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Behind the scenes at KCOM’s 24/7 data centre which keeps Hull online

At 3pm on Boxing Day, internet demand across Hull surged.

Right across the city, football fans sat down to watch Amazon Prime’s new Premier League streaming service.

It was a landmark moment for online football streaming.

Six top-flight matches, streamed simultaneously, across the country.

But when you turn your smart TV on to watch your chosen game, chances are you did not stop to think about the huge surge in broadband demand.

It’s a similar story for video game fans.

Maybe you’ve just got home from work or school, and are straight on the Playstation or Xbox to download the latest update on Call of Duty or Fortnite.

Inside KCOM’s new CSOC data centre in Hull
(Image: HullLive)

On the surface, it seems easy.

But at a specialist data centre in Hull, a team at broadband provider KCOM is one step ahead of you – anticipating the surge in demand for internet, and keeping your download ticking over.

It is a huge operation.

At any one time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a team of around 100 people at KCOM’s Customer Service Operations Centre (CSOC) is keeping Hull’s broadband online.

Tim Shaw, chief technical officer at KCOM, explained.

He said: “When Amazon recently did three nights of football streaming, we knew there would be a huge spike in demand.

Tim Shaw, chief technical officer at KCOM
(Image: HullLive)

“Boxing Day broke the record for KCOM in Hull in terms of demand. You have also got to think about what happens at half-time during the football. People are still streaming, but they might also be looking at their phones.

“Another massive spike was just a few days ago, when Call of Duty announced a major update.

“Every year, we see the demand across the network rise by around 40 per cent. The challenge that creates for us is two-fold.

“One is getting more out of the same network we have. The other is how, commercially, do we manage that.”

The way people consider broadband has changed dramatically in recent years.

Today, it is seen as a utility not dissimilar to gas, electricity and water. It is something which is simply expected.

Inside KCOM’s new CSOC data centre in Hull
(Image: HullLive)

But unlike other utilities, which charge more money for the more gas or electricity you use, broadband is unique.

Despite demand on KCOM rising by 40 per cent a year, your bill does not increase by the same.

KCOM’s CSOC is an impressive operation.

The command room is surrounded by a line of green lighting. If a fault anywhere on the network is detected, the light changes to red, and the team springs into action.

Sometimes, faults are unavoidable.

Mr Shaw said on one occasion, a digger working on a different project had accidentally gone through one of KCOM’s fibre cables.

Needless to say, the red lighting was activated.

Inside KCOM’s new CSOC data centre in Hull
(Image: HullLive)

So what is KCOM doing to keep up with demand?

Mr Shaw said: “We have invested £2m in new service management, which will give us better visibility of device-level performance.

“That means if someone rings up and says their laptop is working fine, but they think the speed of their tablet or phone is lower, we are able to look at that device and analyse it.

“That requires investment from us.”

KCOM also recently announced new owners Macquarie was to invest £100m to expand the company’s broadband network.

Service will be provided for the first time in areas including Driffield, Market Weighton and Nafferton.

Inside KCOM's new CSOC data centre in Hull
Inside KCOM’s new CSOC data centre in Hull
(Image: HullLive)

“That investment means more people, more jobs, and more customers for us,” Mr Shaw said.

“We have already recruited around 35 new engineers to build the network, and are looking to recruit more people to work in the CSOC as well.”

KCOM’s team works around the clock to anticipate upcoming surges in internet demand, as well as handle calls from customers who experience problems.

A huge screen shows KCOM’s national network, and the CSOC’s green and red lighting means staff are immediately aware of any issues on the grid.

So the next time you turn on your TV to stream a football game, or are sat waiting for the latest video game update to install, remember one thing.

KCOM’s team is – hopefully – a step ahead of you, making sure you stay online and connected.

How to contact Phil Winter and Business Live

Business Live's Hull & East Yorkshire journalist is Phil Winter

Business Live’s Hull & East Yorkshire journalist is Phil Winter, also the business editor at the Hull Daily Mail and Hull Live.

You can follow Phil on Twitter @PhilWinterBiz, or on Linkedin by clicking here.

Alternatively, email him on philip.winter@reachplc.com, or call 01482 315360.

Keep up to date with the latest business news in the Hull & Humber region here.

Follow @HumberBizEd and @businesslive on Twitter

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