The Broadband Plan - what to expect


Boris's "5billion for fibre"

There is now doubt whether this is for fibre or fibre AND 5g and is being judged as a damp squib by industry commentators and probably just conference/election grabbing spin. It is reckoned to be not nearly enough to get full fibre to the rural areas, and 5g is a waste of space for all but urban areas due to poor distance and environmental considerations - to get the speeds you need to be more or less be in sight of the mast. Since many rural areas cannot even manage a decent 2g (voice/text) service, a 'distant' prospect....

Furthermore there are now questions as to whether this is a 'new' 5billion or the 5billion previously allocated, and it is also now being said to 'support' the roll-out of fibre and not DO it! This leads to questioning whether we are into another round of public/private deployment with the inevitable delays. Personally I do not see this as the 'big Boris' announcement of the last weeks. We will see what 2025 brings.


Don't go getting TOO excited just yet! - THE PARISH COUNCIL AUGUST NEWSLETTER

We are waiting to see where the breathless 'Fibre is coming' announcement in the August PC Bulletin originated. I suspect an over-reaction to some Openreach propaganda, but you never know!

We also now know that fibre on the poles is being run south from the junction along Broadford Bridge Road which should eventually open some sort of option to residents there - the fibre run appears to finish with the last telegraph pole about 1/2 mile north of the Queen's Head. I have myself now observed the 'Caution Overhead Fibre' or 'Caution Fibre Above' yellow plates on the poles on this road, which is the clue. Here are three of the things you need to watch out for in case they sprout from 'every pole' in West Chiltington:


What does this mean for you if you are seeking better broadband?

You need to keep checking with WSCC about what they are doing. However, in view of the 'promise' by Boris, I recommend that if you are interested in getting a fibre feed to your property you do the following asap:

If you have a group of properties that are keen to improve their broadband speeds go for the 'Community Fibre' option as above - register your 'interest' at Fibre Checker. You will see there that there are currently no 'obvious' plans to provide FTTP to most of West Chiltington, but do not give up!! ....OR

There are voucher schemes just coming into place for residential grants for fibre to add to the existing vouchers for business connections. Apply for up to 3500 towards the cost of connection by visiting WSCC Broadband. WSCC are now involved in the process of launching the residential scheme, and you can find more information at Gigabit and will offer help and advice on the Voucher scheme. Enter the postcodes of the properties interested in the scheme to confirm eligibility. An eligible postcode will display the message 'Some addresses in the postcode you have entered may be eligible for a rural gigabit voucher as part of a group scheme'. The suppliers who are able to provide a service in the area will then be listed and the community group should approach a supplier for a quotation mentioning that they would like to take advantage of the voucher scheme. This is what the scheme is about:

The Rural Gigabit Connectivity Vouchers are specifically aimed at rural areas (as defined by DEFRA) where current broadband speeds are less than 30mbps. Rural Gigabit vouchers can be used by groups of rural properties to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit capable connection. The groups of properties may be formed from a business/multiple businesses and a number of residential properties or from a group of residential properties. This voucher scheme is aimed at aggregating demand for services in a particular area so a single business or a single resident would not be able eligible for the scheme. The voucher would be worth up to 1500.

Encouragingly, entering the Village Nurseries into the page shows several available suppliers and indicates that a voucher may be available.

What this means for the rest of the village, however, is uncertain at present, except, of course, you will all have seen Boris's magic announcement of 'Fibre for every home' by 2025!? The latest information I have is that there are major obstacles in the way and I know most of the communications industry has written to Boris to point out the things that will need doing to achieve this, including opening access to all property to allow digging of fibre, removing the need for the existing 'wayleave' process, and major changes to the way fibre is taxed.


B4RN powers on

The 'community dig' fibre scheme B4RN, which is mainly active in the north-west of England, goes from strength to strength as it passes 3million on its latest crowd-funding scheme. B4RN. It just shows what conmmunities can achieve.


Community fibre scheme has now attracted 100,000 premises.


10Mbps for all

The government have announced that the 'USO' requiring a minimum download speed of 10Mbps for everyone is to launch in March 2020


'GFast'

The spread of 'GFast' to exchanges by BT has now reached 422 exchanges with 6,969 cabinets converted. NB It only improves speeds for those relatively near to a cabinet and I suspect will be a l - o - n - g time coming to us.


BT dragging their feet

25.02.2019: BT vetoes plan to fix rural mobile 'not spots'.
The Daily Mail's This is Money website reports that BT has vetoed efforts to improve mobile coverage in rural areas because its rivals would benefit more from the arrangement.
EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three were discussing ways to share infrastructure and allow rural roaming between networks so that rural 'not spots' could be better served.
However, BT, the parent company of EE, pulled out of the talks arguing that other operators had not invested as much in their own infrastructure.
If voluntary cooperation between networks does not work, the Government has suggested it may be willing to force network operators to improve rural coverage.


GFast getting closer

Something like 28 cabinets in Horsham are being 'GFast enabled'. GFast is an attempt by BT to boost speeds, and can deliver over 100Mbps and in theory up to over 300Mbps. HOWEVER, it really only works for premises within about 400 yards of a cabinet and requires a 'GFast pod' to be fitted to a cabinet. Personally I don't think it will arrive here. In any case it is a poor substitute for full fibre. The rapid deployment of full fibre schemes such as the Gigaclear and B4RN is how it should be done.


Government 'Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme'

Up to 3000 available to SMEs to offset the cost of a fibre feed. Nearby residents can claim up to 500 if they join in the fibre feed. More information at Voucher. If you want it, find yourself a nearby SME that needs a 1Gbps feed and get other residents to join the scheme.


Broadband - new policy review

Announced 23rd July 2018 is the news of the government review into future broadband provision, known as the 'Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR)' and it would appear that the pace of change is hotting up. Primarily the move will be ultimately to drop ALL copper telephone lines, transferring normal 'voice' communications to fibre broadband based. This is a massive undertaking and will, of course, require back-up power provision for all users. An interesting and progressive review, which raises significant doubts over implementation for reasons of cost and commercial interests. The key points are:

  • New housing developments to be forced to include full fibre connections by default
  • A 'right to entry' to flats, business parks and other properties for broadband operators. To ensure full fibre is rolled out and allow people to pick connectivity from the right supplier at the price they like

  • Reform of regulation with the aim of driving commercial investment in full fibre and tailored to the different local markets
  • Switchover from copper to full fibre, to be coordinated by Ofcom but led by industry
  • New standardised streetworks framework with the aim of reducing costs and disruption
  • More radio spectrum for 5G services
  • Providing easy access to infrastructure such as ducts, pipes and sewers from utility companies e.g. power, gas and water for mobile infrastructure and full fibre roll-outs

  • Ofcom to further reform the Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) regime to allow unrestricted access to Openreach ducts and poles
  • Greater use of Government buildings to boost mobile coverage across the UK


CityFibre to challenge the ASA 'fibre advertising' rules

One of the 'pure' fibre providing companies, CityFibre, has won high-court agreement (June 2018) to challenge the rules which allow BT to advertise what we have in the village as 'Fibre Broadband' - which it is not, as it comes to your house via the rotting old telephone lines in the ground and on poles. They are claiming that ONLY optic fibre DIRECT into a property should be allowed to describe itself as 'fibre', and all others, like BT, should be called 'hybrid' or 'partial' fibre. I wish them well - a ruling (hopefully) which is long overdue.


The General Election and Broadband - 29th Nov 2017 - don't believe what you were told!

Only the Liberal Party are promisimg anything like High Speed Broadband in their manifesto. The Conservatives' manifesto offered 'everyone' at least 10Mbps by 2020 - hardly 'high speed' and certainly not enough NOW let alone 2020! The Labour Party appear to have NO committment to any particular speed in their 'final' (ie not leaked) manifesto while the Liberal Party offer 'at least 30Mbps for everyone' by 2022. Bear in mind that by 2022, 30 will probably be considered 'slow'. All rather depressing, and the prospects for mobile coverage not much more cheering. Now the 'pledge', as with many pledges, looks to be a whiff of electoral smoke.


Progress report from WSCC

From the 'Better Connected' site, this from the County with a little more detail on the plans for use of the claw back from public funding of the BDUK roll-out.


NB For those Twitter lovers, Openreach have now launched their own page at Openreach where you should be able to find answers to some of your questions.


A new technology - worth looking at

The first two happy customers!

Backed by a large nationwide telecoms company, a company called 'NotSpot' is claiming to give broadband coverage in areas where other networks cannot cover. I have spoken to them today (21 Oct 2016). The technology is new and looks to be clever, and the system goes by the name of 'Mastband'. The service is eligible for the County installation grants - more at grants. The company have an on-line enquiry form at Notspot or you can ring them direct at 03333223434.

Two properties in the area have just (today, 16 Nov 2016) been connected by 'Notspot' and both report good download speeds of around 20Mbps which puts their previous unreliable satellite and 800Kbps telephone line connections into a cocked hat! Excellent News!

They have an installation fee of 450 (leaving you with a probable 100 charge) which is refundable under certain conditions. You can see part of the installation T&C here. They tell me that their mapping system will give a very accurate prediction of the likely speeds you will receive and they have very few 'failures' of quoted speeds.

Just announced that EE will be progressively rolling out 4G 800MHz coverage starting 1/12/16. At present I understand that NotSpot are using the 1800 and 2600MHz frequencies. If the 800 is added, it has a much better penetration of things like trees.


Extra Cabinets for the exchange

Sadly no sign of any respite for Harbolets, but a new cabinet has 'gone live' up the Coolham Road which should enable a service to reach Goose Green.

Satellite versus other schemes

I have covered satellite broadband before, but will repeat:
There are two primary issues with the system, apart from cost.
Firstly 'latency'. A normal request from your computer for something on the internet - eg a webpage - travels along the wires to a broadband 'hub', be it Brighton, London, Bracknell, whereever. The response is then accessed and the result returned to your computer along the same wires. Satellite is different - the request goes from your computer via the dish some 22,000 miles up to the satellite, which then sends a request back to earth for the information. The information is returned to the satellite and then down to you. Quite a distance. This means there is a significant delay in your receiving what you requested. The delay is sufficient to render internet telephony ('VOIP') very poor and any 'games' which involve fast reaction do not work, so any 'gaming' kids will be less than impressed.. Once a steady download link is established, of course, the delay becomes effectively irrelevant eg in watching a film or listening to music.

The second problem is 'bandwidth'. While this is improving every year, it is still possible for demand at the satellite to swamp the available system, and I have been told that sometimes a '20Mb satellite broadband' can slow to 1-2Mb at busy times. The loading on the satellite system can only worsen if 300,000 new users come on line.

The monthly cost can be expensive if you aim to use a lot of broadband, ie if you aim to watch movies etc. Once you exceed the smallish 'allowance', the costs rapidly escalate.

A wireless system still offers a better option, providing you can receive the signal. The delay I mentioned above is minimal on a wireless system.

If any of you are not sure how much 'bandwidth' you would need, an example from my 'Christmas' - two teenage grandchildren visited from 'up north' and got a Playstation for Christmas. Christmas day was spent 'setting it up' which meant a significant amount of downloads, and all 3 grandchildren, plus parents, ran IPads and mobiles on my system. My usage went up from around 800MB per day to almost 10 GB per day! The 'standard' satellite package appears to be about 10GB per MONTH for around 25 pm as far as I can see. Be warned!

Furthermore, as part of the UK government's response to the EU broadband survey I told you all about, OfCom have published this:
"Ofcom have found that the average household data usage has risen to 82 GB per month, with the figures for those with fibre-to-the cabinet (FTTC) or fibre-to-the premises (FTTP) connections being considerably higher (112GB). This compares with data consumption or 23 GB per month in 2012."

Think carefully before you embark on a low bandwidth contract!


Satellite

All those of you who are not being offered an FTTC connection on our exchange beware! This item in the Telegraph confirms the fears that it looks as if satellite is to be the 'solution' to providing you with the 2Mb minimum. Beware the 'latency' the article talks of, rendering satellite a poor option for VOIP use and pretty-well useless for all those 'shoot'em-up' games I know you play. As the article says, IF this was short-term solution to await 'fixing' the problem, not too bad, but it looks as if it is for the long term. In terms of monthly costs for a less-than-ideal service, satellite compares badly with the proposed wireless scheme (see below) which should offer not only better speeds but minimal latency and far better download limits. SO, if 'tempted' by any voucher offer from WSCC for satellite DO talk to anyone who has it already. The system is known to grind to a low speed during busy periods, and this can only worsen if a flood of new connections arrives.

UPDATE (10/6/2015): A significant breach of the BT/Government cosy 'arrangements' - 1Gbps broadband in Gloucestershire from Gigaclear - more please!

Right on cue! UPDATE (25/6/2015): Second Gigaclear County contract in Essex

It is catching! UPDATE (27/6/2015): Devon and Somerset councils have apparently decided not to sign with BT for phase 2 project to help take superfast broadband coverage to 95% - which provider will get this contract?

West Sussex, however, has elected to pay BT for Phase 2 work


I have 'archived' all the previous entries on West Chiltington broadband, including information on the cabinets and how to check your speeds (also see below). If you wish to re-visit this, see Archive.

Now that we have been 'served' by the BDUK scheme, MOST of the village has access to reasonable, if not really 'superfast' in the true meaning of the term. BDUK are re-funding County Councils now to allow the next stage of the project to proceed which is to try to take FTTC (at 24Mbps+) to 95% of the UK by 2017 in 'Phase 2' and to 'beyond 95%' in 'Phase 3'. all somewhat vague, and as usual West Chiltington will inevitably find itself somewhere in the missing %. With our 'Phase 1 complete, we have significant areas which are too far from the green cabinets to really benefit from the faster broadband, and of course for businesses that need a high upload speed for data etc the existing provision is not adequate. One of those businesses that is really poorly served by the scheme is the Village Nurseries, run by Peter Manfield. Peter has been a staunch advocate and supporter of the projects for a long time, and from his exchanges with WSCC it would appear that he and the others in similar circumstances may well be 'offered' vouchers to find some improvement and that the County may well be falling back on 'Satellite' as the solution which many elsewhere have found inadequate.

"Beware Greeks bearing gifts" as they used to say - but this time beware BT bearing all sorts of 'promises'/'hints' etc about 'improvements' to long-line broadband. There is very little flesh on the BT bones about it all, and DO remember that BT are now reckoned to be in a moderate panic at the thought that Openreach may be 'taken away from them' and set up as an independent company and may well be firing grapeshot at us all in the hope they can destroy that option AND the initiatives of other providers. I STRONGLY recommend that NO-ONE delays seeking other means of faster broadband on the basis of 'it's coming from BT soon'. It may never come!



Cabinet map

You can check your projected speeds here - the BT 'availability checker'. NB It now only works for BT phone numbers.

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