AROUND the world people use apps like Skype and FaceTime to keep in touch with loved ones, but military personnel at RAF Brize Norton have often struggled due to poor internet access.
But that has all now changed as a new £885,000 high-speed wi-fi network has been installed by BT.
It was launched on Tuesday and will serve the 6,000 servicemen and women living on the base, finally allowing them to use video chat websites to contact friends and family far away.
Project leader Flt Lt Felicity Price, 27, said it will help her contact her fiance Flt Lt Alastair Jamison, who has been based in Cyprus for the past 15 months.
She said: “It’s been quite hard trying to talk to him without Skype because I’ve had no internet in my room. I just didn’t bother getting it because it wasn’t worthwhile.
“We spoke to each other a lot through email and had an international calling card but it’s just not the same as seeing him.”
About 600 wireless points have been installed, connecting to one of 57 main wireless control points.
The base was previously equipped with internet access but Flt Lt Price said the signal was not strong enough in the officers’ mess.
Some servicemen and women had private contracts with internet providers to cover their rooms, but they were tied down to long-term commitments that they had to continue paying for, even when they were deployed abroad. Under the new service, the network will cover permanent accommodation blocks and communal areas in the station for free and there will also be pay-as-you-go options available.
There will also be free coverage for the next five years in the main airport terminal and for personnel staying in the Gateway House Hotel before being deployed.
Flt Lt Price said: “For those people it gives them the opportunity to speak to loved ones just before they go and to keep them entertained because there’s not much to do at Gateway House.
“They are waiting to be deployed and will be away from their families for six months so it’s important to give them access to the internet, which everyone needs nowadays.
“It will also be in communal areas so people can sort out their day-to-day issues more easily and keep contact with the other world because everyone wants to go on Facebook or check their emails.”
Squadron Leader David Riley said: “Whatever we can do to make our servicemen and women feel more comfortable and valued is vitally important to us.
“Providing wi-fi access is certainly going to improve the quality of life for everyone at RAF Brize Norton.”