WEARSIDE will hit the internet superhighway at full speed next year when it becomes the first city in the UK to have wall-to-wall superfast broadband.
But while technophiles and software businesses may be drooling at the eye-popping speeds which will be available, it may just seem like a bunch of numbers and letters to regular internet users not quite sure what it all means.
BT is investing millions in upgrading Wearside’s broadband network, bringing the superfast service to 90 per cent of homes and businesses which, combined with the presence of other providers in the city, and plans for further expansion, is expected to take Sunderland to blanket superfast connectivity.
Dr Alastair Irons, head of the department of computing, engineering and technology at Sunderland University, said the development was far from simply techo-waffle and would bring massive speed to both home users, businesses and other organisations in the city.
“People at home will see a big difference,” he said. “It’s very fast at the moment, but once you start using pictures or video it slows down and even now you still get systems crashing and people’s PCs crashing.
“Faster broadband will allow a great range of applications and features to go on to PC and much better quality, and can do more things.”
Dr Irons said it was important to appreciate that faster speed didn’t simply mean the internet working faster.
He said the new broadband would allow for better-quality graphics and video to be used, as well as more advanced software.
Dr Irons said the advancements would make Sunderland even more attractive to software companies, who deliver their software over the internet.
Wearside is making a big push to encourage more hi-tech industries to set up in the city, overseen by the Software City initiative. This includes the new Sunderland Software Centre due to open in Tavistock Place and expected to create 140 jobs at 60 software companies.
Dr Irons said the new broadband speeds would also pull-in new talent and encourage students to apply for courses at Sunderland University.
“The more people we can get into the city the better chance we have of getting them to set up businesses in Sunderland once they graduate and it will also provide the city with graduate expertise with businesses already here,” he said.
“It’s absolutely excellent news both for the business sector and the university sector. From a business perspective, it opens up a whole set of new business opportunities.”
Dr Iron’s was keen to point out that it is not only software companies that will benefit from the higher speeds.
“It will help businesses by giving them the opportunity to do much fancier things than they can do at the moment, which will promote information to customers,” he said.
“It will also allow companies to process transactions so much more quickly, but also, more importantly, much more accurately and completely securely to take down the possibility of error.”
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director, said “speed was the headline” but it was important to remember the additional capacity and capability that would bring.
He said: “A massive amount of communication is now done by email.
“With manufacturing businesses, the internet is important in managing supply chains. If you’re doing business with Japan or North Korea, that will be online.
“They will expect to use video-conferencing, you need to be able to do that simultaneously and you need high-speed internet to do that.”
Mr Roberson said users at home would also be able to enjoy faster dowload and upload speeds which would make acquiring and sharing music, video, podcasts and pictures much quicker and simpler.
He said the new speeds would also make it easier for employees to work from home or at locations outside the office.