Digital & IT

Internet company founded by farmer quoted £120k for leased fibre line doubles staff to 81

Wessex Internet installed 624 km of fibre in the ground in 2020, the equivalent distance from its Blandford offices to Perth in Scotland.

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: February 26, 2021 | Updated: 26th February 2021

A privately owned internet business, founded by a farmer who was quoted £120,000 to connect a 300 metre leased fibre line to his office, has doubled its staff numbers in the last 12 months.

Blandford-based Wessex Internet now employs 81 people from its rural base on the Ranston Estate, an increase of 100 per cent since last year.

The business, which provides ultrafast connectivity to rural areas considered unviable by other providers, is planning to recruit more employees this year.

The growth follows a four-year migration to full fibre delivery from its previous wireless focus.

Hector Gibson Fleming, pictured left, Managing Director, said: “We will continue to recruit more people over the coming year.

“The whole nation is currently undergoing a revolutionary change in approach to its working patterns, education, healthcare, home life and leisure activity.

“People and businesses in rural areas have the same rights to world class connectivity to support this as those in towns and cities.”

During 2020, Wessex Internet:

  • significantly increased its network footprint allowing for a continued growth with a year-on-year increase in the number of customers it connected by 27 per cent.
  • achieved a 59 per cent increase in the number of rural communities it connected to full fibre broadband from the previous year.
  • installed 624 km of fibre in the ground across Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Hampshire. That’s the equivalent distance from Blandford to Perth in Scotland.
  • expanded its geographical reach from Warminster in Wiltshire, close to Fordingbridge in Hampshire, down to Lulworth in Dorset and over to Yeovil in Somerset.
  • doubled its number of employees. Every office-based function is in-house – from sales and customer support to project managers and marketing. The company has its own dedicated civils and construction team that build its network across the countryside.
  • extended its reach of non-residential connections to include schools, churches, farms, businesses, village halls and sports clubs. Among them Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park, Lulworth Heritage Centre and The Tank Museum at Bovington.
  • won a three-year contract to bring full-fibre broadband to some of the most rural areas in South Somerset following a successful bid to Connecting Devon and Somerset, a government subsidised scheme.

Wessex Internet adopts a community project-based approach to building networks .

It has more than 80 ‘Community Champions’ in local areas who work collaboratively with its in-house team.

The company is actively involved with helping rural homes and businesses to receive a broadband service that is on par with towns and cities through the government’s Rural Gigabit Connectivity Voucher (RGCV) scheme.

Hector Gibson Fleming said: “Our focus is to expand our fantastic service to even more of the countryside.

“We want to significantly grow our  customer base and continually improve our service experience for existing customers.

“We have everything in place to achieve this – robust systems, a strong management structure and the specialist skills that contributed to a successful 12 months. ”

Hector’s father, James Gibson Fleming, 62, pictured left, founded Wessex Internet in 2010 after receiving the shock £120,000 quote for connecting a leased fibre line to his farm office over a distance of 300 metres.

He is now the company’s Chairman.

Eleven years later the Wessex Internet network consists of more than 150 wireless masts and over 2,000 km of fibre delivering ultrafast fibre and wireless coverage  across Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and parts of Hampshire too.

In Dorset, Wessex Internet is one of the first providers to use funding from Dorset Council’s Rural Gigabit top up scheme to extend its network to new communities in the county that would otherwise have a sub-standard internet connection.

Earlier this month Dorset Biz News reported that The Small Robot Company (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, is to partner with Wessex Internet, Telint and Dorset Council in the 5G RuralDorset project.

The project will develop and prove a blueprint for rural-optimised 5G connectivity, with the world’s first 5G-ready agri-robot for arable farm.

The trials with the Small Robot Company robots will take place at the Ranston Farm 5G trial site.

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