Broadband News

Frustration may lead to Maldon doing a Bexit

The BDUK process in many parts of the United Kingdom has shifted towards delivering a lot more full fibre and filling in gaps created from the phase one and two roll-outs but with Essex running at 93.6% superfast coverage in our system is still trailing the UK overall figure by two percentage points and there are still plenty of plain old cabinets to upgrade.

Maldon District Council appears to be getting frustrated with the pace of the roll-outs with a local press article that ISPreview has also covered, and rather than repeat everything Mark has said we will talk a bit more about what we can see for some of the places mentioned (the extra time involved in digging around and checking speeds and models is why we are a day later in covering this). Progress in the superfast roll-outs has seen the district council go from 63.4% three years ago to 85.3% today.

Maldon and Heybridge area showing VDSL2 speeds in postcodes
Map of Maldon and Heybridge showing superfast postcodes (green) and sub subsuperfast (yellow) based on thinkbroadband model of the area

The map above shows Maldon and you can see that postcodes in parts of Heybridge are not receiving superfast speeds due to the distance from their cabinet. Maldon exchange area itself was mostly delivered via the commercial roll-out and using the ECI cabinets, the BDUK roll-out in phase one added cabinets 5,28 and 34 and phase two has added cabs 11,24,33 and 35 with cabinet 11 being the latest to go live in the last week of August 2018. All the BDUK gap funded cabinets are Huawei based which generally performs better than the ECI hardware with regards to VDSL2. An additional map layer worth looking at for a quick overview of the area is the postcodes where speeds are expected to be below 24 Mbps.

The slow part of Heybridge Basin is actually connected via cabinet 16 which was deployed commercially and would clearly benefit from an infill cabinet along Basin Road near to Harfred Avenue or full fibre if the value for money criteria stack up.

I think this is an absolute farce

This is Essex County Council doing the litte thing they did on highways, which I refer to as double taxation. BT will roll this out whether they have our money or not.

Council Leader Adrian Fluker

The comments from Adrian Fluker are interesting and is something we see a reasonable number of people suggesting, but the real question is how long do you want to wait? The ambition of a 100% full fibre United Kingdom for 2033 means the comment is probably true, but should residents and business have to wait another decade or more? The broadband Universal Service Obligation is only going to guarantee a 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload connection speed and that might just be a 100GB monthly usage allowance.

Another soundbite is that 'Southminster will never get superfast broadband' and this is odd because a reasonable chunk of Southminster can get superfast broadband, but to finish the job cabinet 6 in Southminster itself could do with a VDSL2 twin and cabinet 5 that covers Steeple. Other areas would benefit from infill cabinets and we would suggest five of these:

  • Infill cabinet at junction of Farm Road and Southminster Road
  • Infill cabinet at junction of Whitby Road and Old Heath Road
  • Infill cabinet close to where Burnham Road meets Ratsborough Road
  • Infill cabinet new Tillingham Road and New Moor Farm
  • Infill cabinet in Asheldham at junction of Rushes Lane, Southminster Road

Alternatively planners could price up delivering full fibre (FTTP) and there in lies the problem its easy to suggest solutions but harder to find the money to pay for it.

Alas if Maldon were to leave the Superfast Essex project, then none of the above could happen with no obvious plan for the council to adopt if they were to venture out on their own with a Maldon Broadband Project they would still have to do all the admin work of the main Essex project and at that time discover the pain of having limited resources and prioritising who gets improvements delivered first and with limited budgets you cannot always deliver what people would like or to the timescale that people desire.

Ultimately full verification of what any broadband project delivers means spending a lot of time both sifting available datasets and verifying everything in them, for example this speed test would suggest there is a problem in an area that should have superfast connection speeds, but this second test by what looks to be on the same connection a few days later looks a lot better and suggests the sync speed is just ticking the superfast flag which is in line the estimates. Those two tests do not look like they were done over a Wi-Fi connection, but they might be and we have no idea of what state the in home wiring is like.

At the end of the day a massive amount of the frustration has been caused by 'political promises' that have caused confusion amongst the public and councillors over what was going to be delivered, the classic one is quoting high speed broadband targets that people think equals superfast broadband, but in reality the two are different (high speed broadband when talked about often means 15 Mbps or better speeds, superfast should be over 24 Mbps). Another source of confusion is talking about premises passed by fibre broadband without explicitly mentioning what speed criteria is being used.

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