy usage in the evenings when people are streaming movies or gaming.

The types of applications that people use heavily outside of work use more bandwidth than typical working tools like email, collaboration software or even voice and video conferencing.

Yorkshire's Nightingale Hospital is at Harrogate Convention Centre

We are not seeing any significant issues across our broadband or phone network.

Internet traffic across Yorkshire and the Humber is up by about 25 per cent, compared with before

stay-at-home restrictions were put in place.

Some 41 petabytes of data – a petabyte is equal to 1,000 terabytes or 1,000,000 gigabytes - were consumed last week across the region, compared with about 32 Petabytes in a typical week pre-lockdown.

Most of that increase is during the daytime, not surprising given the number of people now at home.

We’ve even seen a small increase that coincides with the 9am start of Joe Wicks’s online workout class.

During the evening, network traffic remains pretty much unchanged – and still well below the more extreme peaks we experienced just before Christmas when Amazon live-streamed multiple Premier League football matches at the same time.

Last week in Yorkshire and the Humber, the busiest time for people accessing online content was between 8pm and 9pm on Saturday, with Saturday also being the busiest day overall.

More than 2,400 of our people live and work in this part of the country and, with our frontline engineers identified as designated key workers by the Government, you may still see our vans out and about.

Recently, we have seen an increase in incidents where our engineers are being subjected to mindless verbal abuse or intimidation linked to a bogus 5G theory.

It is not only deeply concerning but totally misjudged.

They are playing a vital role in connecting crucial public services, vulnerable customers and millions of friends, families and businesses.

They are closely following government guidance in terms of social distancing and focused on the repair and maintenance of connections that support critical national infrastructure.

This work includes the NHS – where our engineers have been installing and upgrading phone and broadband services in support of the new Nightingale hospital in Harrogate.

They’re also prioritising pharmacies, emergency services, retail and wholesale food distribution outlets, public services, vulnerable customers and those without any service.

We thank each and every one of them for their hard work and dedication in supporting the national effort during these unprecedented times.

Rob Thorburn is partnership director at Openreach, the BT division which maintains the cables, ducts, cabinets and exchanges that connect homes and businesses to the UK’s broadband and telephone network.