Airband claims ambition to use 50% FTTP
The fixed wireless provider Airband is best known for its deployments in the South West and Shropshire areas and a press release indicates that it is going to be doing more of its RuralOptic hybrid model.
Exactly what RuralOptic is was not made clear in the press release, we believe it is a local FTTP deployment but the backhaul is over wireless links. In theory this should be reliable and not be a bottleneck as point to point wireless backhaul has existed for years, a lot will depend on what wireless capacity is installed and the number of premises served by the fibre. This does stretch the use of the term fibre to the premises and we are certain that if Openreach tried something similar with fibre that there would be moves to ensure it was not called FTTP or full fibre.
The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) announced in July as part of the UK government’s modern industrial strategy, outlines that remote rural areas need to be prioritised for funding. It also recognises that a blend of technologies is required to deliver superfast access – we see our hybrid wireless and fibre model as being ideally suited for these areas so it’s an exciting time for us to be at the forefront of ensuring that rural locations get the digital infrastructure they needed and do not get left behind.Peter Mathers, Airband Operations Director
What seems clear is that RuralOptic is not a traditional fibre-only or wireless-only solution, but if it does deliver and give people future proof superfast and ultrafast speeds in locations that would otherwise not be seeing better speeds for a decade or more it will be welcomed, but with the UK ambition for 100% full fibre coverage the debate needs to be had now as to what counts as full fibre when measuring progress towards that goal.
One odd claim about RuralOptic is that it avoids digging up roads, which if there is a stretch of fibre from a mast to a premises would be a very rare thing to achieve, unless digging in a soft verge does not count as digging up roads. The press release has this to say on the delivery method "Successful trials in Shropshire have demonstrated the huge benefits of this new technology, which delivers point-to-point fibre using existing infrastructure, avoiding the time delay and costs involved in digging up roads". So maybe they are re-using fibre already in the ground or extensive use of PIA and Openreach ducts and poles are made, which is still likely to require some disruption to roads and paths even if just for safety reasons as people open chambers or access poles with cherry pickers.
We have asked for details of where the FTTP service is actually deployed already and where they are expecting it to go.
Update 2:40pm Caynham village was the original RuralOptic trial location and we are told that further deployments are dependant on talks with BDUK and the various local authorities in terms of confirming which are areas suit this hybrid deployment method.
We have seen a number of speed tests for Airband customers in Caynham in August and the characteristics look more like a fixed line service than a wireless one: Download 94.1 Mbps, upload 17.2 Mbps also download 97.2 Mbps upload 19.8 Mbps and download 30.9 Mbps and upload 5 Mbps.
Update 3:30pm Airband have sent us a clarification outlining the way that roads are avoided and the technology involved.
Airband have an aim to deliver full fibre to the premise from the UK national network, in the short term this will utilise existing mast backhaul points, current fibre pops and BT EAD. Our approach will stay 'hybrid', in the sense that we will have a wireless and a fibre network using the most appropriate technology to each premise. At its simplest level this may look like, FTTP to hamlets and villages and wireless to remote properties or isolated dwelings. We intend to use BT DPA and soft-dig on private land.Clarification on RuralOptic delivery
BT DPA is Duct and Pole Access or as some refer to it PIA (Physical Infrastructure Access) and BT EAD for those now aware is Ethernet Access Direct i.e. business grade connectivity fibre links.