Justin Bellinger is a man with a mission.
As chief executive of Sure, the island’s biggest telecommunications company, he is at the helm of the team which aims to make Guernsey an ultra-fast internet paradise. The £37.5m. project called Guernsey Fibre is already underway and all island homes should be connected by the end of 2026. Mr Bellinger said it was the biggest project and biggest change in the island’s domestic telecommunications infrastructure for 125 years.
‘It’s ubiquitous and equitable, which means that it’s going to get to every property on the island and it will be at exactly the same price,’ he said.
‘The timing is perfect, we were always going to do it, but it would have taken longer if we hadn’t partnered with government, the partnership means that we can do it all in the next five years to 100% of all premises, which is pretty cool. In terms of features and benefits it’s an absolute state of the art network which will keep us going for many, many generations to come.
‘Every time you double broadband connectivity speeds you should expect to see an increase in GDP per capita of around 0.3%, but with full fibre network that increase in GDP per capita goes up to between 1.1 and 1.3%.
‘So, this investment will see a boost to the island long-term prospects as well as in the short term.’
Put simply, the project is replacing copper lines with fibre optic cables. Copper lines use electrical signals to transmit data, but fibre uses pulses of light which means it can provide boosted speeds. The investment will offer the opportunity to all, of 1 gigabit-per-second internet speed. To put that into perspective, a gigabit is 1,000 megabits, and basic broadband speed on the island is currently around 20 megabits. Or in other words, it will be 50 times faster than today’s basic speed.
People happy with their current internet speed might wonder what all the fuss is about. The reality is that technology is changing very fast, for instance there could be new forms of face-to-face communication, holograms could become a thing, and virtual reality and the metaverse. Satellite broadcasters are now increasingly using the internet to get into our lounges. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Apple Plus, Discovery Plus and many others are all producing richer content with higher definition.
All of that means that Guernsey will be future-proofing itself for these changes. Businesses and schools in Guernsey have already had the option of fibre internet since the early 2000s, but the pandemic has accelerated the culture of working from home. For many of our overseas clients at Swoffers, internet speed is key. Fibre is the holy grail, and this ultimate goal is well on track.
Mr Bellinger said working on Guernsey Fibre was the highlight of his career.
‘I’m a Guernseyman, and this is probably the biggest change that I’ve been able to effect in our community and it means a lot to me.
‘Before this I was instrumental in setting up the online gambling industry, which did a bit for Guernsey, but it didn’t help my mum out, or my auntie and uncle, or my cousins or my friends down the Legion or whatever.
‘This is making a big difference and I’m really chuffed to be involved in it.’
Mr Bellinger is happy to admit that he’s a ‘bit of a geek’ when it comes to technology, and even geeks need to get away from screens sometimes. To relax he goes out on his ‘shang (the Guernsey word for bicycle). Since the first lockdown he has completed a personal challenge to ride down every road in the island, and Alderney and Sark too.
‘I don’t own any lycra, but I’ve got camo shorts, a pair of sunnies, and a bottle of gin in my panniers.’