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Latest Blog Article: October 2014 Speed Tests a Full Round Up

Broadband News

£5 fibre based broadband offer from TalkTalk

Saturday 22 November 2014 10:47:40 by Andrew Ferguson

TalkTalk is keen to promote the simple fact that the FTTC fibre based broadband services are not just available from BT under the Infinity banner and a clear way to do this is keep appearing at the top of tables of offers and the new £5 per month for the first year on its up to 38 Mbps service is doing just that.

The TalkTalk up to 38 Mbps download (up to 2 Mbps upload) fibre based service is usually £13.50 per month, but for the first 12 months of the 18 month contract if you signup online you can get it for £5 a month. Voice line rental at £16.70 is required (reduces to £14.35 if you pay annually) and the offer ends on 11th December 2014.

Time to register if you want Ultrafast broadband in Welland Valley

Saturday 22 November 2014 10:26:06 by Andrew Ferguson

Gigaclear is holding three community meetings across Welland Valley to allow locals to find out more about their Gigabit products and build up demand so that Gigaclear can then identify exactly where to build in the area. The meetings are as listed below:

  • Tuesday 25th November, 7:30pm to 9:30pm, Ashley Village Hall, Ashley, LE16 8HG
  • 26th November, 7:30pm to 9:30pm, The Stenning Hall, Hallaton, LE16 8UB
  • 27th November, 7:30pm to 9:30pm, Medbourne Village Hall, LE16 8DT

The areas in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire that are within the scope of these meetings are: Blaston, Bringhurst, Cranoe, Drayton, Hallaton, Horninghold, Medbourne, Nevill Holt, Slawston, Ashley, Brampton Ash, Dingley, Stoke Albany, Sutton Bassett and Weston. Registration is open on the Gigaclear website already at www.gigaclear.com/registerme and registration is important as without the pre-requisite numbers of pre-registrations and then pre-orders Gigaclear do NOT build the network.

It is this pre-registration that is allowing Gigaclear to operate a Gigabit service on a FTTH platform in areas of the UK where the various BDUK projects have generally not ventured.

Free voice line rental for 12 months from Hyperoptic

Friday 21 November 2014 16:17:38 by Andrew Ferguson

Hyperoptic is offering free voice line rental for new customers signing up to a full fat fibre broadband and phone service from the FTTH provider in the next seven days.

The offer saves people £12.50 per month for the first year of service and also includes free connection (usually £40) and free standard installation (usually £200) and applies to all three product speeds they sell i.e. 20Mb (£12.50 a month), 100Mb (£25.00 a month) or 1Gig (£50.00 a month). The Hyperoptic line rental also includes free evening and weekend calls to landlines in the UK.

The offer expires at 23:59 on Friday 28th November 2014 and to claim the discount you should use the promotion code THINKBROADBAND when ordering.

Fibre based broadband arrival celebrated on Isles of Scilly

Friday 21 November 2014 12:21:34 by Andrew Ferguson

Without a doubt the Isles of Scilly fit the perfect definition for a rural part of England at 28 miles off the South West tip of Cornwall. The island now has access to fibre based broadband (FTTC) on all five inhabited islands after an unused fibre optic cable running between Cornwall and Santander is Spain was re-purposed to link the islands to the mainland replacing the previous radio backhaul and new fibre cabinets installed to provide FTTC.

Fibre optic links have also been installed between St Mary's and Tresco and also between Tresco and Bryher. Microwave links have been used for St Martins and the even more remote St Agnes. Originally the islands had seven cabinets and some exchange only (EO) lines on St Martins, but extra cabinets (11 cabinets now) have been added to solve most of the EO problems and improve speeds on Bryher.

"The arrival of superfast fibre optic broadband demonstrates that good partnership working can overcome significant challenges. Superfast broadband has the potential to revitalise the islands’ economy and to enhance the quality of living and working arrangements in the Isles of Scilly. I am proud that we are now one of the best connected archipelagos in the world. This would not have been possible without the significant investment by BT and the European Convergence programme."

Councillor Amanda Martin, Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly

Our checking confirms that eight of the eleven cabinets are available for people to place orders on, with the expectation that others will switch over to having FTTC available shortly. There is still a small number of premises without access to the fibre based services once all the cabinets are live and we understand further solutions are being worked on to find solutions. The roll-out which saw the first cabinets go live a couple of weeks ago has made the Isles of Scilly one of the areas of the UK with the highest proportion of fibre based broadband availability.

After the years of slow speeds and limited backhaul we expect that shipments of games consoles and a multitude of IPTV based set-top boxes will be larger than usual this Christmas, latency from the speed tests we can see on the islands was around 70ms to London and the new backhaul will hopefully reduce this a lot, to more like the 25 to 35ms seen in Cornwall.

New Sky offers focused on TV bundles

Friday 21 November 2014 11:56:55 by Andrew Ferguson

For those who were chasing the fibre deals over at Sky it is too late, the offers ended on the 20th November and for now the Sky Fibre products are listing at their standard price. Even the basic ADSL2+ service only has a £50 M&S voucher with the standard £7.50 per month price.

The TV bundles are where savings are still possible, since all the TV packages are 25% off for 12 months, and if you order broadband at the same time it is half price for 12 months on the Original, Variety, Family and Sports Bundles. Broadband is free for 12 months when ordered with the Movies or Complete bundle. There is the additional sweetner of a £75 bill credit too. Of course voice line rental is required if you take the broadband service and line rental costs £16.40 per month.

The return of the unlimited ADSL2+ broadband to £7.50 per month, means the NOW TV and broadband packages are more attractive, you can get access to Sky Movies and the NOW TV Entertainment bundle for £15 per month plus line rental (price rises to £22.49 after minimum contract term of 12 months).

Sky does at least have a page of offers for existing customers and existing Sky TV customers who do not have broadband or the movies package can upgrade to Sky Movies and get 12 months free Sky Broadband Unlimited (ADSL2+) and pay £8.25 extra per month for the movies pack for six months and £16.50 per month for the next six months.

Progress report for North Yorkshire BDUK project

Thursday 20 November 2014 13:46:10 by Andrew Ferguson

North Yorkshire got the BDUK ball rolling back in December 2012 with the delivery of the first fibre cabinet and has continued its roll-out and the council is now reporting on the progress of the first phase of the roll-out.

Financially the first phase that had an intervention area of some 160,500 premises has cost North Yorkshire County Council nothing since it is funded by the BDUK, ERDF and BT, phase 2 is sees the council match funding the BDUK amount and if phase 2 completes the combined cost to NYCC will be £19 per premise that will have superfast services available. For those wanting more detail a copy of the report made to the North Yorkshire County Council executive is available.

The Phase 1 contract which was to supply improved broadband to 171,000 premises (of which 149,944 would have access to superfast speeds - 25 Mbps and faster) is running some 13 weeks behind schedule and has delivered 151,499 premises passed (130,199 superfast). In theory this means BT has failed the contract but the project has decided to use this as leverage on BT and this has seen three cabinets that had been dropped from the commercial roll-out to be brought back with a ready for service data of March 2015. BT requested an extension that will see 146,292 premises with superfast by the end of 2014 and the remaining 3,652 done by March 2015.

What is interesting is the reasons for the delays, problems with expertise needed for the Exchange Only (EO) cabinet builds (doing the EO work when the telephone network is live adds to the complexity) and a lack of civils contractor resources are cited.

The phase 2 project (scheduled to end December 2016) is much smaller but will still leave some 41,500 premises in North Yorkshire without superfast (some 12,000 are those connected to FTTC but are beyond the 1.2km range the project considers to be the point where FTTC stops being superfast). The end of phase 2 should mean 90% of North Yorkshire has superfast access but that final 10% is not forgotten work is underway with Airwave to pilot wireless NGA broadband with the BDUK providing £1.5m of funding, oddly the agreement Airwave has with BDUK means that Airwave can walk away if they feel the commercial case to carry on the networks operation is not proven. Since the Digital Region debacle councils and Government are risk averse to ongoing subsidy arrangements.

The phase 2 work in North Yorkshire is interesting as it will feature FTTrN (Fibre to the Remote Node) and while this will only be at VDSL2 speeds the kit will look very similar to the G.FAST hardware we saw recently and it looks like households in Ulshaw new Leyburn may be the first to enjoy the extra speed with a service date of December 2014.

FTTrN is seen as a solution that is in between the cost of FTTC and FTTP but the Ulshaw trial has used the same type of power supply as a full fibre cabinet increasing the cost. Once BT can get the cost down of FTTrN power supply it is possible we may see an expansion of the phase 2 roll-out, with areas original destined for FTTP getting FTTrN and the savings used to push coverage further.

To help illustrate the progress made by the project and that people are buying the services once available we have included three charts of results from our speed test, showing the speeds in North Yorkshire and York. We have included quartile bars which help to illustrate the difference made and that if people upgrade they are getting significantly better speeds generally.

Five years of broadband speed test history for North Yorkshire
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Trends of improving upload speed in North Yorkshire
        (click image for larger size)
Five years improving download speeds in York
        (click image for larger size)

Dolphinholme surrounded on all sides by fibre

Thursday 20 November 2014 11:51:32 by Andrew Ferguson

B4RN who started raising funding for their FTTH roll-out in the most rural parts of Lancashire almost three years ago has so far connected around 700 premises to its network and is currently connecting premises in Dolphinholme. It seems according to a report on ISPreview that Openreach is back in the village and adding fibre tubing to more telephone poles.

Dolphinholme was also scheduled for FTTP via the Lancashire County Council project and here is where it gets very messy, as it is not clear whether B4RN submitted a formal Open Market Review (OMR) submission to the County Council or whether less formal agreements were reached. Irrespective of the OMR it would seem sensible for a BDUK project to adjust its plans once it becomes clear an alternate solution is going to be available in an area when feasible. The OMR is meant to avoid the need to re-jig plans, as providers should declare their plans for the next three years as part of the process.

So we are left with B4RN FTTP running around the outside of the village, while Openreach continue down the main road. End result will be people with a choice of full fibre based services.

As far as we know Dolphinholme is the current South West extent of the B4RN plans with the M6 forming a natural break. Dolphinholme is served by the Forton exchange and cabinet 4 is already offering a FTTC service, with FTTP coming to other areas and some exchange only lines we believe.

In terms of publicity for B4RN this clash is an ideal platform, particularly if they can continue to promote their high take-up rates, which are greatly helped by public involvement in the build process. The BDUK Lancashire project has a 97% fibre based target so it was always going to be the case that it would have built up to the edge of any competing networks, and as the popularity of B4RN grows and offshoot projects get underway we can be sure to see more dual-fibre areas like Dolphinholme.

These battles could have been avoided if everyone stuck to the exact processes and the council projects entered into a much longer period of planning, but the pressure to get as many connected as soon as possible within budget has meant that very long planning periods are not possible, hence the overlapping of the superfast extension projects before the full extent of the current schemes and the muddle that was the RCBF.

Free Wi-Fi for Tesco stores and Eds Easy Diner

Wednesday 19 November 2014 13:46:47 by Andrew Ferguson

Hands up if you have ever used your mobile phone to a price comparison when out shopping? Well Tesco is hoping that if people do this they will find the price or convenience ensures that sales volumes are not affected as they have announced the signing of a deal with BT to supply up to 76 Mbps free Wi-Fi speeds in 806 Tesco Extra and Superstores in the UK.

Another smaller deal has been announced The Cloud who are to supply Eds Easy Diner with free Wi-Fi at 34 locations, the advantage is that it means people can more easily sign-up to the loyalty club and fingers crossed people who stay longer might be tempted by another shake or dessert.

Don't forget you can test the speed of the various free Wi-Fi networks using our speed test that will run on your tablet or phone without the need to install an app. Feel free to tweet us the results and store name/location.

700 MHz spectrum in UK ready for mobile in 2022

Wednesday 19 November 2014 13:33:05 by Andrew Ferguson

The next wave Digital TV and mobile spectrum re-allocation has been planned for sometime and Ofcom now claims to have secured the future of both TV and mobile broadband with a plan that will see the 700 MHz band turned over to the mobile operators in 2022.

This shift is not just an Ofcom initiative, it is something that should take place across the EU and while it will be too late to help with the EU Digital Agenda targets it will happen just at the point where 4G services will be eight to ten years old and suffering the same capacity problems like 3G does now, and we may see more spectrally efficient 5G services running at these speeds (most lab demonstrations of 5G have been in the multi-GHz bands but techniques may help improve speeds even at lower frequencies).

The 700 MHz band is important because you can use less mobile masts to cover the same area and thus it makes it cheaper to serve rural parts of the UK. With the UK now already using Digital TV there should be less disruption from this shift as even today many FreeView devices can cope, Ofcom does estimate some 0.5% (~135,000 households) may need help to change roof-top aerials from 2019 onwards. Of course the idea of a TV aerial may feel very 20th Century by 2022 if IPTV based TV viewing continues growing in popularity.

Get your ugly cabinet off our footpath

Tuesday 18 November 2014 10:11:25 by Andrew Ferguson

A Cambridgeshire community has complained about the location of an 'ugly' fibre cabinet on a 'scenic footpath' as part of the Cambridgeshire BDUK project.

The village is Fowlmere better known for its RSPB Wildfowl reserve and the cabinet in question is cabinet 2 (expected live date of December 2014) on the Fowlmere exchange which serves a good chunk of the village (cabinet 1 serving Thriplow is already live). What is interesting is the choice of the picture angle in the local press with the old buildings in the background and prosaic descriptions one expects a pretty picture postcode village but visit Google Maps and you will see the cabinet is off the main road on a footpath, and the 'scenic footpath' runs alongside some relatively new properties. There is a question mark over what gap has been left on the foot path, but so long as this meets accessibility standards then there is little to complain about. In many other parts of the UK the footpath would have a fence chicane or bollards to restrict access by bicycles and motorbikes.

In an ideal world the cabinet would have been on the grass behind the existing phone cabinet, but for all we know this may have existing services running under it, or be private land and the wayleave proved too expensive. Of course deploying FTTP would resolve the cabinet issue, but then might draw objections as extra hardware and tubing is placed on telegraph poles.

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