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UPDATE UK Broadband Launch 65Mbps Fixed 4G Internet for London Homes

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 (8:22 am) - Score 20,703
uk broadband pccw

UK Broadband (UKB), the sibling of Hong Kong based telecoms giant PCCW (HKT), is today expected to take another pop at breaking into the consumer Internet access market when it launches a new fixed line and 4G (TD LTE) fixed wireless based “fibre-fast” broadband service for homes and businesses in London using its 3.5GHz or 3.6GHz radio spectrum bands.

The new service, which is to be called ‘Relish‘, is likely to focus on areas where the established operators (e.g. BT, Virgin Media etc.) have failed to provide adequate connectivity. In addition, Relish will be supported by a national roaming agreement with one of the UK’s primary mobile operators, which should make at least part of its service available across the country.

At this stage little is known about what customers can expect, although UKB appears keen to deliver a service that could replace traditional fixed line connectivity, even if the limited coverage of their 3.5/3.6GHz bands could make that harder to achieve than if lower frequency spectrum was used. But it’s not the first or even the second time that they’ve tried to do this.

Some years back UKB launched its first attempt at a consumer-facing wireless broadband solution (aka – Now – formerly Netvigator) to premises in Reading (England), which ended up being discontinued in 2009 as the operator began to explore newer 4G technologies (here). The service also struggled to attract customers due to falling behind developments in the fixed line broadband market and a lack of advertising.

The Now service was revived again in 2012 (here) as part of UKB’s move to switch-on the country’s first 4G LTE Fixed Wireless system for commercial services in parts of London (Southbank and the borough areas of Southwark) and Reading, although the related website recently stopped advertising this service and instead appears to be acting as a holding page for existing subscribers.

uk broadband southwark proposed 4g td lte 2011 coverage map
UKB’s Proposed 4G Coverage Map of Southwark (2011)

ISPreview.co.uk notes that UKB’s existing network in London uses 124MHz of spectrum in LTE bands 42 and 43 (3.5GHz and 3.6GHz), which allows the deployment of 6 x 20MHz wide channels and that’s enough capacity for some potentially very fast service speeds. Before it went dormant again ‘Now’ was already offering download speeds of up to 40Mbps (5Mbps uploads) from £21.50 a month.

Meanwhile UKB has also launched its network into several other parts of the country, such as Swindon, albeit usually in partnership with a local ISP or public authority rather than as its own service. Past attempts to launch a consumer-facing product have often suffered due to a serious lack of advertising (they might be good at building the network but not promoting it). The phrase “third time lucky?” comes to mind.

According to the WSJ, UKB’s new “consumer-facing brand” will be announced sometime today or later this week and it will offer both a fixed line and fixed 4G wireless broadband service to customers (we suspect the fixed aspect is just the capacity supply). It’s important to remember that Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solutions are usually much faster and more capable than traditional mass market Mobile Broadband services, albeit also more niche in terms of coverage.

Apparently the initial aim of Relish will be to expand upon UKB’s existing network coverage of London, specifically focusing on not-spots and slow-spots in the city’s outlying areas. But to stand any chance of success Relish will need to offer a competitive superfast broadband product and one that it is willing to actively promote. We will update this post once the official announcement has been published.

UPDATE 10:07am

It’s not much but we’ve had it confirmed that the service will indeed launch today and UKB’s digital launch partner, TH_NK, has also given us this sneak peek into how the service will interface with and work for mobile and desktop users.

relish_portable_options

UPDATE 10:21am

The official website for Relish – https://www1.relish.net – now appears to be live. The wireless package for home users appears to offer speeds of up to 65Mbps with unlimited usage from £20.00 per month (plus £50 one-off for the Huawei 4G modem hardware) on a monthly contract. A 12 month contract option is also available and this makes the connection hardware free.

In addition, Relish also offers a combined home wireless broadband and mobile solution, which offers the above service alongside a bundled Mobile Broadband service (this can be used across the UK) with various usage allowances. Prices start at £25 per month for the Unlimited Home & 1GB mobile bundle (plus £25 one-off) and rises to £50 per month for their 20GB Mobile Broadband data bundle with Home Unlimited.

The Mobile Broadband dongle is not part of UKB’s own 4G network and instead is based off a national MVNO deal with one of the country’s primary mobile operators as mentioned earlier.

A variety of business plans are also on offer, which follow the same format but cost slightly more.

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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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14 Responses
  1. Christ on a bike this is cheaper and a similar speed to my ‘fibre optic’ broadband.

    It’s actually faster than the 80Mb FTTC average.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      it might not be, 68Mbps is the “up to” speed, I couldn’t see anything on likely performance.

      On the site it does say “Supports a maximum throughput of 68Mbps in the downlink and 17 Mbps in the uplink.” So potentially pretty good as a top speed but it all depends on what it delivers in practice, how close the average throughput is to this.

  2. Avatar Henry

    Relish may cover parts of Southwark, but it does not reach the Rotherhithe peninsula (also in Southwark, slightly further east along the Thames) where there might be demand for something like this, given that ADSL speeds are in the 1-4 Mbit/s range while fixed-line suppliers such as Openreach, Virgin Media and Hyperoptic want to provide anything fibre based only in tiny pockets.

    Oddly the Relish postcode checker also suggests it may not reach Ofcom’s offices on Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 9HA.

  3. Avatar sentup.custard

    Well, I’d want to see a good few trustworthy reports of how well it actually performs first, but subject to it being approximately as advertised, if they expand a bit to cover the People’s Republic of Brent I’d give it a try.

  4. Avatar zemadeiran

    I must be able to see the future…

  5. Avatar Chaoss

    It doesn’t cover Central London at all, I am in N1 (South Central Angel) and says I can’t get it

    • Avatar sentup.custard

      Their coverage map does seem a bit iffy when you try the postcode checker instead. I got a yes result for the postcode of a friend in Paddington, but another not far away, near Little Venice and well within the dark blue area on their map, got a no.

  6. Avatar New_Londoner

    Hmm. The press coverage today suggests average speeds of 30Mbps, so better than ADSL but only around half the average speed of FTTC. It’s still fine for many uses at those speeds, but a fair way off the 65Mbps claimed maximum speed.

    It’s also worth considering how well the router will cope with new buildings and those recently renovated. For example, the insulation on our home has two layers of foil, which is itself located between walls containing metal rods, making a pretty good Faraday cage which means mobile reception isn’t great. I’m guessing this will impair performance of this service too, possibly more so than for standard 4G signals due to the frequency range, any views?

    • Avatar DTMark

      The averages aren’t really relevant, though, are they. All that matters is – what’s best for you, where you live, at a street level. For instance our 4G outperforms what VDSL could deliver and we’re only 700m (1280m of wire) from where the cabinet would/will go, delivering to the huddle of houses nearest to it and remaining unused at this incredibly short distance because it’s so mediocre. It might as well be 700 miles away.

      I posted years back that such a thing would come to bear and I wonder why it has taken so long. Most especially for people who rent, which is on the up these days – contrast the “pick it up and take it with you” convenience versus the farce of trying to have BT organise a “house move” and the attraction is quite clear.

      Tie that in with a decent price and performance and you then wonder what the point of the phone network is and what USPs it actually has. Had BT gone for a fibre-optic deployment it would have a major USP, but it does not.

    • Avatar No Clue

      “..For instance our 4G outperforms what VDSL could deliver..”

      4G upload wise is capable of outperforming VDSL from BT already, in fact it can out perform even its real Fibre offerings on the upload.

      I suspect this product will be even better.

  7. Avatar nebo1ss

    After chasing BT for years to get something faster than ADSL in Wapping I decided to try this service. I initially installed it as close as possible to my computer and was disappointed with a speed of only 13 Meg download. However, after playing with the device and moving it around until I got the best signal, I am now seeing between 28 and 30 Meg download and between 6 and 9 Meg upload. I am very happy with the performance and cancelled my BT service after the two week trial period was up.

  8. Avatar Mike

    Have BT Infinity 2 and went through a series of nightmares to get it – as we know BT really is abysmal – and don’t like the increased monthly cost of my broadband/landline. That I don;t use the landline for anything except getting broadband this really does look like a great idea. If the speed is adequate (it doesn’t have to always be 60 Mbps at all!) for my use, the price point appears excellent at @20 per month the only other issues is coverage. I’m in W4 and the post code checker not available – how quickly can they expand in London? That’ll be the key to customers quick uptake and provided they deliver premier customer support alongside this will help them grow very quickly indeed. So, Relish, get W4 covered pronto!

  9. Avatar Sandy

    Have Relish in SE1.

    When it works it provides astonishingly fast downloads, 30-50 Mbps. Upload speed is lower (by design) but its still pretty good at about 2-5 Mbps. There does not seem to be any peak time throttling but it does occasionally lose its signal altogether.

    It is very sensitive to where in my (relatively small) flat it is sited, from full signal to one bar.

    Customer service are pretty good but do seem to get overwhelmed if you try to call during an outage.

    Overall I am very satisfied with this service and will use it as my main household connection (have 4G via Windows phone and a 3G Mifi as back up).

  10. Avatar ablett lester

    connection button for postal areas is not working
    therefore I cannot finf out if I can use this network
    Mr Ablett Lester

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