High speed internet access has gone from a luxury to a must have within a short couple of years. Yet providing stable high speed access via any other means than a fixed infrastructure can be challenging as the number of users on any one node can have a dramatic influence on the data capacity available to other users. Over-the-air services are also susceptible to weather, or even just obstruction by trees.
For WestStar, the advent of high definition television broadcasts as well as an increase in the prevalence of interactive television products and smart television sets meant that even greater demands were being placed on its existing infrastructure. The decision was taken to move towards a model based on fibre-to-the-home service delivery, which promises better quality and more choice in terms of service delivery.
WestStar announced the fibre-to-the-home deployment late last year partnering with Byers Engineering as project managers, and Calix as their technology partner. The availability of fibre-to-the-home technology not only offers better service but can also serve to increase property value and even make a property more attractive to renters. This is expected to be especially evident in stratas where access to the service could be a deciding factor for prospective renters.
The company will also be offering internet access through the fibre network, with data speeds matching the fastest currently available on Island, with the potential to deliver even faster service over the same infrastructure in the future. Once a fibre-to-the-home infrastructure is in place, future speed upgrades would be possible by replacing the equipment at either end of the fibre optic cable rather than eeding to replace the cable infrastructure, making the current investment in infrastructure upgrades a project with long term potential.
Current offerings range from an entry-level service offering 1Mbps download speed to a top of the line service offering 8Mbps download. However, unlike other providers that offer asymmetrical service, the WestStar service is symmetrical. What this means to the consumer is where download speeds tend to be vastly superior to upload speed on an asymmetrical service, the upload and download speeds for the WestStar service are equal.
This means that photo uploads and video sharing will be much faster and video chat services like Skype or Facetime will also offer dramatically improved quality when compared to asymmetrical services, where even at the highest speeds, upload is unlikely to reach 1Mbps. The increased upload speed also makes it much easier to work from home, as files can be uploaded to the office server as quickly as they can be downloaded, making the experience much less frustrating. With collaborative online work becoming more prevalent as well, having a symmetrical Internet service is a great advantage as files can be shared much more quickly.
Video conferencing applications operate more smoothly, as do streaming video applications, for example video from security cameras streamed over your internet connection so it can be accessed remotely. The symmetrical service will enhance the quality and stability of the image well beyond what traditional asymmetric broadband services can offer. Of course, one of the biggest advantages for most consumers is that online backup services will become much more viable with the high speed upload capability offered by a symmetrical service.
The fibre-to-the-home service will also have a major impact on the services WestStar will be able to offer to its TV subscribers. The bandwidth offered by fibre optics will allow WestStar to offer virtually unlimited choice in terms of channel offerings, with initial plans calling for the addition of 12 more high definition channels for fibre customers. Long term plans call for even greater variety in channel offerings.
The fibre infrastructure will also allow WestStar to offer video on demand services, with the company fine-tuning the logistics of the service delivery at the moment. With the rapid pace of technology there are numerous different options available at present and WestStar is evaluating which option would best serve customer needs.
The new infrastructure will also improve the quality of the signal delivered to the users as the delivery is more reliable with no potential for signal interference between Television Centre and the consumer.
WestStar’s initial fibre build-out was down Courts road and Spruce lane with high speed internet service available to customers in August. WestStar’s first internet customer was connected at Park View Court. Right now residents at Summerfield Court, Springfield Court, Park View Court, and Lakeside Villas can access WestStar’s residential service. Crews are now moving down West Bay Road from Eastern Avenue to Governors Square.
WestStar is upgrading the delivery of TV services for stratas that are already WestStar customers. To do this, towers are being removed and replaced with small Optical Network Terminals, which take up much less space and immediately upgrade the television delivery service to fibre optics. The company is offering free installation for internet services to single family dwellings as they pass through neighbourhoods with their installation.