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B4RN to deploy 1Gbps fibre network to rural parishes in Lancashire
Thursday 18 August 2011 12:35:54 by John Hunt

A community cooperative calling itself B4RN, 'Broadband For the Rural North,' is gauging interest in the deployment of a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network which will offer symmetric Gigabit speeds for £30 a month with a £150 connection fee. B4RN is based in the north of Lancashire and is looking to provide coverage to eight rural parishes around Lancaster and partial coverage of a 9th. This includes:


click for larger map
  • Over Wyresdale - 131 properties (100% of parish)
  • Quernmore - 350 properties (100% of parish)
  • Roeburndale - 34 properties (100% of parish)
  • Wray with Bottom - 237 properties (100% of parish)
  • Tatham - 178 properties (100% of parish)
  • Wennington - 50 properties (100% of parish)
  • Melling with Wrayton - 151 properties (100% of parish)
  • Arkhome with Cawood - 160 properties (100% of parish)
  • Littledale - 31 properties (sub area of Caton with Littledale parish)

The group will rely on community funding through a share issuing and help providing labour to install the network to 1322 homes and businesses by 2012 which it estimates will cost £1.86 million. No properties will be left out of the deployment for being too far away. A significant proportion of this cost (over £500k) is marked out as labour, which could be saved by local residents donating their time to help dig trenches and install ducting. The full three phases of the project aims to reach 5162 properties, costing £5.569 million in total over 3 years, a cost in the region of £1100 per property. A full business plan has been set out which can be read over at the B4RN website. For now, they are currently trying to spread the word and will be looking to do a formal share offer in October. If all goes to plan, the digging will begin in December, with homes to be connected up from January onwards.

Comments

Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
Power to the people.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Should be interesting. Installing a fibre core network for a total cost of £5/metre looks to be key to this - any other analysis would be using costs at least 3 times higher.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Good on em, I hope it works out
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
As per comments on ISP Review, interesting to see the 1Gbps at £30/month references, but what about figures for backhaul capacity and throughput expectations? Without these the project is impossible to assess, might in fact perform worse than an ADSL service from an end-user perspective.

Echoing Herdwick's comments on the £5/metre, Cyber Moor quoted £25/metre on radio this week. I note there is no mention of having a choice of service providers etc?
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
JFDI is all very well, if rather childish, but you've only got to look to their neighbours in South Yorkshire to see that its not as simple as some would have us believe to do this properly.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Nope, no plans to wholesale and yes there is no mention of the backhaul for the 1322 homes. I suspect it will be a shared 1Gbps (or multiples of) or 10Gbps, so... fine with it being a 1Gbps delivery but its not 1Gbps CDR which is a massive difference.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Nope, no plans to wholesale and yes there is no mention of the backhaul for the 1322 homes. I suspect it will be a shared 1Gbps (or multiples of) or 10Gbps, so... fine with it being a 1Gbps delivery but its not 1Gbps CDR which is a massive difference.
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
Now assuming this can get done this is the big society at work.

The idea of it being 1Gbps committed is farcical, of course it's going to be shared. 1Gbps between everyone on there is still not far off 1Mbps each which is way in excess of the rates you'll find on any ADSL service.

In this instance New_Londoner you seem to be desperately attempting to find faults in this one. I think it's great and wish them well - they'll have a potentially superior service to that which BT sees fit to provide anywhere bar its anointed politically expedient and subsidised FTTP areas.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
lol, I know its farcical, I'm trying to highlight the difference between what you physically get delivered and what rates you'll actually get out of it, which as yet is unknown. "which will offer symmetric Gigabit speeds for £30 a month" <- Not really , that is what I'm trying to highlight, everyone won't be getting gig speeds to the internet, like every other model it will be shared.

I also wish them look if they can do this at this cost others should follow.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
@Dixi
Not at all, just get frustrated when seeing what may be be rather over-inflated claims about performance etc. It would be easy to resolve this if anyone can state with certainty what the actual backhaul provision is - as GMan says 1Gb would be very good, whereas I'd image 100Mb or less would make the service very ordinary despite the attractive headline sync speed.

So sceptical at present on what is being offered, and whether it can be built within the projected budget.
Posted by KarlAustin over 5 years ago
Good luck to them, but it sounds like they are running it as a switched network of 1000+ properties - I can see some fun with broadcast storms.

Opex will be fairly high as well, as it sounds like each property will have a pair of GBICs rather than going GPON.

Edge-IX - They'll put hardly any traffic over it, as no one big will want to peer with them until they have substantial traffic levels. They'll be doing very well indeed if they get anywhere near their 50% target quickly. Having dealt with providers and peering it's no walk in the park.
Posted by KarlAustin over 5 years ago
I hope they do it, but I think there's quite a lot they've not considered - like Opex on the Fibre and rates. If they can do diverse DWDM to Machester with install for £50k setup I'll eat my hat.
Posted by NilSatisOptimum over 5 years ago
I can see Bt lurking!
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Don't think BT would be interested in this, they won't be able to compete on the proposed end users costs because they won't let joe public do the labour side of it.
Posted by cobbower over 5 years ago
Good look to em. I wish there was something like B4RN around Cambridgeshire. Also wish em luck with £5 a metre for the fibre cable.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
The sums do not add up even with free labour. They will still need to employ experianced constractors they dont let anyone dig up roads as there are allsorts of services and dangers.

The estimate costs for BT in low densisty rural areas is about £6000 pr home passed
Posted by BarryForde over 5 years ago
Working backwards....
Bob_s2 talks about contractor costs. Actually we are not doing much on roads at all, less than 1% of our dig is on public land the rest is across farmland where the Street Works Act doesnt apply.
KarlAuston asks about fibre and rates. Our OPEX is based on firm quotes for dark fibre and also DWDM kit with EDFA amps and DCFs for 160Km included so again its hard figures. As a community benefit company we are eligible for 100% rates relief.
Posted by BarryForde over 5 years ago
KarlAustin questions the peering possibilities but actually its the other way round. The content providers are very keen to peer as it reduces their IP connectivity costs and improves the QoS for the services they deliver. Why wouldnt they peer with us given that they are the main beneficiaries? We are putting in a 10Gbs peering port and can ramp that us as needed so the traffic from Google/BBC/FaceBook/JANET etc can come all use that.
Posted by BarryForde over 5 years ago
KarlAustin mentions switching but actually we are implementing a full IPv4 and IPv6 dual stack routing solution not using VLAN switching at all. Each parish hub gets a full IP routing solution with DHCP serving the local connections.
Contention seems to be an issue for some but look at the numbers a different way. With 1322 properties each taking a simultaneous but different3D/HD video steams of 10Mbs needs 13Gbs against initial provisioning of 20Gbs with capacity to go to 3.2Tbs if needed. Compare that to BT and others who allow 20-34Kbs/user.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Thanks Barry again I hope this works out for you. Given the price of a single wavelength (and your proposing two initially, second one is cheaper) how do you pay for that upfront when you have no customers to start off with?
Posted by BarryForde over 5 years ago
The cost of the dark fibre lease for year 1 along with the DWDM equipment is built into the CAPEX £1.86M rather than into OPEX. For year 2 and onwards when we are getting revenue from connected customers we have the lease costs and maintenance costs of the DWDM kit in the OPEX.
Posted by KarlAustin over 5 years ago
You'd think peering was that easy wouldn't you? But it isn't, most providers won't peer until you've got 200-400Mbit/s going just to them. iPlayer AFAIK uses Level(3) CDN - Good luck getting peering with Level(3), you'll need to be doing many Gbit/s both to and from them to get that.

You need to tweak your business plan then, as it gives the impression that each 192 ports will run as a flat LAN, with the CPE being a 4 port Gig switch.

As I say, I wish you luck and hope it works, but I think you've made some big assumptions on a number of items. I hope you do prove me wrong.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Ok so lets say it was perfect and all 1322 customers signed up how long would it take to pay off just the £1.86M? never mind the OPEX?
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
I'm interested in Karl Austin's background running with major ISPs and negotiating peering agreements?

It's an interesting discussion so be good to know where each of the participants is talking from.
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
Never mind, found him. CDNs peering with ISPs is most advantageous to them be interesting to see what can be negotiated. Quite a different story from 'full' peering, which Level3 won't do with anyone bar other tier 1s.
Posted by craigbrass over 5 years ago
Interesting project and great if it gets going. Only problems I see is getting enough people to stump up ~£1,500 in 1-2 months as most people don't have this spare, especially in these times and the £5 per meter as in reality, costs are higher because of unexpected things such as cutting through a cable / pipe not on the plans, etc. Certainly plenty of people prepared to help in Lancs with digging but how far that will go...
Posted by craigbrass over 5 years ago
ISPs are not needed in Community Interest / Benefit Companies like this! The regs protect the prices and directors listen to what people want. ISPs these days don't really do anything but take a connection, put some routing in the middle and plug into IP transit on the other side and take a massive wedge. This should go to the network owner to pay back the network.
Posted by craigbrass over 5 years ago
@KarlAustin: Easiest thing to do is do cache on demand from iPlayer / YouTube / etc. Each time omne customer downloads, cache that on servers in each area. iPlayer is more difficult than YouTube but still possible.
Posted by KarlAustin over 5 years ago
@Dixinormous - AFAIK Level(3) don't run separate peering for their CDN prefixes, so to get peering for iPlayer you're going to have to peer with Level(3) - which they won't do. I've negotiated plenty of peerings in the past :)

@craigbrass - Can end up causing it's own issues though. My point was more that I think 50% to peering is a very bold assumption to make unless they are shifting a very large amount of traffic when a lot of networks want 200-400Mbit/s+ before they'll even read your application.
Posted by BarryForde over 5 years ago
GMAN99 I've just run the figures through my spreadsheet for take up of 1322 customers and after allowing for all the OPEX we have free cash flow of £232K/pa from year 3. So if we pay 5% interest we could pay down the whole £1.86M in just under 10 years.
Posted by BarryForde over 5 years ago
I think the peering discussion is interesting. The high data generating sites like Google (over 25% of total traffic on the net) are content providers and do want to peer because it improves their costs and QoS. I think we can classify at least 50% of IP traffic as coming from those guys. The rest will come via our default route which is the Tier1 provider we buy transit from. We would not expect to peer with Tier1 networks who as KarlAustin says work differently.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
The IP transit in the business plan is 1 Mbit/s per customer so a contention ratio of 1000 : 1 ?

Should be plenty though, VM talk of 1/10 this and BT's Market 1 exchanges are at around 50 kbits/s per customer.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
It should be interesting to see how things develop in Lancashire over the coming months with NextGenUs targeting availability of service before the end of 2011. This could impact on the % take-up achieved by B4RN is NextGenUs gets to market first.

And that's before you consider the winner of the tender being run by Lancashire County Council. Good news for potential customers!
Posted by RandomJointer over 5 years ago
Great news if it comes off.

Dependent on those who wish to take up thy shovel and walk rather than those who are 'ideas people'

I'm sceptical. This model will require massive amounts of private land holders signing wayleaves for free.

Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
It will be very interesting to see what people actually want. The LCC tender will go to BT, their partner. They will provide cabinets in some places with 'superfast'.The rurals will get BET or satellite. Nextgenus will implement their fiwi solutions in some areas. B4rn will provide gigabit fibre to all premises in their target area. The prices will be roughly the same. Bit of a no brainer which to choose if you are lucky enough to have a choice...
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
BT will also be using wireless as in Cornwall. BDUK's model assumes wireless for areas not serviceable by FTTC and satellite for the more sparse and remote rural places. It also covers installing cabinets where currently there are none.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
The costings are way out.They will never install it for anywhere near those costs. It is totally unrealistic
Posted by FibreGuy over 5 years ago
Lancashire will not necessarily be going with BT as there are major state aid issues that have been brushed under the proverbial carpet.

Chief amongst those issues is that taxpayers money cannot be used to undermine the market and many councils are under the very mistaken impression that "market failure" is at whim of BT to decide.

The reality of Lancashire, and across the so-called Final Third nationally is that NextGenUs is simply getting on with building superfast broadband networks.
Posted by FibreGuy over 5 years ago
@CyberDoyle NextGenUs is offering superfast broadband service starting from £17.50 inc VAT with £149.95 installation and no requirement to raise £1.5Milion from investors either.

It will be interesting to see which superfast community broadband solution each comunity chooses
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
@FibreGuy
Market failure applies if no wholesale offering is available, you don't appear to offer a choice of ISPs?
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
@Fibreguy - the EU defined White, Grey & Black for broadband and the same again for NGN. If your plans are shared with the relevant authorities presumably some white areas may become grey ? via consideration of "the extent to which development plans are in the pipeline for further private investors to enter the market within a three-year time frame."
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
starting at £17.50 @fibreguy? excellent. How much for a gigabit?
Posted by cookiejc over 5 years ago
BarryForde: This project is very interesting, quick question, if 1% of your dig is on road what method are you using for the end connection into the properties?
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
cd - Chattanooga has been quoted as being the ultimate broadband with fibre connection. But the typical product is actually 30M with TV. And their takeup of 1G - 6 customers. If you give all customers unrestricted 1G access how do you manage those who abuse it?
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Don't get me started on Chattanooga's electric board broadband. The bonds used to part fund it would scale up to £48 billion for the whole of the UK. Takeup is ~50% and it cost a few grand per property connected.

But they do have a dozen customers able to willy wave 1G broadband at $350/month +taxes
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
THere in no way that only 1% of the build can be hard dig. To me that rings alarm bells at to how much planning and costing they have done. Some of the fiber runs will be long and will require extensive digging and will almost certainly go over public land.

Getting Fibre to the home require extensive hard dig alone unless they are planning to use the BT ducting but in rural areas I would not count on that ducting being in good condition

These to me sounds very much like a project costed and planned on the back of a fag packet.


Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
At the other side of the fence/hedge/wall to a public road is a soft private field, so if the landowners are on board low cost digging is certainly an option, and you can come into houses from the back as well as the front ;-)
Posted by BarryForde over 5 years ago
@Bob_s2 total dig distance is 251,453metres. Only hard dig is road crossings of which there are 159 involved. Assuming road crossing is 10m thats 1590 metres of hard dig which is 0.6%of total dig distance. No fag packets involved, every inch has been carefully planned.
Posted by cartwright33 over 5 years ago
@BarryForde

You mention the majority of your digs will be across farmland. What assumptions have you made for wayleave payments to the land owners and how can you guarentee that one landowner won't hold the project to ransom by requesting rediculous amounts of money? In my experience a singel wayleave can take a year to negotiate, 99% of your dig is on private land...

Posted by cartwright33 over 5 years ago
@BarryForde

And just continuing that train of thought. How much money have you got allocated for legal work? Each land owner will need a wayleave and even if they offer them for free, the agreements need to be drawn up and registed.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
cartwright33, if the farmers and landowners don't want to give easements then the dig goes round them. If they want a connection then they give easement/wayleave through. Its a bit of a no brainer in a rural area, the landowners help the hamlets get connected, and the villagers help the hard to reach places get a connection through their subscriptions. Its real big society type stuff.
Posted by cartwright33 over 5 years ago
@cyberdoyle

Great in theory, but there will be land owners with many hundred of acres. Diverting round them could add 6 months to the build. Then there's the actually problem of finding the land owners in the first place. A lot of land registry searches will be required. Even giving wayleaves away will still require legal work. There's a lot of legal work here that may not have been costed in.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/07/21/cla-confirms-national-uk-wayleave-agreement-to-boost-rural-broadband-rollouts.html
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
It is clear this is not a well thought out plan which has ben properly costed but one based on wishfull thinking.

They will not have hard dig because it will go over farmland but clearly this has not really been considered the assmption is they can just dig up fields and land.

Again they have not considered how they will get the service to the homes. They will have to have some hard dig & go over a lot of publicly owned land which again they dont have permision to do.


Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
Bob_s2 - read the business plan for the answers.
Posted by FibreGuy over 5 years ago
According to the B4RN blurb “Barry Forde is a networking expert with many years experience of designing, building and operating high performance networks. He was responsible for the CLEO network ...”

Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online (CLEO) was in fact a scheme funded with £Millions of taxpayers money - which many users see as over-engineered and over-featured – to provide Internet connectivity to schools and colleges at a price which, when stripped of subsidy, independent providers can undercut by 75%

Posted by FibreGuy over 5 years ago
It is most interesting to consider that Lancashire CC, by B4RMY B4RN posse’s own admission, effectively engineered the removal of £750k of taxpayer subsidy that would otherwise have been expended on Forde’s previous scheme which now is apparently resurrected in the form of B4RN, only this time seeking to take local community money for a “solution” that the county council rejected!
Posted by FibreGuy over 5 years ago
Lindsey Annison is subject to a confidentiality agreement (NDA) with FibreStream Limited that has been effective since August 2009 and remains in force.

Aspects of the B4RN business plan contain material that Fibrestream Ltd is extremely concerned may be in breach of that agreement and our legal team is investigating with a view to action against both Ms Annison and by extension B4RN itself, should this naive project ever see the light of day.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Sounds good :)
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
Could be worse. ECFiber in US. http://www.vnews.com/06302011/7893642.htm

$90/month for 5Mb!
Posted by IvahOB over 5 years ago
As a potential subscriber or even investor I expected this to be an informative discussion that I could use to form an opinion about the project. It has turned out to be a bitchy exchange that seems to be fuelled by old animosities.
There has been some useful discussion around the business plan's estimates of connection costs, a worry I share, but mostly simply dismissing them without having the facts. If B4RN produce a route map with, at this stage, verbal agreements to free access these worries are allayed.
Posted by IvahOB over 5 years ago
There seems to be a suggestion that other companies could do it better. There was mention of NextGenUs and of Fibrestream. Not knowing the market I looked at these and found they had achieved very little then I spotted registered address for both companies was the same! They don't seem to add up to much either: http://www.companycheck.co.uk/company/06568705 http://www.companycheck.co.uk/company/07030978
I assume FibreGuy is associated with one or both of these organisations, he should either put up an alternative plan or shut up.
Posted by IvahOB over 5 years ago
So what choices have I?
1. Sit and wait for BT? Having been to a presentation hosted by LCC it seems BT will give a good service to 65%, maybe with help 24Gb to 25% and 2Mb if we are lucky to the rest of us. No thanks!
2. Will NextGenUs/Fibrestream or ano come up with a project to roll out a reasonable speed to the last 10%? Seems unlikely we shall see a proposal within the B4RN consultation time frame particularly as they haven't delivered anything significant elsewhere.
3. Support B4RN and persuade neighbours to get the sign up rate required? Seems like a no brainer to me - let's go for it!
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
Agree with you Ivah, no 3 is the answer. JFDI, 2meg is no good to my family or my business, either now, nor in the future. Let's Do IT.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Creative Accounting 101 :

"The cost of the dark fibre lease for year 1 along with the DWDM equipment is built into the CAPEX £1.86M rather than into OPEX"

leases and maintenance are operating costs, regardless of how much revenue you have.
Posted by IvahOB over 5 years ago
I would have thought initial connection charges were part of start up, you have to be connected before you can sell a service. Start up costs are a legitimate part of CAPEX.
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