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* Pilot project aims to stimulate take-up and use of broadband services in
Herefordshire town in association with Independent Networks and PRONET

* Hundreds of businesses set to benefit from affordable, unmetered
'always-on' high speed Internet access


LEOMINSTER, Herefordshire, 15 April 2003 - Advantage West Midlands today
announced it will be fast-tracking the availability of broadband services to
the Herefordshire town of Leominster by partnering with Independent
Networks, a new network operator using digital subscriber line (DSL)
technology. Independent Networks will be offering broadband services to the
600 businesses and 5000 households served by the Leominster exchange.

Independent Networks, selected following an open tender process, will be
installing equipment adjacent to the Leominster exchange to provide a range
of business and consumer broadband services in association with Internet
service provider (ISP) PRONET. These will include symmetric DSL services,
which are particularly suited to businesses but not yet generally available
in areas covered by DSL.

The project, part of the Regional Development Agency's Rural Broadband Pilot
for SMEs, has been developed in conjunction with telecoms consultancy
Analysys. Using funding provided by Advantage West Midlands and the DTI UK
Broadband Fund, it is designed to help gain an understanding of the value
and take-up of broadband services by fast-tracking broadband provision in
rural towns across the region.

As well as supplying a grant to Independent Networks, Advantage West
Midlands is guaranteeing a minimum number of customers for the service as
part of the agreement and will assist Independent Networks in its initial
marketing activities.

James Saunby, head of ICT at Advantage West Midlands, said: "We need to do
everything possible to ensure that businesses can prosper in the region;
understanding how broadband can contribute to the region's economic success
is becoming an increasingly important issue. This pilot will bring broadband
to Leominster in months not years and is the start of an initiative to make
broadband much more widely available throughout the West Midlands region."

In the UK, according to the telecoms regulator, Oftel, there are now more
than 1.77 million broadband users and 30 000 new connections every week.
However, this roll-out is focussed predominantly in built up areas and
larger towns and it could be some time before areas such as Leominster reach
the trigger levels required for the local exchange to be upgraded to offer

Advantage West Midlands has appointed telecoms, IT and media consultants
Analysys to manage and co-ordinate the pilot. Richard Wilson, a consultant
at Analysys, said: "This innovative arrangement of guaranteeing a number of
customers reduces the risk for broadband service providers by providing a
customer base from the outset."

The process of upgrading Leominster to broadband will begin immediately with
the installation of equipment taking place over the coming months, and the
service will be available during the summer. In addition, a marketing
campaign will take place to raise awareness of the benefits of ICT and
broadband and to sign-up customers for the service. Businesses and consumers
in Leominster who are interested in receiving broadband services should
register their interest on the pilot Web site at

Broadband is expected to have a major impact on the competitiveness of
Britain's small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) as it provides unmetered
'always-on' Internet access with upload and download speeds at least ten
times faster than via a dial-up modem. Research from Fletcher Advisory
forecasts that some £4.7 billion annually could be added to UK SMEs' bottom
line by 2005 because of broadband uptake. The government, recognising the
economic advantages, has pledged to make the UK the world's most competitive
broadband market.

"This is excellent news for businesses in Leominster," said Bill Wiggin, MP
for Leominster. "I am delighted that Advantage West Midlands is helping to
speed up the roll-out of broadband in my constituency. I've been pushing for
this for some time and am delighted that it's now going to happen and urge
local businesses to log their interest immediately through the pilot Web
site at"

About Advantage West Midlands (

Advantage West Midlands is the Regional Development Agency for the UK's
industrial, commercial and agricultural heartland and was established by the
UK Government in 1999.
The West Midlands region of Britain is a thriving international business,
commercial and industrial location. It is a region renowned for the strength
of its industrial base, its excellent transport links and the beauty of its

Advantage West Midlands' role is to:

* Create a diverse and dynamic business base
* Create a learning and skilful region
* Create the conditions for growth; and
* Regenerate communities in the region

The scope of this task means that Advantage West Midlands works closely with
a broad spectrum of public, private and voluntary partners.

In many areas its role is strategic, working with and through others to
align programmes and priorities. Advantage West Midlands also provides
direct services and assistance itself - primarily to support regeneration,
inward investment, business growth and skills development.

About Analysys (

Analysys, the global adviser in telecoms, IT and media, works at the
forefront of the communications revolution, delivering advice and insight to
established and new entrant players. From offices in Cambridge, London,
Glasgow, Madrid, Milan, Paris, San Francisco and Washington DC, Analysys
staff provide strategy and systems consultancy, conferences, information
services and start-up support to the companies that are creating the
networked economy.

Analysys is now the leading provider of independent advice to central
government and to regional authorities for solutions that deliver broadband
networks. Its roles have covered near and long-term network strategy and
life-cycle planning, demand modelling and mapping, regulatory advice,
outsourcing and exit strategies, technical specifications, service level
agreements, risk assessment, procurement processes, PFI and PPP funding
processes, including EC funding.

Its practical experience is underpinned by extensive background work for
carriers and regulators throughout Europe on issues of licensing, LRIC
modelling, economic and strategic scenario planning, business case
development and due diligence. Clients include the Welsh Development Agency,
Advantage West Midlands, FORFAS, the Scottish Executive, the East of England
Development Agency, East Sussex Coastal Renaissance Partnership, and
Cambridgeshire County Council. It has also undertaken several large-scale
projects for the Office of the e-Envoy and the Department of Trade and

About Independent Networks (

Independent-Networks Ltd (I-N) is a new xDSL network operator providing an
innovative cost effective and robust alternative network solution, primarily
to the SME and residential market. I-N is differentiating itself by
providing value-added content, services, applications and improving the way
they are brought to market. These include video streaming, security services
and voice services otherwise only available from large incumbent operators.

About Broadband

Broadband provides a high-speed connection (500kbit/s or above) to the
Internet that is 'always on', usually for a fixed monthly fee. Broadband can
be delivered using a variety of technologies including DSL (digital
subscriber line) over a normal telephone network, via a cable modem
utilising a cable TV network, or via broadband wireless technologies.
Broadband provides Internet access that is at least ten times faster than
that available over a narrowband connection - a dial-up modem, for example,
connects to the Internet at speeds between 28.8kbit/s and 56.6kbit/s.

Media contacts

Louise Nunn
Analysys Press Office
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 460600

Richard Wilson
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 460600

Advantage West Midlands
Jane McMillan/Neil Skitt
Tel: +44 (0) 121 380 5436 or 07766470698
Email: or

Mark Melluish (for Independent Networks)
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7621 2414

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