The broadband grants scheme in Wales has been running for sometime, and for many of those who have applied and granted a grant the improvements have been significant. Alas it seems that not everyone is happy, the BBC has covered the news of one provider having its access to the grants suspended and talked to various customers of ResQNet.
If the figure of £900,000 is correct for the money the firm has received from the grant system which allowed for a £1,000 grant to install a better broadband service in areas with no or very slow broadband, suggests well over 900 customers. The news feed on the ResQNet website does not inspire confidence, and while every provider no matter what technology they use will have problems, to see so many power issues and comments like "Some slowdown of the network may have been experienced this afternoon due to the sporting fixtures that were available online".
So while ResQNet has been doing the right thing in trying to offer service in areas the larger providers have as yet not covered, if it is to offer a basic 5 Mbps service with unlimited usage in 2013, they need to consider significant investment in backhaul and redundant power systems.
"Will the service slow down in the evenings when lots of people are using it?
The speed should not slow noticeably when more people are logged on as the contention ratio is set at a maximum of 20:1 so 4.5Mbps should really mean just that. Compare this with broadband connections using landlines which typically have a contention ratio of 50:1 for domestic users.
People have told me this will be a really good service. Is it true?
We think it will be a really good service. For a start the connection speed really will be 4.5Mbps, not like other service providers who say ‘up to …’ when in reality you very rarely if ever get near to the speeds they are claiming. Secondly, it’s symmetrical connection, which means that the upload speeds are as fast as the download speeds. Thirdly, there are no download limits. Fourthly, the system can be upgraded in the future to offer speeds of up to 100Mbps."FAQ entries for Carmarthenshire Community Broadband Partnership
The old 50:1 contention ratio figure has not existed in reality since 2004, and even when it did most providers had backhaul pipes of 155 Mbps or greater to help even out the demand between different interest groups. This is not to say that the large providers have a better contention ratio now, simply it is not as simple to work out as it used to be, and with many people on connections of 10 Mbps and faster you can afford for slow downs to happen and video streaming to continue to work.
Fixed Wireless Access done correctly can produce very good broadband speeds in the 20 Mbps and upwards area, but it seems that the history of one or two poorly performing projects may be why councils see BT as a smaller risk, and when public money is being spent, risk and value for money are vastly bigger drivers than how innovative and exciting the technology is.