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EE starts new trial with Mesh technology for rural broadband
Tuesday 02 December 2014 17:01:52 by Andrew Ferguson

Meshing was a technique that was favoured by Wi-Fi operators and now it seems EE are adopting it to help improve coverage in rural areas. EE is working with Parallel Wireless to run a trial in Sebergham with a full deployment in early 2015. If all goes well EE are hoping to use the same methods to connect some 1,500 premises to their wireless network.

The use of Meshing means that rather than a more traditional large mast with fibre backhaul, several smaller units are deployed on buildings in an area, with power taken from the properties own mains supply. The small size of the units avoids planning regulation and by connecting to a properties mains supply you reduce installation costs significantly compared to powering a traditional mast.

There is a video on the Parallel Wireless website that covers most questions and shows the hardware being installed. Looking at speed tests across this area of Cumbria we can see a higher than expected proportion of EE Mobile tests in this rural area to the south of Carlisle, which is most likely down to the previous trials nearby. The Northern Fells website also adds some crucial information, mainly that the speeds will initially be around the 5 Mbps area using 3G signals delivered over 4G equipment and participation will be free for four months.

The area covered by this initial trial is 0.5 square miles with three or four antenna, but the success will be as much based on the technical aspects as to what the cost of the service will be after the trial. The older trial area appears to be paying around £30 a month for 20GB of data, which is plenty for general web browsing, but when a mobile game update can be 1GB in size and a HD movie might use 3 to 4GB one can see data allowances and their relatively high price becoming a hurdle. It will also be interesting to see how the meshing works longer term in terms of that horrible time when a resident hosting a mesh box has gone on holiday, but a mains fuse has tripped.


Posted by epyon over 2 years ago
"mainly that the speeds will initially be around the 5 Mbps area using 3G signals delivered over 4G equipment and participation will be free for four months"

Hmmm why not 4G on 4G equipment?

also the price is high but still nothing compared to sat bb I guess.
Posted by zyborg47 over 2 years ago
It is something like what I am using, but mine is broadband only. Things can go wrong, if there is a power cut at the cathedral where my access point is then eventually my broadband will die, there are backup battery, but that only last for so long. thankfully problems are few, apart from when some sheep got into a relay and pulled some cables out :)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
Not sure why just 3G speeds, but maybe managing expectations and avoiding congestion if everyone tries to use the network at the same time for video etc
Posted by epyon over 2 years ago
Yeah I did think it would be something to do with bankhaul

I guess there working with only a 1Gib link.
Posted by burble over 2 years ago
I would prefer EE to concentrate on getting their core business sorted before investing in BB, at one time I could get a reliable signal at work and 50% of time get 3g, now I'm lucky to get a signal for 50% of day and never get 3g, clocked up a couple of thousand miles last month traveling and not once could I get 3g when I wanted it.
Posted by otester over 2 years ago

Did you see them up close? Could have been BT engineers in disguise xD
Posted by tmcr over 2 years ago
They've dug out the old Hutchinson Rabbit kit then ? Low range, low power. I remember having to stand directly under the antenna at the shop to get a signal... :-(
Posted by c_j_ over 2 years ago
"now I'm lucky to get a 3G signal for 50% of day and never get 3g,"

Circumstantial evidence suggests that when EE enable 4G in an area, 3G becomes a 2nd class citizen (if 3G works, fine, if it doesn't work, they can buy themselves a 4G phone).

Certainly looks like that in this part of suburban south Birmingham, where 3G signal changed from fine for the last few years to unusable when Baverstock School got a 4G aerial. Similar reports elsewhere.

For a while they were even giving out femtocells to preferred customers (not me) but that's only helpful if you're within its range.
Posted by zyborg47 over 2 years ago
@otester, I presume you mean the sheep, nah, nowhere near where I live, I live in the city. My provider engineer told my they was sheep, but you never know, Bt may not like the competition :)
They have not been interested in putting FTTC to rural places around until the government and our council gave them money.
Posted by kijoma over 2 years ago
oh dear, i thought Mesh had been killed off , it is one of those great on paper ideas that fails hugely in real life. take this out and shoot it please!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
I will eat my shorts if there is Gigabit backhaul involved in the trial.

I suspect it is more likely the 4G wireless link to the first of the mesh units will be in the 100 to 150 Mbps region (4G speeds) and to avoid one user bringing network to its knees only 3G is offered.

Mesh works until you get the classic neighbour objects or someone starts to sense money to be made from hosting the kit.
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