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. IHateWearingATie

    4 acres was really interesting

    The 4 acre site was fascinating when I visited, watching an engineer give a demonstration of blowing fibre and fiddling with the passive splitters.

    Don't forget kids, fibre cables have a yellow stripe so don't bother nicking them when you're after some copper to sell to the scrappie!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All back-doored by Huawei ?

    1. Steve Evans

      I was wonedring that too...

      "an engineering HQ that takes top-flight technology and works out how to deploy and operate it the real world."

      So why are they shipping that cheap Chinese Home Hub with all the bugs?

  3. Elmer Phud

    Outsourced

    Shame that so many of the talented staff have been axed or outsourced over the years.~

    Madastral Pork showed you can get a good telly picture down copper -- in the 1970's.

    Then there was Westminster Cable(?) that didn't go anywhere as a certain now ex-Australian was wooing the Prime Minister of the day.

    Ah, Rupes, you have so much to answer for

  4. circusmole
    Thumb Down

    Yes, very impressive BT.

    It's a pity that they will not be improving my sub-1Mb/sec broadband connection, on the outskirts of a biggish town for, and I quote, "the forseeable future and maybe never" because I live in a "lane" and getting a fibre anywhere near me, and the other 20 houses in the "lane", would be "difficult". Apparently it was not "difficult" to get it to the numerous houses 30-50 metres from me.

    1. Christopher Rogers
      FAIL

      Re: Yes, very impressive BT.

      Correct. For all their bleating on, Broadband in the UK is still the poor relation. The sooner we sell the network to the Japanese the better.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Yes, very impressive BT.

      So, call a local building company and your local planning office, find out what it would cost to lay a fibre along those 30-50 metres. Divide it by 20, get your neighbours to chip in. Then call BT back.

      1. circusmole

        Re: Yes, very impressive BT.

        @Phil O'Sophical - I don't think so; the County Council has handed out over £13M to BT to deliver a "broadband plan" (whatever that is - I've never been able to find out).

        The last time I looked the Council got most of it's money from me, and other tax payers. So paying again would be sort of stupid - just like your comment.

    3. Marvin the Martian
      Windows

      Re: Yes, very impressive BT: "Let BT run Belgium"

      That's just adding cruelty to injury.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Martlesham Heath, PARC, Bell Labs

    IIRC the Joint Speech Research Unit (part of Dollis Hill) gave the world speech transmission at 1200bps in the late 1950s.

    All the institutions I listed may be world class research centres but apart from Prestel what is Adastral Park (I've only ever seen it called Martlesham or Martlesham Heath) actually known to the world for?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Martlesham Heath, PARC, Bell Labs

      Even into the 80s there was still JSRU-related work going on at Martlesham (the "Joint" aspect was GPO/BT + a bit of government) , I worked with the text-to-speech team there, taking original JSRU synthesis code that ran on a PDP-11 and getting it running first on a VME-based M68K system, then on a custom-designed single board. What else happened there? Lots of behind-the-scenes stuff, so that's maybe why it isn't "known" to the world. SDH network equipment , optical muxes, switch design, etc. Lots of radio stuff, that tower was a forest of dishes & aerials. Mostly low-level hardware, the software expertise was elsewhere in those days (hence my visits). And, of course, there was the mysterious 5th floor that we ordinary plebs weren't allowed into. Who knows what happened there.

      I have fond memories of lunches at the Maybush, sitting in the sun with a pint watching people just messing about in boats on the Deben. Fun days, when I was too junior to have to worry about project funding, economic crises and layoffs!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Martlesham Heath, PARC, Bell Labs

      I'm American and with a connection to the Intelligence Community in voice interception, so I know it for formerly having the Security Service's lawful domestic interception infrastructure there, some GCHQ stuff, as well as the site being the most likely candidate for the keying office of whatever the UK called/calls their STU-III equivalent.

      Conversely AT&T had their STU-III keying location at a Long Lines facility in the middle of fucking nowhere in Southern PA, near Raven Rock and Camp David, with a backup located near Mount Weather in Northern Virginia. Both are still active but the STU-III is no longer in widespread use.

      Anon for the bleeding obvious.

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
      Boffin

      Spooky Daring Martlesham Heath ..... Win Win Win for All Caring Sharers in New VMarket Spaces

      All the institutions I listed may be world class research centres but apart from Prestel what is Adastral Park (I've only ever seen it called Martlesham or Martlesham Heath) actually known to the world for? ... John Smith 19 Posted Tuesday 26th March 2013 11:47 GMT

      Haven't you worked it out yet, John Smith 19? You don't need to know whenever things are need to know and sensitive.

      And per Ardua ad Meta Astra Strata is so much more than just a Few and New Kids and TitanICQ with SMARTR Colossus on the Block and in the Hood Projects for ProgramMING Dynasties*. Watch these Registered Virtual Space Places though, for all of the Info and Intel AI and IT and BT2 deems is required to be more generally well known for ...... well, SMARTR Applied Projects with Prime Primed Primary Principals Programming Presentation Protocols for Phorms and Phishes aka Uncovered and Recoverable Deep Packet Inspection Treasure and Zeroday Vulnerability Exploit Trove Futures and Derivative Farming with Proper Preparation and Planning Preventing Piss Poor Performance Back Up in Reserve and Special Reserve and ESPecial Reserve Forces.

      *Green Cabinet Field Programs for Fledgling States Administration and for Fledgling States Administrations [Alternative Political Party leaderships having a go at the helms of social control] in Administration [and making a pig's ear of IT and everything] and in Dire Straits. ...... 4BT2InterNetional Rescue.

  6. Anne-Lise Pasch
    Megaphone

    I miss working @Adastral

    I used to work on the 'secret' floor in the 'iconic' tower - The one that had the police guard outside and had a special thin-doored lift. (So secret, that every contractor who ever worked for BT FastTrack visited to update the MI5 phone monitoring software.) The restaurants were superb.

    1. M7S

      Re: I miss working @Adastral

      What was the significance and intent of the thin lift door? Does this refer to the aperture (no fatties allowed?) or the thickness of the door itself?

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: I miss working @Adastral

        It was probably a cheap Chinese (like their home router gear) lift, so made of this metal so you can free yourself with nothing more than a good kick when it inevitably breaks down twice a week.

  7. stu 4
    WTF?

    research my arse

    There are only a handful of engineers doing real research at Adastral these day - 200 max.

    The majority are just churning out software.

    And I notice no mention of the fact that a large proportion (500-1000) of the staff are actually near shore Mahindra (cheaper than the locals).

    stu - worked there for 10 years - and have lots of mates who still do.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: research my arse

      This, plus the fact that the research stopped in the late 90s when BT made redundant/retired almost all the research staff (and almost all the Greybeards).

      The whole reason it is 'Adastral Park' and not 'BT Research Laboratories' is that after this mass culling they found they had masses of empty office space, along with the only decent internet connection in Suffolk, so they became landlords instead.

      1. Anne-Lise Pasch
        FAIL

        Re: research my arse

        And when 'Uncle' Ben Verwaayen added the clause that every contractor must take a 10% pay cut on every renewal.

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: research my arse

        Best example of BT R&D priorities then and now may be this-

        http://www.btplc.com/Innovation/Journal/BTTJ/current/CurrentVolume.aspx

        and it's inexorable shift from hardware to software. And outsourcing. Last published 2009.

  8. Spiracle
    WTF?

    Le Corbusier? Really?

    First I've heard of it. Influenced by, perhaps.

  9. KrisM
    Thumb Up

    back in the day...

    When I worked for BT in the early naughties, I blagged a day trip to the mad laboratory. After a quick meeting, got the tour, and saw some of the off the wall stuff they were working on. The office of the future always stuck in my mind - imagine sitting in a large egg shaped device, rotated vertically nearly onto your back, and surrounded by monitors, and all the modern comms equipment. Still waiting for that one...

    Had a chat with BT's own futureolgoist as well, which was an eye opener.

    Still never saw any of the sandal wearing, long bearded, lab-coated gents that were rumoured to populated the complex!!

    The pub down the road was pretty good as well!

    1. stu 4
      WTF?

      Re: back in the day...

      >Had a chat with BT's own futureolgoist as well, which was an eye opener.

      Was the eye opener "what a fucking arse-piece - the only thing imaginative about him was his octagonal glasses"

      Ian Pearson - a man devoid of any skills whatsoever. And for whom, imagination was an anathema.

      you'd often see him in the canteen with a film crew he'd manage to get in to shoot him with his crappy mock up 'computer on a wrist' ...." in the future we'll all have like computers on our wrist and... er... you know avatars and er.. some other shite I've just made up with my limited imagination"

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: back in the day...

        Let's hope he got a patent for the whole computer on the wrist thing, he could have some fun with apple, samsung and lg :-)

      2. KrisM
        Meh

        Re: back in the day...

        The couple of presentations I had from him were always interesting. Sure, they were a bit 'out there' in terms of what was predicted, but then thats a futureologist does! I'm sure he had plenty of stats to back things up. shame I don't have any of his slidepacks. Wonder who accurate he was 10 years on...

        maybe my youthful excitement, or rose tinted glasses have coloured my opinion tho...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: back in the day...

          He's still at it: http://www.futurizon.com/

          I met Dr Alan Rudge and got a better feel for future trends talking to him than I did listening to Ian "I invented text messaging" Pearson.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: back in the day...

        My favourite time was when there was an email outage @ Ratsalad.

        The traditional "sorry" email to everyone on site.

        Followed by Pearson sending a very whiny, stroppy, pompous email about how entirely unacceptable this was. People would lose their jobs etc.

        Only he hit "reply to all". It's possible he did this on purpose, in which case he's a nasty bully as well as a knob.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: back in the day...

      Another anecdote that comes to mind. In the famous storm of 1987 that reduced Sevenoaks to Oneoak some of the metal cladding on the tower block came unfastened, and was threatening to blow down onto the site. If it had done so it could have decapitated anyone below, so the site safety officer was called out in the small hours, and he ordered the site closed until it could be made safe.

      This safety officer's day job was as a relatively lowly technician grade, but as far as safety was concerned he was God. Around 8am or so a director rolled up for work, and was told the site was closed. Refusing to accept this he summoned said safety officer and demanded to be allowed in. He was refused, tried to pull Director rank on the technician, who stood his ground. Heated words were exchanged, with the Director eventually being told to F-off (as I heard it). He did, in a fury.

      Said director immediately called the chairman (Iain Vance at the time, IIRC) and insisted that the technician be fired for his behaviour. To the very great delight of the other technicians (and their union), the boss supported the safety officer and gave the director a considerable bollocking for being so stupid as to try and pull rank on a site safety officer, when he should be setting an example. Lots of smiles when that story went around, although I never found out which director it was.

      1. Dixie Nourmous

        Re: back in the day...

        That would be Iain Vallance..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: back in the day...

          > Iain Vallance..

          Ack, nearly right. Thanks.

  10. SW

    Low tech badging

    For such a high-tech facility I feel a little 'let-down' by such a low-tech visitor badge.

    Where's the gizmos? Was there an RFID chip?

    Wasn't this the location where one famous (but can't remember his name right now) had a chip implanted so that the building would open/unlock doors for him?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Low tech badging

      Kevin Warwick, and no, it wasn't.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Low tech badging

      Good old Ratsalad Park

      You used to be able to get on-site by folding up the right colour of crisp packet and waving it casually at the guards. I find it interesting that visitors are pointed to the pub rather than the on-site poisoner's palace.

      1. Tony Green

        Re: poisoner's palace

        During most of my years there (up to 2005) the staff canteen (sorry, Hub!) was so dire and over-priced that even in the worst weather it was still preferable to walk to the sandwich shop on the industrial estate. Fun to wind up the canteen manager by sitting in the lounge scoffing on bought-in grub though...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low tech badging

        Blockbuster video membership cards used to work too.

        I once was on call and arrived at 2am. I had to knock loudly on the gate house window to wake the security guard up to open the barrier. Should have just ducked under it, as I was on my bike rather than in a car.

  11. EssEll
    Black Helicopters

    Hi tech? Only the shoes...

    I worked here for a bit in the late 90s. From memory, there's a bridge linking two parts of the building. A notice was blu-tacked to the walls: "Do not pin anything into these walls as they contain asbestos".

    There might have been high tech going on in the rooms (I never saw any), but the building itself is a dump.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: asbestos

      The interior walls were all asbestos-cement firewalls. Safe, as long as you didn't make holes in them. The paperwork required just to get a cable duct from one lab to another was horrendous.

      Then again, I was sitting at a bench one windy day when I noticed some fine, feathery dust being blown onto the table. I told the lab tech, who called his boss, and I've never seen such a fast health and safety response! Lab cleared, hazmat vacuum cleaners, air samples, the works, all inside 10 minutes. Turned out to be harmless glassfibre from a false ceiling, but they weren't taking any chances!

  12. Aldous
    FAIL

    Fibre to 2/3rds

    yeah right, BT openreach are taking over 6 weeks to connect a single copper joint on the new build estate i am in. Sending the guy to wire the house before it was connected at the trunk end was also a smart move and it can't be sorted because the usual bloke who does this is on holiday!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, yes, BT "released" most of their experienced engineers at the end of the eighties, early nineties. The ones left get to "manage" "off/onshore resources". Sounds terrific.

    That, and the fact that a funny handshake is a prerequisite for real career progress there, I'm surprised to see it described in such deferential terms. Does the author want to tell us something?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is it just me or do masons always look like they're on their way to their weekly session with the dominatrix to do her cleaning? All they need is the masonic duster. Oh really? Well, they're all set then!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last time I was there, 2004-ish, Ben Verwaayen was terribly excited about a broadband fridge.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The good 'ole days are long gone...

    It was a great place to start my career, and I remember it and the people fondly. But I jumped before everyone was pushed.

    No regrets, but when telecom firms start talking about needlessly connecting [insert home appliance here] to the internet, its time to get out of the industry.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blast from the past...

    I worked at AP (nee Martlesham Heath) for about a decade; we eventually ended up on the fifth floor when the secret squirrels were finally evicted; the mirrored glass and giant satellite dishes eventually followed them.

    I don't remember security being that strict - there were a few occasions when people sneaked back in huddled under a coat on the back seat of a car, after forgetting to take their pass to the Friday pub lunch. And I remember a few other bits and pieces: the mud hut tucked away at the back of the site near the tennis courts, the stash of gently mouldering telephone boxes, the giant koi carp in the pond behind the customer center, the antiquated clocks in the unrefurbished rooms at the top of the tower (next to the signs warning people not to drill into the walls due to the asbestos) and the giant shed where they used to run deep-sea pressure tests on underwater cables.

    (Oh, and I remember the kerfluffle back when Martlesham Heath was renamed to Adastral Park - IIRC, they made the mistake of announcing the new name before registering any domains, and some bright contractor got in there first...)

    However, it all started to get a bit "corporatized" in the mid-noughties. Out went the subsidised canteen (replaced by a contracted service offering "restaurant" style meals) and lots of the older buildings were demolished; a new (koi-less) lake was built in the middle of the site and a set of plasticated buildings dumped around them. We used to call them pig-pens and I'm guessing you can still see/hear/feel the first floor flex when people walk across them!

    At the time I left, they were trying to spin up AP as a business hub - other companies had started to set up shop there, and there was talk of hotels and some sort of university campus. I don't know if it's sad or interesting that they're still talking about such things, a good few years later...

    Finally, if you are visiting: the Maybush is pretty nice (and just on the riverside), but the Black Tiles was the preferred Friday-dinner place: hopefully it's still doing it's insanely huge plates of cheesy nachos...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blast from the past...

      >a new (koi-less) lake was built in the middle of the site and a set of plasticated buildings dumped around them. We used to call them pig-pens and I'm guessing you can still see/hear/feel the first floor flex when people walk across them!

      Ah, the toxic lake and (when I was there) its juvenile herring gull inhabitant.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blast from the past...

      > Out went the subsidised canteen

      Ah, I remember the 80s when any meeting booked with lunch automatically came with wine, one bottle per two attendees. We had 10-person meetings where only two of us drank red wine; even with our best efforts we had filing cabinet drawers full of unopened bottles waiting for the next office party.

      Then it went to "director approval required", then "director approval, and only with external visitors" and finally "no alcohol on site". Probably pushed the travel budget up, as the meetings were scheduled elsewhere...

      AC, obviously. Hic! :)

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Blast from the past...

        I'd forgotten about the wine! - £3.50 or so for a bottle of that cost £20 in the shops that some bright buyer had bought in by the lorry load.

        And the Adnams was bloody good too.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blast from the past...

        > Then it went to "director approval required", then "director approval, and only with external visitors" and finally "no alcohol on site". Probably pushed the travel budget up, as the meetings were scheduled elsewhere...

        I was told that the sale of on-site alcohol was withdrawn when the security cameras caught some senior person trying to sneak several crates of stuff into the back of their car. It was certainly long gone by the time I got there :)

        However, IIRC, there was still an onsite store during my early years where you could buy "office supplies" (e.g. batteries) at cost. And even by the time I left, there were still some old-school surprises tucked away in various corners, such as the darkroom set up in a disused portacabin by the BT photographer society.

        However, something the article didn't touch on - and I'm guessing it's still significantly impacting BT's expansion plans - is that the site is heavily bottlenecked. There's only two exits; one feeds straight into a roundabout on the A14 - and the other (which only opens at rush hour) either feeds straight into the same roundabout, or another roundabout which has a Tescos sat atop it. By the time I left, car usage had grown drastically; BT ended up making all of the internal roads one-way, so people could park on the "unused" side; even with this, you could end up parking 5-10 minutes walk away from your building and once back to your car, at peak times it could literally take half an hour to get offsite.

        And don't get me started on the route 66 bus service. In some ways it was pretty advanced - they had digital displays on most of the bus-stops, and some sort of sensor built into key traffic lights to give the buses priority. However, it also took a detour around several large housing estates, turning what could have been a 10 minute journey into a 35+ minute journey. If you were working late at night and missed one, you could spend 20 minutes walking in a straight line and still catch the next bus at the point where it exited the final housing estate.

        There might have been an effort to put on an "express" bus later on - I can't remember for certain and I'd gotten a car by then and was working flexitime, so avoided the parking/peak hour issues. However, by this point, a significant percentage of the onsite workforce was contractors brought in from Tech Mahindra (which BT still owned shares in at the time) who were given accommodation in Ipswich, so the bus services also became heavily overloaded at peak times...

        In any case, I have to agree with other commentators: by the time I left (about 5 years ago), AP - and BT in general was very much transitioning away from "real" research and development: instead of developing new technologies internally, the focus switched to buying in and integrating 3rd party technologies. And even the integration work generally wasn't developed onshore: there was an explicit drive to have 90% of the resource for any project offshore, though in practice, there was an ongoing cycle of bringing offshore resource to the site and then sending them back offshore when upper management took a look at the budget figures and threw a fit.

        Still, what goes around, comes around: a few years later, I was mildly amused to see an internal press release touting the fact that some division was "experimenting" with the concept that an onshore, physically co-located team of permanent employees could be more efficient and effective...

        I had some good times there and worked with a lot of good, dedicated and talented people. But I'm far from sorry to have left both BT and AP...

  17. Tom 7 Silver badge

    A powerhouse of invention

    before privatisation. And for a while afterwards but I do remember being told, on presenting a plan for a microchip that would have cost $5US in development that 'we dont do research here anymore'. Last time I saw anything like it it cost BT $60,000 to buy in the boxes to do nearly the same thing from abroad.

    Bitter - well you would be when they wont fix your broadband because its copper and there are 10,000 poles with the red tickets on like mine.

  18. Nigel Titley

    Worked there for 20 years

    When I started in the late 70's it was a real research labs. So many things got invented there: the first long life transistors, blown fibre, modifications to trawl nets to reduce the damage caused to undersea cables, stored program control exchanges, DSL, echo cancellation for local lines, video on demand, high speed bi-direction telephone signalling, the list was endless. Then in the late 80's it started to spiral downhill as the bean counters took charge: the library was closed to make space for admin offices, the maths group was disbanded, less and less blue sky research got done and more and more software development and project management. Most of the inventive and imaginative "beards and sandals" folk (including myself) left for horizons new. It's a sad shadow of its former self; all glitter and little substance.

    1. Martin Kirk

      Re: Worked there for 20 years

      Hi Nigel. Yes, happy days. Been gone from BT Research for 23 years now, but it was a great first 15 years of my career. A lot of fun, and some great 'firsts'. Some great folk there in the 'good old days'.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worked there for 20 years

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

    3. 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.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    bt

    gouging monopoly rents for decades.

  20. 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.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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,

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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.

  32. Sir Lancelot
    Joke

    Just saying

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

  33. Steve Button
    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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