back to article Inside Adastral: BT's Belgium-sized broadband boffinry base

Adastral Park is BT’s global research and development centre, one of the world’s most pioneering centres of technology and telecommunications. Like other visitors to the area, I’ve gazed at the Le Corbusier-inspired building and its iconic tower cube rising out of the surrounding flat Suffolk farmland. It announces its …

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worked there for 20 years

      So where do "beards and sandals" folk go to work - University research ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worked there for 20 years

      Hi Nigel. Took me a moment to place the name, until I remembered "piglet", the IP gateway that I think you used to run? Fun days indeed.

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    bt

    gouging monopoly rents for decades.

  2. GreyWolf
    Mushroom

    Not a word of truth...

    This piece reads as if it is a rehash of a BT press release. Let's deconstruct it, using a few facts as crowbars to break through the layers of bullshit.

    1. "home to thousands of engineers not just working on the frontier of boffinry"

    No boffinry (in the meaning of basic research) has occurred at Adastral in the last 10 years.

    2. "Thousands of engineers". there are around 4,000 people working at Adastral, of whom only 1500 are permanent UK employees of BT. The rest are onshore contract workers, mostly from the subcontinent, who are operations and support staff for the various IT services that are hosted there. The 4,000 is down from 11,000 in 2004, who were all permanent UK employees.

    3. "the park hosts a £500m scale model of BT’s full global network". When Adastral is redeveloped, that will disappear. The building that houses it does not appear on the redevelopment plans.

    4. "The team now has a full licence to invest BT’s cash in helping young Brits discover their creative spark " But it's Google that are buying Raspberry Pis for our schools, not BT.

    5. "BT is now working on plans to create 2,000 new jobs and provision for up to 2,000 homes by 2025, by opening up areas of Adastral Park as a science campus." BT has never committed to creating 2,000 new jobs, and cannot even point to more than 1800 jobs that are already in existence on the site, even if they count the restaurant staff and the building maintenance people, none of whom are BT employees.

    6."opening up areas of Adastral Park as a science campus" BT has been trying for at least 10 years to attract other firms to the park, without success. I know of at least one firm that tried it out, but left when they found BT could not provide a fast reliable broadband service inside their own science park.

    7. The truth about the "provision of 2000 new homes" is that BT having inherited for free a large stretch of land that was bought by taxpayers for the RAF, is now getting the local council to alter its policies to allow BT to sell the land with planning permission, This will give BT a windfall between £100 million and £300 million.

    One of the companies resident at Adastral, not listed in the article for some reason, is Huawei, who would dearly love to have a foothold in Europe. An established research park, with a company town literally next door, would be just what they want. Of course there would be no significant numbers of permanent UK employees - they'd be all imported.

    Dave Wilby, you've been had.

    1. Fuzz

      Re: Not a word of truth...

      "This piece reads as if it is a rehash of a BT press release"

      The phrase "super-fast broadband" is the give away, it's a phrase I've heard used only by ISPs and politicians. It's a meaningless phrase used (currently) to describe any kind of Internet connection faster than around 20Mbps.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a word of truth...

      re 6:

      I worked for one of those firms. It was embarrassing.

      The writer also fails to mention what a thoroughly miserable place it was to work. the little estate opposite was a dormiitory for martlesham types.

      While the pubs are good, standing at a bar and all the conversations are about IP, Projects, technology etc sounds interesting after a while you are desperate for something new.

      Those were the days before MBT of course.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I work at Adastral Park. The on-site canteen is rather expensive and not very good.

  4. Weltschmerz

    A job creation scheme...

    For the over qualified, rent-seeking psycho dilettante. Keeps them from spilling the beans about what goes on at GCHQ. Yawn... New balls please.

  5. Nick Gibbins
    IT Angle

    "[the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at RAF Martlesham Heath] witnessed the first flights of the Spitfire and the Hurricane."

    Not quite. The first flight of the Spitfire prototype (K5054) took place at Eastleigh Aerodrome, now better known as Southampton International Airport. The first flight of the Hurricane prototype (K5083) took place at Brooklands Aerodrome.

    The RAF trials for both aircraft took place at RAF Martlesham Heath, but they were far from being first flights.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked for BT for ten years.

    That story does not describe Adastral Park.

    That story describes BT's story of Adastral Park.

    It was an absolute shell of what it was when I left back in 2007. It's even worst now.

    BT embraced outsourcing in a big way, and now it reaps what it sowed.

  7. FatCandy
    FAIL

    Will be amazing...

    ...when BT/OpenReach figure out how to connect basic communications infrastructure to a new housing estate in under 35 days. Hey ho, at least British companies (particularly communication ones at that) are best in the world - the Swedes have nothing on us.

    1. Naadir Jeewa

      Re: Will be amazing...

      Hahhahaha. Good luck with that. I'm on day 141, and Plus.Net have started to bill me for non existent service,

  8. Jon Green
    Facepalm

    Bit of a shame...

    ...that, for all the innovation being done at AdAstral Park the bean-counters in BT seem determined to eke the last penny out of the existing, fossilised infrastructure and to resist rolling out high-speed internet. A pattern we've seen ever since they tried to resist ADSL for as long as possible, in order to boost ISDN sales.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A14 Corridor

    At the time it was named Adastral Park there was a lot of excitement about the "A14 corridor". Linking Ipswich to Cambridge - At the Ipswich end at least.

    It seemed a little far fetched to put Martleland on a par with Cambridge back then. These days it seems deluded.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A14 Corridor

      Like everything tech related at Martlesham the A14 corridor was a figment of imagination, all part of the grand plan to sell off their land for property development. Incidentally BT was gifted the land by the state in order to do research, so why should it benefit from it now?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A14 Corridor

        This canard again. BT was gifted the land, before privatisation. When it was privatised, the shareholders who bought it also bought the land.

  10. FrMo
    Joke

    You cannot be serious!

    There is nothing at Adastral but tired mediocrity. When the RAF left it would have been better to return the place to farmland.

  11. Isaac Hunt
    Holmes

    Reflections . . .

    The changes in activites at MH/AP just reflect the transition in the Telecoms industry from the government-run & regulated monopoly PTTs of the mid-20th century to the multinational "business-lead" carriers & vendors we have today.

    So the greatest change that I saw over 20 years association with the place was the growing integration with the business; I was lucky to have worked on projects that started with fundamental research & ended with support of the paying customers! Others were less lucky, having developed services that became run of the mill in other networks, but were told by the "dead wood" civil-service-leftover managers, buried in their London offices, that there was no market for them.

    Sounds like the pendulum has now swung too far the other way now; not enough folks thinking about where the technology can lead the business in the mid-term, & trying to keep ahead of the vendors, which has always been the real strength of telco carrier "R&D". The BS "futurology" demos have to continue as they provide a public face & cover for the real development work that is the bread & butter of the place.

  12. pjcard
    Thumb Up

    BT Dialup gaming service

    Being a Suffolk lad, was lucky enough to do work experience there. It was about 15 years ago, and around the time BT used to do a dialup gaming service that we got to play with as testers for a day (out of two weeks, mind). Can't for the life of me remember what it was called though. Seem to remember the software was very blue and yellow. The canteen there is still the best I've ever eaten in, funny what you remember.

    1. paulf
      Thumb Up

      Re: BT Dialup gaming service

      It was called Wireplay, but it isn't too easy to find details on its existence since its changed hands several times. This page has some history on it:

      http://forums.wireplay.co.uk/archive/index.php/t-321191.html

      The original BT service logo was this:

      http://www.byteenchanters.net/partners/wireplay_logo.gif

      P

  13. Neil McRae
    Thumb Up

    Adastral Park is fantastic!

    Yes I work for BT, yes I'm a senior manager, I look after Network Architecture in BT - I speak for myself.

    I joined 2 years ago after working for the competition (infact creating the competition) for almost twenty years.

    I once had a low opinion of the work carried out at Adastral Park as I didn't believe it gave BT an edge. Since seeing whats done there and how its downstreamed into products and services I think the work done there is fantastic.

    I think you have to look at where the todays telecoms market is. In the past there was only BT so they made a lot of money and were able to invest in research in the widest sense, and no companies like Cisco / Juniper etc existed.

    Today, there is huge competition, in fact the most competition in the world is in the UK telecoms marketplace. I've worked in lots of companies and bean counters exist to optimise (and they exist in some form in every company) running costs and effectiveness - why? well without a return you can't invest in the next stuff you want to build or invent - companies have to make money and grow otherwise they go out of business. Everyone who works in a company is a bean counter and I try to spend and invest as if its was my own money I was spending.

    I've known Nigel for for 17 years, amusingly he was at BT and I was at Easynet, now Nigel works for Easynet and I work for BT! :-)

    At Adastral Park there is fantastic research going on and lots and lots of patents being filed. Recently work at the park has created Saturn a big data system on cyber security, is pioneering G.FAST - a technology that will drive copper lines up to 1G and one other key piece of research is the work BT is doing on Network Functions VIrtualisation.

    Yes BT outsourced a lot of work like EVERY other company in the world, some of it works well, some of it doesn't, many companies have gone through this cycle, and they did it because they didn't have any choice.

    Today though BT is hiring grads, apprentices and investing in its people with new skills at Adastral Park and across the UK. Nothing is perfect but I really enjoy working at BT - I enjoy working for a company that changes the world one day at a time.

    The doom merchants and negative ninjas I am sure will slate me but BT is doing a huge number of positive things and its great to be part of it.

    Neil.

  14. Sir Lancelot
    Joke

    Just saying

    Do not underestimate the amount of computing power required to run a country as complex as Belgium

  15. Steve Button Silver badge
    FAIL

    This is not "biting the hand"

    A very unbalanced article.

    BT Research labs *was* one of the world's most pioneering centres of technology and telecommunications.

    Not any more and not for over 10-15 years now. I worked there in the early naughties, and since then even more Mahindra staff have been bought in to develop software. I now work at the Cambridge Science Park, where real pioneering work is happening (not by me, I'm just a humble sysadmin)

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