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Questions asked about Swindon 4G roll-out
Monday 28 September 2015 13:24:41 by Andrew Ferguson

The outcome of the Swindon 4G fixed wireless broadband roll-out is a test case that pre-dates the DCMS innovation projects for the final 5%, but with its aim of 99.4% superfast coverage while not as rural an area as many consider for the final 5% many of the issues and concerns will be similar.

ISPreview picked up on some local press coverage of complaints from locals and elected officials that they see the £2m project as a waste of money and also raising objections to the location of 15 foot tall masts near residential areas.

4G LTE wireless speeds from Relish in Swindon

The map above shows what we know about Relish broadband speeds in Swindon and it is a very variable range of speeds, some good speeds are appearing but you get a sense of the scale of the roll-out and live customers when you compare the same area filled in with speed tests from the major fixed line providers. We also looked at 4G mobile speed tests in the area and there is not much difference at all and this may be partly why people are complaining about yet more masts, beyond any health concerns that some people may have. The gap in fixed line speed tests in the South of Swindon in the East Wichel area is because IFNL have their FTTH network in this part of the town, and we have only just added IFNL ISP detection and coverage data to our systems.

The presence of an alt-net FTTH provider in the town makes the choice of a fixed 4G service part paid for with public money even more odd, we know that coverage could be better in Swindon with current fixed line superfast coverage at 82.8% (24 Mbps and faster), 75.2% ultrafast (100 Mbps or faster) with 0.5% of premises under 2 Mbps. The Relish roll-out is a the third attempt to bring ubiquitous wireless to the town, a failed Wi-Fi scheme cost the council money and a previous version of Relish seemed to fizzle out.

The 4G service from Relish in Swindon does appear to be helping some of those in the areas outside the main footprint, but just as with the Openreach FTTC roll-out there are questions about pace of the roll-out, availability, speed of service and value for taxpayer money. Especially given that mobile providers seem to be able to match or sometimes exceed the speeds Relish are delivering.


Posted by ebdenma about 1 year ago
Another mis-spend of public funds in the face of opposition from the residents and elected officials in the area. Seems that certain individuals inside SBC are destined to make bad decisions without fully investigating the options or opinions of those who pay their salaries.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Its the combination of FTTC/FTTP plus Fixed Wireless that will give us the optimum superfast coverage - maybe even the magic 100%.
However, to try and do one without the other would appear to be rather foolhardy!
Posted by ebdenma about 1 year ago
Whilst I agree chilting there is an optimum mix of all of the types of services. The problem in this case is a wireless service being put into an urban area which is then subject to EM noise etc and you end up with a degraded signal and susequently speed.
Wireless is best suited to a rural environment where you can have clear lines of sight.

The problem in this situation is that the community did not want this solution, it has not been rigorously tested in the area and very little technical due diligence has taken place on the technology and the supplier.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
I totally agree.
One problem that seems to be common throughout the fibre roll out, is that nobody has independently considered what the best option for superfast broadband would be in a given location.
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
a number of cabs showing FTTC would prob give majority 40 /mbps assume relatively short copper runs
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Interesting point, but can it be answered easily?

The best answer ultimately, is fixed-line fibre. Even an interim wireless needs backhaul, which comes back to some form of fibre anyway.

If that's the best answer long-term, then the best interim answer is to get fixed-line fibre as widespread as possible, even if not as deep as possible.

That answer favours FTTC. And is also likely to be the best answer for 50-70% of the premises on each upgraded cabinet. There is probably 20-30% for whom the capability of an FTTC solution matches a
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
wireless solution. The final 10-20% would likely get
better capability from a wireless solution.

However, you need care before choosing a wireless solution - to ensure lack of congestion.

The Airwave trial in West Witton is for 150 premises, who likely could be covered by 1 cabinet. The wireless solution needs 4 masts, each powered, with 10 end-user antenna and 8 distribution antenna.

Just like satellite, wireless give great coverage, but pants capacity. And still needs backhaul.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
With that in mind, I think it is a rare case where it is worth choosing a widespread wireless solution over the upgrade of a fixed-line cabinet.

Then the question splits into dealing with those who suffer long lines on upgraded cabinets, and those who never received an upgrade.

For the former, the solutions may be FTTRN (even FTTdp with reverse power in the future) or a small focussed wireless solution. For the latter, a widespread wireless solution. Or satellite.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
Our geography is very different. 150 premises served by an equivalent fixed wireless setup would require 1 new cabinet for EO lines + upgrading 2 other cabinets. Even then, probably 40% of premises would be beyond 1.5 km from the cabinet. Of course, backhaul is still required for the wireless masts but this can be wireless rather than fibre, at least to a nearby village or small town.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
The immutable problem is that there is no easy or economic solution for small settlements of < 50 or even 100 dispersed premises in hilly or tree-covered areas. The same problem affects mobile phones as much as broadband - so many rural areas feel neglected by all network operators, even those who claim 98-99% coverage. As long as network costs are driven by scale economies, the issue is going to come down to the level of cross-subsidy that be imposed and/or accepted.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Our rural West Chiltington exchange will benefit from the combination of FTTC and Fixed Wireless. Hopefully when Blaze Wireless commence their service superfast coverage should increase from around 80% to very nearly 100%.
Potentially around 5% of those without FTTC access now could benefit from a future upgrade in the future because they are in a cluster but the remaining 15% are very widely scattered.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
It may be that when OFCOM finally sort out the licenses for Whitespace and the technology is in place Fixed Wireless will not rely on line of site.
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