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KCOM engineers hard at work to keep everyone online


Despite challenging conditions KCOM engineers are still out and about in Hull and East Yorkshire building new broadband network to connect the region

With network usage soaring as schools close and people work from home the Government has designated critical KCOM employees as key workers to make sure everyone has online access.

Despite challenging conditions KCOM engineers are still out and about in Hull and East Yorkshire building new broadband network to connect the region. This is enabling more people to get online using KCOM’s full fibre broadband technology as well as connecting companies and local authorities leading the response against Covid-19.

KCOM chief executive Dale Raneberg said: “During these unprecedented times it’s more important than ever that we are able to stay connected with our families, friends and work colleagues. That’s why our engineers have been continuing to work in the background to keep everyone online.

“Over the past month I have been speaking regularly with the Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, and the Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman, and we are following all government guidance for the sector to continue to build and maintain the network while observing safe work practices.

“Our engineers have had to train in safe working practices and ensure they’re wearing appropriate PPE, which hasn’t been easy to source, but we have kept our teams in the field helping to provide new services where needed, prioritising support for vulnerable customers and keeping everyone connected.”

Engineers working in the field have been just one part of the huge, behind the scenes, effort to keep Hull and East Yorkshire online as internet demand has surged in recent weeks due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Daytime usage of KCOM’s full fibre broadband network has nearly tripled in recent weeks as tens of thousands of people work and study at home.

During periods of peak demand KCOM’s network is handling more than 160 Gigabits of data per second (Gbps) during lockdown – the equivalent of downloading 32,000 songs, streaming 800 hours of YouTube or 4,800 Skype calls every second.

Overall, KCOM’s network is experiencing a 45 per cent increase over normal levels of online traffic and has increased much more than this during the day.

Uploads to the internet have also increased by 30 per cent, enabled by Lightstream broadband’s faster upload speeds.

To accommodate the rise in demand, KCOM engineers have been busy increasing network capacity and installing new stores - or “caches” – of locally held content for major streaming channels such as Disney Plus, Netflix and Amazon.  These local caches allow KCOM customers to continue to receive highest possible definition content currently available.

This means customers can gain access to the latest shows or game updates from a local source and don’t have to compete with internet users in the rest of the UK trying to gain access to distant, congested servers run by the major content providers.

Tim Shaw, KCOM’s chief technology officer, said: “We have seen an incredible increase in demand as people are staying at home to help defeat the coronavirus and this is where our investment in a full fibre network is really paying off.

“There isn’t anywhere else in the country as well-equipped to deal with the surge in demand for streaming and downloading services as Hull and East Yorkshire. Our fibre network is enabling people to work from home and children to keep up with their schoolwork online with minimal interruptions, buffering or the dreaded spinning circle of death.

“The increase in usage we’re seeing is unprecedented. We have seen a massive 87 per cent increase in file transfers, which includes things such Xbox downloads and updates, a 21 per centage increase in people streaming media on services like Netflix and Amazon and a 73 per cent uplift in people using messaging services and social media as they keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.”

Uploads to the internet have also increased by more than 30 per cent, enabled by Lightstream broadband’s faster upload speeds.

Last month KCOM announced it was removing all data usage caps to remove worries about exceeding limits for families and workers staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The subsequent surge in traffic is being monitored from KCOM’s £2m Customer Service Operations Centre (CSOC). Its core services team has had to adapt quickly to adopt social distancing measures and enable as many employees as possible to work from home.

Mr Shaw said: “Our team here at the CSOC has done a phenomenal job in adapting and innovating to keep Hull and East Yorkshire connected. I’m incredibly proud of the job they’ve done in what are challenging circumstances. The fact that our service has continued as normal – and even stepped up a level to cope with new demands – so our customers haven’t noticed any change is a tribute to their expertise and professionalism.”

For more information about what KCOM is doing to keep the region connected during the coronavirus pandemic visit https://www.kcomgroupltd.com/covid-19/

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