Aleksandra Ciric, Director, International Marketing at Calix
The biggest change to the telecom industry since Alexander Graham Bell is happening now—and Grayshott & Hindhead, villages in the United Kingdom with a population of 7,355, are taking a community-minded approach to networking with Grayshott Gigabit and Calix.
Project Gigabit is a £5 billion program initiated by the U.K. government to provide hard-to-reach communities with lightning-fast, gigabit-capable broadband. Copper networks, currently provided by Openreach, will be withdrawn on December 31, 2025, placing urgency on local communities to prioritise a move to full fibre.
While this move pushed many internet service providers (ISPs) in the U.K. market to build fibre networks, it didn’t necessarily encourage them all to take a people-first approach. But for Grayshott Gigabit, it was nearly impossible to separate the network connectivity from the community connectivity. As a result, they initiated a project with Calix to build community Wi-Fi, so no one goes without a connection.
Community Wi-Fi is the pulsing heart of East Hampshire
In Grayshott, there is currently very limited mobile coverage. For residents of the village, this means they cannot access normal services via mobile —and imagine the impact. While a business may have a physical broadband connection, all is lost if it goes down. Parents cannot call their children—and children cannot call their parents. Online resources can’t be accessed. The entire community was limited with basic connectivity—until Grayshott Gigabit and Calix stepped in.
Now, every customer with Grayshott Gigabit receives a minimum of 100Mbps and many have full gigabit speeds with full fibre to the premise XGS-PON connectivity. Adding numerous Wi-Fi hotspots in premises, Grayshott Gigabit and Calix have created a Wi-Fi cloud for the entire community—especially those that are elderly, vulnerable or those struggling during these economic times. Residents can make calls for emergencies, or critical situations. The Village Hall, primary school, and armed forces charity—The Royal British Legion—can all access the same Wi-Fi for learning, sharing, and connecting.
With a community Wi-Fi program from Calix, Grayshott Gigabit can offer the latest speeds and software releases, including Wi-Fi 6, while separating SSIDs for different uses. This means businesses aren’t stuck using the same SSID for their private network as their public hotspot, which improves coverage, security, and manageability. These separate networks also allow for ease of integration between third party systems required for billing, inventory, and supply chain management.
This easy, reliable Wi-Fi cloud also encourages higher foot traffic in the village’s commercial district which comprises of 100+ small to medium businesses, surgeries, dentists, supermarkets & other local shops, boosting the local economy and attracting more tourism. Additionally, community Wi-Fi helps boost premise values—which is highly beneficial in the current economy. The Wi-Fi cloud has started to connect many businesses in the first phase including estate agents, beauty salons, pet shops, small supermarkets, and the village hall, community library, and sports pavilions.
With subscriber experience key to increased loyalty, Grayshott Gigabit trims response times from 14 days to 24 hours
Grayshott Gigabit is highly differentiated amongst ISPs in the U.K. market. They haven’t had to raise prices, unlike many big box brands and altnets, primarily because they saved on operations and support by partnering with Calix. The average support response time in the UK is a whopping 7-14 days according to the industry regulator Ofcom. With full fibre and using Calix XGS-PON E7-2 network architecture, Grayshott Gigabit can trim this down to 24 hours—and provide a much more always-on & reliable network.
“A quick, efficient level of support isn’t common in the U.K.,” says Mashood Ahmad, Founder and Manager Director at Grayshott Gigabit. “People are used to waiting for a very long time, so our ability to compress this schedule is a huge differentiator. As such, we’re also able to accomplish more in less time—since we don’t have the long waits. This is true monetised savings we’re seeing as an organisation that we can pass along to our community.”
An evolution in partnership: From network build to smart home to community Wi-Fi
As a local mainstay, Grayshott Gigabit is also able to provide services to the community that other ISPs cannot. For example, they offer programs to help the elderly and vulnerable “silver surfers” and were one of the first to offer at least 100Mbps social broadband: social tariff. “Cake and coffee” mornings teach the elderly not only how to use Wi-Fi, but also how to remedy general IT problems like disconnected printers and passwords. Programs in local schools focus on online safety and harmful content, teaching students and teachers how to navigate the internet securely.
“Absolutely first on our list is our community. We built a state-of-the-art network in rural areas, as these were areas with low priority from the larger providers. As members residing in such communities, we knew that we needed to make the change ourselves. We’re doing this because we want everyone, no matter where they live, to access the fastest internet and superior Wi-Fi—just as any advanced area. We want our students never to suffer when they need to learn using Wi-Fi. We want our first responders to never be saddled with unstable connections, which could potentially cost someone their life. We want our elderly citizens to feel secure and comfortable using the internet,” Ahmad continues. “By connecting everyone through this Wi-Fi cloud from Calix, we know that we are bringing them the very best. We chose Calix specifically because they were able to simplify this entire community broadband solution. Other ISPs were forced to raise prices, but we avoided this because of our partnership.”
Every community and small business deserve a fully connected and protected Wi-Fi service. As Calix heads in 2023, ISPs can embrace the benefits of a broader solution capability with SmartBiz™ and SmartTown™ launching in the near future. Easier deployment, security, and management differentiates Calix from other Wi-Fi solutions.
Join Calix and the UK telecoms industry in discussion live in Manchester at this year’s Connected North conference