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New Video Shows 1Gbps B4RN Broadband Network in Lancashire Being Built

Monday, May 14th, 2012 (8:47 am) - Score 912
b4rn broadband 4 rural north

The B4RN (Broadband 4 Rural North) project, which recently began work on a new service that aims to connect thousands of rural homes in northern Lancashire UK via a unique 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) capable FTTH broadband ISP network (here), has posted a lovely new video of their fibre optic infrastructure being built.

Development of the new service, which is designed to be non-profit and operates through shared community involvement and funding, officially began on 31st March 2012 when roughly 100 locals turned up to help dig and lay the first fibre optic cable in a field near Jubilee Tower at Quernmore.

Since then progress appears to have been steady, despite some appalling weather conditions, and as a result the B4RN team has collected together a few fun bits of amateur footage to help show what it’s like to build your own next generation FTTH broadband network.

According to B4RN, the money from the shareholders has so far “financed the purchase of enough stock to complete the whole core route of phase 1“, although they are still accepting investments from the public to finance the remainder of this work.

Phase 1 itself saw construction begin midway along the route between Quernmore (network core) and Abbeystead, initially reaching about 500 local homes and businesses (premises). The total cost of the Phase 1 core is said to be around £364,000.

But the project could soon come under competitive pressure after April’s confirmation by the Lancashire County Council (LCC) that BT would seek to extend their superfast broadband ISP technology (FTTC, FTTP) out to 97% of the county by the end of 2014 (here). It remains to be seen whether or not this will have any impact upon B4RN’s longer term strategy.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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26 Responses
  1. Avatar desouzr

    “But the project could soon come under competitive pressure after April’s confirmation by the Lancashire County Council (LCC) that BT would seek to extend their superfast broadband ISP technology (FTTC, FTTP) out to 97% of the county by the end of 2014 (here). It remains to be seen whether or not this will have any impact upon B4RN’s longer term strategy”.

    I thought public money could not be used in areas where SFBB (i.e. B4RN in this case) is already present or plan to deploy within the next three years?

  2. One would hope but BT could probably find a reason to cross over that line, such as when a local cabinet or exchange covers both B4RN and non-B4RN areas. It’s a difficult rule to enforce.

    • Avatar desouzr

      From what Chris Conder/Cyberdoyle appears to say it would seem that the B4RN areas would have only gotten satellite or BET from the BDUK project there. Or that the line lengths from enabled cabs would have been so long that speeds would have been considerably less than SFBB. If this is the case for these areas then the choice of 1Gb/s symmetrical for £30/month vs. satellite/BET etc. from BT would seem like a no brainer to me. I guess only time will tell. Do you know if Lancashire has released any detailed local plans/timescales for their project deployment?

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Can’t remember whether having a choice of ISP matter when determining so-called “white areas”? Anyway no doubt the B4RN share offering made any such risks clear to investors.

    • Avatar redleg

      A couple of weeks ago LCC told me the Lancashire deployment timetable is due in 2-3 months time. They’ve also got a website in development.

  3. Avatar FibreFred

    “Or that the line lengths from enabled cabs would have been so long that speeds would have been considerably less than SFBB”

    I don’t think they are allowed to deploy it if it doesn’t meet the speed, its part of the contract terms

  4. Avatar Deduction

    Using that logic Mark any other company (such as small wifi or satellite firms) wanting local funds in a already enabled BT FTTC area should get them.

    Again another fine example that the funding for next gen is a joke.

    In fact desouzr makes a very good point, The scummy BT have been up to that game of muscling out the little guy already right back near the start of deployment of FTTC/next gen services. BT were given local authority funding in Iwade for cabinets when that was already covered by a wifi provider which can deliver more than 24Mb, already. Which i thought was the next gen target?

    Ignoring the obvious that Bt are scum bags for a second though……..

    Well done to BARN and all which have been a part of it in getting this far, it deserves a round of applause for showing what can be done without giving a single organisation millions of funding.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Deduction
      Ignoring your usual childish comments, IIRC the state aid rules apply to fixed networks – in other words, don’t look at wireless, mobile or satellite. The iWade example you’ve given was a tender that any company with wholesale capability could apply for, so don’t really see how you can justify your rather silly comments.

      There are various example of small local companies doing projects around the country, however they would also need (hundreds of) “millions in funding” from somewhere in order to give any sort or national roll-out.

      And do we really want to encourage lots of local monopolies being set up, with a forced choice of supplier for our broadband and calls? Experience to date shows little or no appetite from large ISPs to incur the costs to offer service on small networks, and most of the small networks don’t support wholesale options anyway.

      By all means let’s have an informed debate but let’s raise the tone to a more adult level please, rather than crawl through the gutter as you’ve done above, here

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/04/house-of-lords-uk-superfast-broadband-inquiry-publishes-written-evidence.html

      and in many other instances. In short, anywhere where the facts don’t fit your particular world-view.

  5. Avatar zemadeiran

    More local projects, the better…

    People in rural Britain have probably been used to getting on with the job for centuries which B4RN is showing.

    It is financial suicide to provide rural locations with any kind of connection due to the limited population density. If BT wants to waste money providing next gen services to rural areas let them.

    I live in w10 and cannot even get bloody vdsl which I do not really want. I want to get rid of my copper line and get fiber!

    The recent announcement of the 330 trial coming to an end is of no surprise. They can run poe via the cabinets without active equipment, but why put the copper last mile in danger?

    Anyhow, the farmers and villages can stick it as we in the big cities are fed by the big supermarkets who buy our bananas from south america and the Caribbean.
    We also outsource our call centers and kill jobs in the UK while making money off Joe public who has less and less money due to lack of work…

    Who is looking stupid now? eh?

    Watch when you lot get fiber and us city dwellers start invading the countryside because why not? Stuff living in a polluted city, I want to stream live footage of me cow tipping and sheep worrying…

  6. Avatar Deduction

    @New_Blunderer

    Suggest if you dunno about a local project you shut the hell up…
    http://iwadevillage.co.uk/broadbandsurvey2009results.pdf

    Not page 6 and the massive percentages that rated BT as poor or very poor and the percentages that rated wimax as very good and excellent.

    You obviously have no idea AS IS ALWAYS THE CASE about tenders or the bidding in general either……
    http://www.iwadevillage.co.uk/BroadbandPresentation24thNovember2009.pdf

    You will note if you are not as stupid as you appear to be 99.9% of the time there was a bid from a wifi provider.

    There is no reason at all for Vfast not winning the bid. Even more ironic most in iwade were unhappy with BT services and did not want to pay install charges. FTTC has install charges from around £50-100 depending on the ISP you go with. Vfast were even prepared to basically waive any install fee of their service until people could afford to pay it.

    Next time before you blabber on about things as if you know who bided and what type of tenders were involved do your research for a change first….. Otherwise you are doomed to always look an idiot.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Deduction
      Looks like you totally misunderstood my comment about ignoring wireless, which clearly referred to whether an area was “white” for the purposes of next generation access, not to the access network used to provide a solution. The rest of your comments about what the villagers want or think may or may not be true but don’t have any bearing on the tender and whatever factor the council decided to use to determine the winner.

      So sorry but your comment are wide of the mark as always, now back on topic….

    • Avatar Somerset

      Vfast response not that impressive.

      Like the comment on WNS – ‘Their Managing Director is an accountant hence financial stability.’.

  7. Avatar Deduction

    @zemadeiran

    Exactly, not only that but ironically now it seems FTTC speeds in Iwade are not all they cracked up to be for some. Some apparently are seeing only a little over 20Mb.

    Another bunch of cash wasted instead of allowing residents to build their own solution as some wanted or go with a wifi provider thats been going since around 2004 (if i recall correctly) in various areas of kent and was serving many residents before this silly bid lark even started. Ironically providing faster speeds than some on FTTC which BT were given more than a few thousands of pounds for in that area for cabinets…. And its still pants LOL

  8. Avatar New_Londoner

    @Deduction
    Surely your gripe is with the council and it’s bid criteria? You can hardly blame any of the bidders for its decision, assuming of course that your comments have any basis in fact. You’re also assuming that an alternative wireless solution would have worked flawlessly for all concerned even though there have been plenty of examples of these not meeting expectations, and you’re ignoring the lack of choice of service providers that (usually) accompanies such systems, not that there’s any technical reason for this.

    There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about a small, locally owned solution, despite what you seem to be assuming. Yes it may be tailored to local needs but equally it may only work economically as a local monopoly, which might not suit everyone. Also it may struggle to stay financially viable, fund upgrades and maintenance etc, as happened with various local initiatives in the south east, many of which were fixed wireless networks ironically given your comments.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      PS don’t forget Iwade will have benefited from recent introduction of Profile 17a to increase speeds, also from growing number of ISPs with competing offers, will have FTTP on demand from next year. Would the same apply if they’d gone down the DIY route or used fixed wireless? At what cost?

      So perhaps the council was more farsighted with its decision than you give it credit.

  9. Avatar Deduction

    http://www.computerweekly.com/news/1280094082/BT-accused-of-using-predatory-tactics-to-retain-broadband-dominance

    Half way down the page.

    So nope i blame BT and the council.

    BT had no intention to even enable the exchange that supplies Iwade back in 2009, it wasnt until 2010 when they had secured funding to shove cabinets in Iwade they decided to do the exchange.

    Or in other words, BT were bidding on an area they originally had no intention of enabling.

    The rollout to sittingbourne more than 2 years later is still not complete. Do deny that either or ill go find TBB or similar mapping to show that LOL

  10. Avatar Deduction

    Vfast on the other hand AFAIK thats 100% coverage in Iwade and Sittingbourne.

    Nice eh the small company you slag off can cover 100% of people, the big incumbent with a begging bowel for cash 2 years on still cant cover an area 100%.

    You keep defending BT though…. Blindly or stupidly or because you are employed by them.

  11. Avatar DTMark

    “There are various example of small local companies doing projects around the country, however they would also need (hundreds of) “millions in funding” from somewhere in order to give any sort or national roll-out.”

    Why would they want to roll out nationally? Why is it a natural extrapolation to assume people would want to do so?

    “And do we really want to encourage lots of local monopolies being set up, with a forced choice of supplier for our broadband and calls?”

    Yep, we do. At the moment we only have access to one monopoly – a national one. For fixed-line, anyway. At the moment that offers zero broadband options, just 1.7Meg ADSL.

    Why should I care about what choice of suppliers I can have over the wholesale network, when the wholesale network is close to being completely useless and can be very comprehensively beaten by hanging a 3G modem out of a window. (Fast forward now to the days of FTTC and 4G/LTE…)

    A second network will bring more choice, not less. People can always stick with their ADSL if they want to.

    Any alternative here would mean real choice, and unlike BT a competitor has something to lose, and so is likely to try a bit harder especially if they’re investing their own money in the project as well as ours.

    It’s the BT straw man argument really – that only the BT route provides “choice”. It also provides mediocrity and what I’d call a “least possible effort” solution, like ADSL was and is. This naturally leads me to look at other, perhaps serious providers to meet our needs.

    Having looked at the miserably sorry state of the telephone lines round here and cabinet distances, FTTC would just be too slow here for most. Which then brings us to either Wi-Fi or FTTP and I don’t know of anyone offering Wholesale solutions with those. Might come with BT in time, but BT has only just woken up to fibre so I don’t hold my breath.

    Basically, getting a competent solution here *will* most likely require a second local “monopoly”, yes. Because the positions of the telephone cabinets and the mediocre quality of the lines sadly don’t suit modern broadband.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @DTMark
      “Which then brings us to either Wi-Fi or FTTP and I don’t know of anyone offering Wholesale solutions with those”

      Agree with your comment from a wi-fi perspective, although no reason this couldn’t happen. With FTTP though, the Openreach FTTP deployments already have wholesale options, probably others too but can’t think of any off hand.

  12. Avatar DTMark

    Is Openreach ready to actually deploy FTTP in this sort of instance? I don’t get the impression that it is yet. Hyperoptic seem a little further ahead but this “market” is in its infancy and AFAIK those were deployments to single blocks of flats.

    If so, is there an email address I can write to to “get a price” – the part of the cost that BT would like as a contribution towards the costs to deploy in what is, for any fixed-line commercial provider, an unviable area (240 premises). We should ask BT for a comparable price (versus the others we’ve approached or are approaching).

    FTTC isn’t an option as only about 30% of the premises or less (I have sample data for only central properties so it’s probably a bit less than that) would be in line for “superfast broadband” and the FTTC tech isn’t extensible enough to make a cabinet solution worthwhile from a long term perspective.

    Sadly I suspect we’ll move on from here before the project comes to fruition (the “other user” is on the 3G service today so it’s crawling along at less than 5Meg downstream, it’s sooooo slow) but I’d like to see the village get some semblance of a modern broadband service at some stage.

  13. Avatar New_Londoner

    @Mark
    Obvious question perhaps but have you checked whether your village is included in the county’s broadband plan? It may already be in line for faster broadband without the need for any more action locally.

    As to whether the “FTTC tech is extensible enough for a long- term solution”, some doubted 80 Mbps would happen, other known options could include Vectoring and the 200 Mbps Profile 30a. Depends what you mean by extensible enough? And don’t forget FTTP on demand too.

    • Avatar Deduction

      quote”As to whether the “FTTC tech is extensible enough for a long- term solution”, some doubted 80 Mbps would happen, other known options could include Vectoring and the 200 Mbps Profile 30a. Depends what you mean by extensible enough? And don’t forget FTTP on demand too.”

      You mean UPTO 80Mb of which only 15Mb is guaranteed, of which the target for something to be defined “super fast” is 24Mb.

      You mean the 200Mb which will only be possible over FTTC to around a third of users which are around 400 Metres from said cabinet.

      Long term solution? Depends what you mean by long term, good enough for 5 years i guess, 10 or 20 years…. NO way…. TV over internet in 20 years will need MPEG5 (or whatever it ends up being called) and 4k resolutions.

      DVD and Bluray in 20 years is unlikely to exist, movie content will be digital and judging by files sizes of that and how they grow in size over the years the average download of a film in the year 2030 is likely to be around 50gig…

      I wouldnt want to do that on a 200Mb connection, thats still around 30mins to download a film. No better than what you have now on a good ADSL2+ connection downloading a high quality movie from a legit service.

  14. Avatar DTMark

    It is not scheduled to receive fibre. The exchange only serves about 1200 premises and is 20CN only, no LLU, no WBC ADSL2+ (was scheduled for upgrade in 2009 but the date just got dropped without any explanation, though see later comments about line quality). This really is likely to be an area where a purely commercially supplied fixed line broadband service is never going to be deployed, hence the village paying towards the solution.

    I did quite a bit of research into just why the broadband here is so utterly dreadful (shortest line D+E = 2600m, 2.7Mbps average, indeed the only person capable of receiving very basic broadband – which I say is 6Meg at the bare miniumum – is me, since I use 3G – at 6Meg it’s the fastest speed in the area. Usually.)

    ADSL1 only achieves an average of 55% of the theoretical sync speed across a sample of lines (ranges between 16% and just over 100%, our line manages 42% of what it should e.g. syncs at ~2Mbps not ~5Mbps given the line is ~3680m long) which is why I seriously doubt the quality of the lines to run VDSL when they can’t even do ADSL very well. Of course the decrepit bits of the network might be on the E-sides, but we’ll probably never know.

    There are also the DACS boxes on the D-sides (on the poles) to consider which potentially destroys, or certainly complicates, the chance of any cabinet based solution if they’re still in use. In short there’s not a lot here to build on.

    Think of an “I” shape – that’s the area, the cabs are on the left edges of that shape and the houses down the middle bar and bottom right, industrial units top right so not conducive to a cabinet based solution. Unlike the neighbouring area served by the same exchange which is mostly a clustered housing estate where FTTC might suffice in the medium term.

    I’d estimated FTTC would provide an average speed of between 20Mbps and 35Mbps in this area, but that’s just headlines. In reality speeds would range from 76Mbps (a few people are close enough to their cabs) to potentially nil.

    The VDSL “charts” seem to stop at around 1000m and I can’t find a chart which goes up to 3000m. But I do suspect that nobody, including Openreach, can know how VDSL would perform unless there’s a massive database down to E and D side with the lengths, metals and gauges all logged (the latter two being especially important).

    Given there’s no pricing for FTTP on demand I’m simply ignoring that option on the basis that it will be priced not dissimilarly to leased lines and so is not an SME/residential option. In addition you can’t champion a local project, get people enthused about it, deliver it, then tell them that actually, to get what they paid for, they need to pay another grand on top (my guess – do feel free to confirm/deny) to swap out a knackered D-side or because “the telephone cabinet is too far away” just to get a pretty ordinary, current-gen 30Meg solution.

    I’d say this was a very straightforward area to run FTTP. It’s basically two straight, very quiet roads. I’d also say that Wi-Fi is the most pragmatic option, but like everywhere else, FTTP will be needed in the end. So to quote one of the residents “might as well do it right first time” which is the approach B4RN appear to have gone for too.

  15. Avatar Deduction

    quote”Interesting numbers on Vfast – http://companycheck.co.uk/company/06117927

    Indeed a small company that is continuing to grow.

    Where as http://companycheck.co.uk/company/01800000 will be very interesting come the 2012 financial year. Atleast they finally raided their piggy bank to pay off some of the debt this year.
    LOL

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