Swindon UK Broadband roll-out back in the spot light
We've swept through all our data and got it as up to date as we can and can offer people a comparison between the UK Broadband roll-out in Swindon, which was to use £1.9 million to roll-out to some 19,000 premises across the area. The original goal and is still the stated aim was superfast broadband available to 99.4% of homes and even though we are now well outside 2016 and thus we'd expect there to have been an update on the http://superfastswindon.com/ website.
The Swindon Advertiser is running a story with a Labour councillor calling for no more money to be given to UK Broadband, which suggests the roll-out is still very much underway and a robust answer has been given by a Conservative councillor.
Labour are incredibly late to the table on broadband. While they issue pointless press releases we've been getting on with doing what the public want.
Justin Tomlinson and I have been lobbying for fibre broadband for North Swindon for over five years, starting with my petition. This year we have the great news that both BT and Virgin are installing fibre across the local community.
We have been in constant discussions with UKBN and it remains an option to remove North Swindon from contract. This is due to the market intervening thanks to our work. Labour have done nothing for North SwindonConservative councillor Toby Elliott
The roll-outs by Virgin Media and BT could be said to be due to the wireless project, but there are many other towns across the UK where Virgin Media is expanding its footprint when back in 2014 it had no intention to do so. The roll-outs of FTTP have been pretty high profile from BT Group and have explored techniques that will reduce the cost, plus there is some G.fast and more on the way, thus boosting the ultrafast options. The graph of superfast coverage in Swindon has certainly jumped significantly in the last few months and this is just fixed line broadband.
So what has UK Broadband delivered? Well we believe that this map is representative of the coverage and shows some areas delivered via the project are actually very small, and oddly some postcodes where we see people testing with the 4G LTE solution are still marked as in scope, suggesting maybe the checker has not been updated for a while. If you have the superfast service delivered by the project and the postcode does not look covered then please do get in touch.
The footprint for Openreach VDSL2 and native GEA-FTTP and also Virgin Media cable broadband services are included below for comparison, and there is also one estate that has full fibre via SeeTheLight (IFNL).
Fixed wireless and 4G can go a lot faster and should be able to beat VDSL2 given the right mast density, and in rural areas should have a clear advantage. A speed test showing what is possible is this 46 Mbps down and 4.8 Mbp up test done recently, we see the odd faster download approaching 71 to 72 Mbps, so the Swindon network is delivering higher speeds than the Relish London service which does not have an external antenna (we have seen an 80 Mbps symmetric test from the network but believe this was an infrastructure test rather than an actual customer). The speeds we are seeing mean we are happy to tick both the over 24 Mbps and 30 Mbps faster boxes for the UK Broadband footprint we have so that information will be integrated into the availbility figures some point this summer.
As for why BT did not bid for the original BDUK project, one can guess and it may be that clauses around avoiding lots of roadworks may have not helped, plus Swindon has being down the wireless route before and maybe BT decided to save time by not bidding as they simply thought the wireless service was going to win anyway. Virgin Media with the various wholesale clauses that the BDUK contracts (both inside and outside the framework) carry were never likely to bid.
Its not that fixed wireless cannot deliver the speeds promised, the problem seems to be a rapid roll-out was promised and it is not clear if this has been delivered, the location of masts and their power and hardware cabinets has proven difficult in some cases so some leeway is perhaps fine.
If the goal all along was to spend the £1.9 million and thus encourage over build from commercial operators then its an interesting tactic but raises questions about public money is being used when other services have been under pressure.