Pennine Telecom has been shortlisted for an award after pioneering a home access broadband network for an English school.
The reseller's work for Broad Oak Sports College (BOSC) in Bury has put it in the running for The Big Chip Awards' Best Public Sector Project.
Organised by independent trade organisation Manchester Digital the awards recognise ‘North West companies excelling in the use of digital technology' and this year received a record number of entries.
The shortlist was determined by a panel of judges, chaired by Michael Nutley, editor of New Media Age magazine, and including Gavin Ailes of Searchworks, Peter Cowley of Endemol, Alasdair Rawsthorne of the University of Manchester, Steve Smith of Liverpool Vision and Matt Locke, commissioning editor for education and new media at Channel 4.
Pennine's entry focuses on the design and implementation of a wireless network to provide students with free broadband access at home to support their learning and social development. The network, dubbed Net@BOSC, also embraces students at Broad Oak's partner primary schools and has been designed to enable wider community access once it is fully embedded with the core school community.
Net@BOSC has been created to help the school bridge the ‘digital divide' after a 2008 survey found that 40 per cent of students lacked home internet access. A key challenge faced by Pennine's engineers was in designing an effective network to serve 1,000 households set within a dense urban area comprising almost exclusively social housing estates and private terraced housing. Its solution included installation of multiple Motorola point-to-multipoint wireless backhaul links and 50 Motorola wireless mesh access points located on and powered by street lights.
BOSC's headteacher Neil O'Connor highlighted the project's benefits: "Net@BOSC is an efficient way to bridge the digital divide because the running costs are minimal and the administration light. We simply give students a user name and password and they can connect. There are no vouchers to redeem or landline or cable connections to be installed so take-up is set to be very high. That's important because we do not want any obstacles placed in the way of our students accessing and using e-learning techniques and resources."
Pennine Telecom's Managing Director Andrew Roberts said: "Pennine's wi-fi experience and expertise is being increasingly recognised by both private and public sector organisations and, of course, by our success in being shortlisted at Big Chip Awards.
"We are particularly proud of this pioneering project which will provide such great social and educational benefit to families in Bury."