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Wansdyke Telecom Building 1Gbps Fibre in Rural North East Somerset

Monday, January 20th, 2014 (6:11 pm) - Score 1,745
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A Community Interest Company (CIC) called Wansdyke Telecom (WT) has started to build a 1000Mbps capable rural fibre optic (FTTP/H) broadband network that eventually aims to connect “every community in [North East] Somerset that wants it” (England).

The Wansdyke Telecom project is reliant upon strong community support to help build the network. This saves a significant amount of money on infrastructure costs, which some reports have claimed can account for up to 80% of the total deployment (WT expects 60% of their project costs will be for materials and the remaining 40% is labour).

Wansdyke Telecom Statement

We will lay the duct not on the highway but across the farmland on ‘the other side of the wall’. Digging a narrow trench and installing a duct within it is dramatically less expensive across private farmland than along the highway. Even less expensive across open land is the ability to lay the cable ducting (typically 16mm in diameter) using mole-digging equipment. The work can be done by agricultural workers, volunteers and the farmers themselves; it’s not high technology, similar to laying a simple water or drainage pipe (but significantly smaller) which they do all the time. The combination of lower cost labour and simple installation without the regulatory burden of the street works act and similar impediments results in a dramatic reduction in cost per metre installed.

Of course the costs of the materials will actually be rather higher than those paid by telecommunications companies due to our smaller scale of operations; however this is much more than offset by the reduced laying costs. Where necessary we will use the highways but this should be for a small proportion of the duct length, mainly for road crossings and short sections where the farmland is either not available to us or unsuitable.

But putting fibre optic cables into the ground to build a new broadband and telecoms infrastructure doesn’t come cheap. According to the Somerset Guardian (via Thinkbroadband), WT has successfully raised the money needed to get started (£150,000) through an SEIS Investment Scheme. As a result the first stretch of cable has already been built into Newton St.Looe (linked back to a capacity supply in London) and will soon move into Marksbury and then beyond.

At the same time it’s worth remembering that the Bath & North East Somerset Council currently aim to make “high speed fibre broadband” services available to 90% of local premises by the end of 2016 (i.e. the last 10% will get speeds of between 2Mbps and up to 24Mbps) using BT’s FTTC/P network (this forms part of the existing Connecting Devon and Somerset scheme). But that still leaves 5-10% left to fend for themselves, which is where operators like WT believe they can make a difference.

Never the less it could take years for such a small operation to achieve their ambition and in the meantime we wouldn’t be surprised to see the local CDS scheme expand to match the national superfast broadband coverage target of 95%, although that’s just speculation and it’s good to see that WT is being proactive.

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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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