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Service personnel morale soars with wi-fi internet
Nowadays most people take internet access for granted don’t they? Well, yes. Unless, that is, they’re in the Armed Forces. For many service personnel on UK military bases, high-speed web browsing used to be beyond reach.
Simon Bond, MOD Client Manager in BT Global Services Defence and Security team, explains: “Camps are often too far from the local exchange for conventional broadband. There are commercial difficulties too, particularly with providing fixed lines into what is effectively temporary accommodation.”
BT terms and conditions stipulate fixed term contracts and cancellation charges: not ideal for service personnel who may be posted anywhere in the UK or overseas at a moment’s notice.
The MOD is committed to equality of lifestyle choices for all Armed Forces personnel. A major recommendation from the Defence Estate Review Programme was that all new single-living accommodation at military bases should have internet access. But delivering that promise cost effectively to existing quarters was a real challenge. An innovative approach was called for and BT developed a bespoke broadband wireless internet access solution called MOD Wi-fi. Specifically designed for the Armed Forces it’s based on BT Wi-fi (formerly BT Openzone), the fast-growing public Wi-Fi service.
BT Wi-fi provides fast, secure access to the web without the need for a fixed network connection. Linked by a high-speed broadband network, BT Wi-fi hotspots support fast data transfer for wireless devices within a range of around 100 metres. There are over three and a half millionBT Wi-fihotspot locations across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, as well as public wireless roaming through BT partner networks when abroad.
Featuring more flexible commercial terms, MOD Wi-fi provides high speed wireless internet access with no set up charges. A range of payment options are offered including a one-month rolling subscription with unlimited download, a pay-as-you-go voucher scheme, or a standard 18-month contract. There is even the potential for free access for personnel with existing BT Broadband or BT mobile contracts, including free Wi-Fi minutes from BT Wi-fi partners such as 02, Everything Everywhere, Tesco Mobile, and Vodafone.
Before starting an MOD Wi-fi installation, a detailed physical survey of the military base identifies the right locations for the wireless access points for optimum coverage. BT also obtains accreditation for the design via the MOD Site Co-ordinating Installation Design Authority (SCIDA). Optical fibre cables, usually in a highly resilient ring, provide fast connectivity – typically between 100Mbps and 1Gbps – to the BT core network. As part of the installation sign off BT provides a “heat map” which shows the strength of network coverage in the different areas of the accommodation.
The first military base to take advantage of MOD Wi-fiwas HM Naval Base Clyde (also known as Faslane) – the nation’s primary base for submariners.
Lieutenant Commander Louise Wooller has responsibility for morale, discipline and welfare of service personnel at HM Naval Base Clyde. “Most people are posted here for between 18 months and three years,” she says. “It’s very important for them to keep in contact with family and friends as well as conduct personal business. The internet is a lifeline, so the MOD Wi-fi solution from BT is hugely popular. In fact, BT has had to increase available bandwidth to cope with growing demand.”
HM Naval Base Clyde houses around 2,000 people, many staying in one of the 17 single-living accommodation blocks. “The BT Wi-fi coverage is excellent and even extends to our super-mess, where people go to eat and socialise,” adds Louise. “If ever there’s a fault BT is always on hand and quickly puts it right.”
As well as surfing the internet and sending emails service personnel can watch catch up TV, visit gaming sites, and carry out personal banking. They can even set up webcam video links over the internet to chat with family and friends.
Further deployments at other military bases look set to follow.
The BT differentiators
- High-speed internet access allowing unlimited content downloads
- Flexible voucher and subscription tariff for service personnel, allowing service cancellations or deferral as required
- Free and unlimited wi-fi access for BT Broadband customers, plus O2, Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, and Everything Everywhere UK customers, with contracts including BT Wi-fi access
- Over 3.5 million BT Wi-fi hotspots in the UK and Ireland to choose from – on and off base
- Flexible installation services incorporating detailed pre-installation surveys, together with a strong after sales service offering fast problem resolution and including a MOD-bespoke log in page, in-life site service, and customer helpdesk
Core BT services
- MOD Wi-fi (based on the BT Wi-fi service)