01 Charlie Boisseau

Capital’s Internet Black Hole Tackled to End Web ‘Not Spot’

Thousands of businesses in Edinburgh city centre are to be offered a solution to an ‘internet black hole’ problem that is crippling their efforts to trade successfully in the digital age, according to a local communications business who stand ready to fix the problem.

The centre of Edinburgh – the hub of much of the capital’s key financial services and legal sector – is a notorious problem area dubbed a “Not Spot”.

Many firms face daily difficulties using the web to conduct critical business operations prompting business influencers to describe the existing network as ‘worse than most third world countries”.

Around 2000 firms are served from the historic-but-outdated Rose Street Exchange, but BT has ruled out including the site in its ongoing upgrade plans to roll out super-fast fibre-optic connections.

That means firms have little chance of achieving the 35mb per second internet speeds which the Government has set as the “super fast” target for businesses to flourish – unless they are prepared to shell out tens of thousands of pounds for their own fibre connection.

However, experts from Commsworld, which has its HQ in Edinburgh, have announced they will “unbundle” the local exchange network from BT this month, allowing businesses in the area to access an affordable, business-only internet connection with guaranteed speeds.

A number of firms are already lining up to join the new service, which Commsworld believes will help it ramp up turnover to exceed £10m in 2014.

03 Charlie BoisseauCharlie Boisseau, Managing Director of Fluency Communications – Commsworld’s network division – said the breakthrough will be welcome news to businesses blighted by poor connection and download speeds, which hamper their ability to compete with rivals elsewhere in the country.

He said: “This is the first time businesses in this area will be able to get speeds normally associated with fibre – without the costs of fibre.

“We have already let many of our existing customers know this will be going live soon and they are desperate to get on board. We believe many others will be quick to follow suit, because the productivity gains are potentially enormous.”

The Rose Street Exchange utilises the copper wires first laid 100 years ago. Although now empty apart from equipment, the impressive-looking building was once the base for hundreds of telephone switchboard operators, patching in calls to thousands of different homes and businesses.

One of the problems for modern businesses in the area is that internet traffic is still sent up and down those copper cables and the signal gets progressively poorer further away from the exchange.

When Commsworld engineers unbundle the Rose Street Exchange they will install specialist equipment which enables far better use of the copper cable technology, boosting the signal strength to deliver a business grade Ethernet service.

Charlie Boisseau added: “While the copper cable infrastructure is extensive it is also finite in terms of how much data it can carry.

“No-one else really pushes it to its limits – but we will and that is how we will deliver this service that businesses are crying out for.”

While some major providers have already installed standard equipment in the exchange it is usually aimed at delivering broadband to domestic customers, meaning businesses using it get a maximum speed of 16mb per second.

The specialist equipment deployed by Commsworld will be aimed at businesses only and will deliver speeds of 35-40mb per second, surpassing the Government target for super-fast business access.

The unbundling of the Rose Street Exchange will also mean customers can feed into Scotland’s only dedicated business-grade telecoms network, which Commsworld set up last year.

Commsworld believes the Fluency Network, serving Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, allows businesses to better compete by providing quicker access to data without being bounced through servers in London or Manchester.  More than 400 businesses have signed up to the Fluency Network since its launch in2013.

Commsworld, founded in 1994, is Scotland’s leading unified communications specialists, providing customers with a full range of integrated communications solutions.


  1. It is total nonsense to suggest the centre of Edinburgh has ‘a third world broadband service’. Several city centre exchanges have been upgraded for fibre broadband and Rose Street exchange area – referred to here – has been upgraded to offer both advanced ADSL (up to 20Mbps) and Ethernet for businesses which offers speeds up to 10 Gigabits per second. Ethernet means businesses can opt for a choice of guaranteed broadband speeds over a dedicated line and across multiple sites, at a fraction of the cost of previous comparable services.
    When planning where to invest in fibre broadband, Openreach looks at a number of criteria including costs of deployment; likely demand from service providers on behalf of their customers; and existing network topography. Rose Street exchange in central Edinburgh has not been included in our commercial roll-out because it does not meet the criteria. It’s a geographically small exchange area surrounded by much bigger city centre ones – Waverley, Dean, Fountainbridge and Donaldson, which are all fibre enabled.

    Rose Street exchange is surrounded by many large businesses, which have their own private high-speed networks and leased lines, and also has small numbers of residential customers. Demand for even basic broadband at this exchange is at the lower end of the spectrum.

    Commercially, BT is bringing fibre services past 178,000 Edinburgh homes and businesses, around 115,000 of which can already access fibre.

    Mitch Reid, BT Scotland Press Office

  2. I’m not certain how BT Scotland gathers its data, but I can assure the readers that there are many residential and micro business customers being (poorly) served by the overwhelmed and outdated Rose Street exchange. They clearly are accustomed to a sclerotic and blinkered approach to responding to changing market conditions, and betray an approach to doing business that is at least twenty years out of date. I’m relieved to see new enterprises like Fluency deliver the kind of services that will allow Edinburgh to remain relevant in the dynamic, entrepreneurial and highly networked economy of today.

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