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B4rn launches to a full house in Lancaster
Thursday 15 December 2011 17:19:35 by Andrew Ferguson

B4rn launched its share scheme with the aim of raising some £2 million to fund the build of its full fibre to the premises network covering an initial phase of 1,451 properties and offering 1 Gbps. The launch at The Storey in Lancaster was held in a packed auditorium with an audience not from just Lancashire but from all across the UK.

The project cost for phase 1 which covers 1,451 properties is projected at £1.86m of which £630,000 is the labour costs (e.g. training people how to splice to the same standards as teleco engineers), the remaining £1.23m for materials and work that they cannot do themselves. The cable plan avoids crossing or running down roads where it is feasible to, with the majority of the network ducting in across private land and amazingly there have been no refusals for a wayleave to cross land yet.

For the stats freaks, the 1,451 properties are in an area of 243km2, and will have 41 primary fibre routes, 275km of ducting which will carry 20,682km of fibre. Work on the core network will start in January/February with the plan to have 40km of ducting installed and 350 premises passed and half of them connected to the actual service. The end of 2012 should see all 1,451 properties connected, with properties being connected as the network passes them.

Two types of shares are available, 1.5 million shares at £1 each (minimum holding 100) are available to anyone, including those from outside the area who want to support the project. The remaining 500,000 will be for those who provide labour on the project, therefore those who are not able to help financially can provide labour and be rewarded. The shares are eligible for tax relief under the Enterprise Investment Scheme. Where someone invests £1,500 they can nominate a property for a free connection (normally £150) and a years free service (£360), for people buying shares before February 2012 the 12 months service extends to 15 months. The presentation from the meeting is available for download and provides more detail on the share scheme.

The plan to ensure support is available in an ongoing manner for the project after construction is to train local people during the construction phase to be able to handle fibre repairs, and others to provide a telephone support service, thus helping to provide employment for local people.

The service is expected to launch at a price of £30 a month with support for a VoIP service. The battery backup to the fibre router should provide backup power for around two hours meaning there is scope for people to ditch their old copper phone line, thus saving line rental costs.

B4rn is very much working in the area where the commercial providers and even BDUK funded projects are unlikely to ever provide a superfast broadband service and definitely not 1 Gbps in the next five years, and with a first phase completion expected in 2012, it will be delivering much earlier than almost all the BDUK projects. Projects like this are not easy to get going, but with the eight parishes being so close to the cutting edge of broadband speeds it is something that needs more credit than it has had to date. As was said during the presentation today "It's not rocket science", therefore we expect many other small local communities to be watching closely and borrowing expertise from B4rn to help bring fibre to their area.


Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Good luck to them I hope they can pull if off, its a lot of money to raise, I hope they can.

And for all those who complain about why Virgin, BT or anyone else aren't doing FTTH to the rural areas see Page 7 of the presentation, at least Barry knows what he's talking about.
Posted by FibreGuy over 5 years ago
The sad fact is those who do invest their cash in this m4dc4p b4rn scheme are at real risk of losing their proverbial shirts for the simple reason that there are better, faster and cheaper ways to deliver service to the communities in question.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Given how objective and rational this presentation was I can't understand CD's froth at the mouth attitude to anything non-FTTH. Especially, If this is the kind ofinfo the B4RN people are presenting to their community.
The is a clear understanding that rural roll-out of FTTH and FTTC, is very expensive or not always suitable, respectively.
Posted by jumpmum over 5 years ago
Looks good, only missing point is how long will the equipment last, fibre is good for years but the electronics only last 5-8, still will be cheaper by then.

I reckon BT / Fujitsu could do it a lot cheaper than £6k per property in rural areas if they wanted to, especially using PONs rather than direct fibre.

Be good to see it up and running. They have the advantage that they won't have many constant downloaders hogging the backhaul for a while. Too busy working and enjoying the countryside.
Posted by RandomJointer over 5 years ago
I ain't digging for £1.50 a metre. But good luck for those that do. This area is unviable for commercial rollout so it will be very interesting to see if DIY works.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
themanstan I don't froth at the mouth at anything non ftth, we run two community wifi networks and a satellite, and wibes. We also help those who can get adsl to get it working, we're glad of anything that works. I just don't like public money being used to protect obsolete assets, if it is to be used it should be used for funding rural fibre, to bring it to those areas at prices that small communities can afford. This will provide competition and help urban areas too.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
But it won't provide competition cyberdoyle? You are locked in with an ISP of one. If this works (and I hope it does) Virgin/BT/Fujitsu won't be knocking on your door offering FTTH, it's not commercial viable for them now and it won't be if B4RN works either, neither will it help urban areas.
Posted by timmay over 5 years ago
Gig to the home yes but will they be able to upgrade the backhaul as demand and users grow. I can see contention becoming a real problem on this in the future. They will keep prices the same or rise with inflation whereas prices elsewhere will fall. Good luck to them though, BT or VM will likely buy them in 5-10 years, just hope they are worth more than the costs by then.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
B4RN have a good setup 20 Gbps, 10 via Tier 1 and 10 via peering. So about the a bit more bandwidth per connection compared to FTTC.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
CD yes, you do. Mention FTTC and you pan it (it is future proof, just not as future proof), no public money involved either just BTs. To pass the 5 million properties they already have would take >5 years, not 18 months and 3-4 times as much money. You can see how people here are complaining about not being connected to FTTC and that's only 18 months after works have started. Imagine what it would be like if people were waiting for FTTH? France is looking to do a FTTH roll-out, they expect 60% coverage in 2020... and they have the benefit of publicly owned ducts!
Posted by craigbrass over 5 years ago
@GMAN99: Having a load of ISPs taking a slice of the pie is what makes building rural networks unviable to build, though. Plus with the way the companies are set up for the benefit of the community, community interests are protected so need for competition.

@timmay: BT can't buy them because of the way the company is constructed.

That all said, I can't see the amount they need being invested, especially because of the risk of a WISP popping up in the area...
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
"the risk of a WISP popping up in the area... "

What risk? One company has wireless broadband licences across most of the UK (look up PCCW/Netvigator). There is no visible service.

Who remembers the ISPA-award winning Pipex Wireless and their much touted WiMax rollout?

There are a handful of niche WISP operators in a handful of places, and I wish them luck.

But the so-called "big boys" are Invisible (sick joke there somewhere). They'd rather talk about jam tomorrow with LTE/4G than deliver a working service with technology that exists today.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
I don't believe anyone at B4rn is saying this is a solution for the whole country, but for communities that can see BDUK just producing a satellite subsidy and not much else, it offers a template and in a few months the option to pay another community money to help them build their solution.

Advantage of meeting them was we were able to talk networks and peering, and there is a lot of understanding in the team. This is NOT just a group who are doing this with their eyes shut.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
yeah your right craig, it would indeed take even longer to pay off if other ISP's came in, but it does fly in the face of many people's rants about lack of competition.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
It does rely on getting £500k's worth of work done in return for IOUs (B shares). That'll be interesting.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
In rural areas, where competition is "rife" this is an ideal solution, where they want service sooner rather than in some distant future. There are inherent risks and obstacles, which are all pretty obvious.
Posted by Yorkie71 over 5 years ago
@herdwick you are correct it will be interesting. This project cannot work without the support of the community and that is one big ask.

However if a community wants this bad enough, and I believe this one does, then they will pull together to achieve it.

The support and interest is there and indeed growing. I'd challenge anyone in the auditorium at the launch yesterday to say that there was not a positive feel about it.

Don't forget the majority of these people have had poor or no connectivity for years and this gives them a chance to do something about it.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
Who cares about competition/monopoly if it's the only option at an affordable price.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
There was a lot of local community at the launch, and as such the auditorium was full.

As for people doing the work, they already have volunteers for training on the fibre splicing, as they will get trained, and people are viewing it as a good job skill.

Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
The presentation linked to above was the ordinary parish one, delivered to all the different groups in the area, the launch one is now live on the site, with attached videos and photos. thanks,
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
One lad at the launch yesterday asked if he could be trained as a fibre splicer. I said there were about 20 volunteers already, and we need 4. He asked if he paid for his own c&g training course could he queue jump? I introduced him to John Colton of Lucid (who will be providing the training) and I hope he booked his lessons... that is the sort of thing happening all the time, folk are JFDI. Community spirit in action.
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