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Rural Fell End Broadband Project Finally Goes Live in Cumbria UK

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 (10:02 am) - Score 927

The £88k+ Fell End Broadband project in Ravenstonedale (South East Cumbria, England) has announced that its partly community built fibre optic (FTTH/P) network, which covers just 58 properties including 28 businesses over an 11km area, is now officially live.

The mole ploughing focused civil engineering work (small diggers are used to both drill underground and pull through the new fibre optic cable) to install a 15km long Fibre-to-the-Premises network, which was led by Ravenstonedale Parish Council in partnership with BTOpenreach, TS Trenching, DEFRA’s Rural Community Broadband Fund, The Holehird Trust, TalkTalk’s Digital Heroes and the Prince’s Countryside Fund, actually occurred back in April 2014, but today the service itself has finally gone live.

Previously the best that many local homes and businesses could hope for was a sub-2Mbps broadband download speed, but the new infrastructure is technically capable of delivering BT’s top FTTP download speed of 330Mbps (although some early users seem to be reporting speeds that are more akin to FTTC performance).

Paul Bonsall, Owner of the Fat Lamb Country Inn, said:

We’ve gone from about 2Mbps to around 60Mbps which is fantastic. We could have gone much faster but we decided that would be ok for now. We are quite heavily reliant on a good broadband connection for our business. We have 12 rooms here and guests expect to have a good wifi connection. They want to be able to upload images of their holidays straight away on social media to show their friends and family what they have been doing. Now we have enough bandwidth to keep everyone happy all of the time.”

Rory Stewart, Penrith and the Border MP, said:

This is Cumbria showing Britain how broadband can be delivered to the most remote places in the country. It is a project driven by the community, supported by BT and the Government – and it reaches the most inaccessible area at a fraction of what it would cost to do through Government alone.

Now that we have done it once, I’d like us to repeat this model again and again across Cumbria and then across rural Britain. It will provide the key to ensuring 100 per cent of Britain has the option of superfast broadband, and will make sure that we in Cumbria have the best rural coverage in Europe.”

In a tweet this morning the Fell End team also confirmed that “20 properties are now lit [and] 20 more are expected to be lit in the next three weeks” (although the official PR says there are 6 subscribers).

BT also said they provided “extensive network materials and manpower for the project“, although a spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk that they haven’t yet put a number on their contribution but it’s unlikely to be small.

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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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar James Harrison says:

    ~£100k for 10 times fewer properties than, say, Northmoor (also a FTTP project, albeit providing up to 10Gbps rather than 330Mbps). Gives you an idea of the cost of the backhaul – I wonder if BT moleploughed in backhaul to that community all the way from their nearest point of presence, or if they used a wireless link? If BT did dig in all that backhaul surely they put in enough pairs and access boxes along at all the other remote villages they passed on the way? I mean, they must have done for that investment, right?

  2. Avatar Dave says:

    @James: It has gone in new duct back to a cabinet near Newbiggin on Lune exchange which has been fibre enabled so not really passing any other communities along the way.

    I seriously doubt much repetition of this project will take place however unlike what Rory has said. Total subsidy nearly £2k per property from various sources plus BT contribution. General subsidy is <£100 a property…

    1. Avatar James Harrison says:

      Okay, so the backhaul was actually only ~2 miles of ducting? Never mind my comment about expensive backhaul then.

      Northmoor was sub-£200k investment (match funded) for 10 times the number of properties done with a better (active point to point, not passive optical network) FTTP technology and had similar backhaul distance with a lot of spread out properties including several which involved fibre being run for a single property or group of properties ~5 miles away…

      I do hope their project model doesn’t get repeated – as you say, that’s a lot of subsidy per property. It can be done better and more cheaply.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      Dave – BT subsidy for FTTC is being billed at £170+ per premise passed as per the milestone payments reported in North Yorks, so if you accept 20% uptake that is c £800-£900 per property connected.

      As an extreme case this area would have expected to reach £5k a property as per Analysis Mason /BT numbers. If it is coming in close to £2k, then it is step forward in terms of bounding the costs.

  3. Avatar buyer beware says:

    BT has not rolled out anymore Fell Ends. That suggests it’s a failed project as far BT is concerned otherwise there would be more such projects. Rory Stewart has been a disaster. He does not understand building networks. Value depends entirely on superfast subscriber numbers which should be publicly available information for any project with tax payer funding. A comparison between Fell End and Northmoor would be interesting to see if the two different solutions influence how many sign up – both are areas with virtually no workable service previously. Fell End’s PR says 6 subscribers. The project claims 40 subscribers. If Fell End hits 90% subscribers then fair enough, at least it is being used, but we need to know which is it, 6 or 52? What about Northmoor, no subscriber numbers but Northmoor blog suggests it could be as low as 10 subscribers for ultrafast. Say Northmoor has 40 superfast subscribers, that’s £5,000 tax payer subsidy per property. If it has 400 superfast subscribers, £500 per property and I would not mind so much paying. These subscriber numbers will be publicly available if ISP Review would ask.

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @buyer beware Note the BT subidy for FTTC is about £800 per premise connected or c£178x per premise passed.

      Bt has now changed the price of fibre on demand to make these projects more dfficult to copy.

      BT would have estimated the costs at £5k + property. If like Barn they have shown the number to be £2k or less, then it is helpful for those wishing to copy.

      Rory Stewart like his neighbouring MPs worked hard to support their constituemts. They deserve a lot of credit to get the 4G coverage obligation passed, against HMT and Ofcom’s wishes. They may yet turn up to force a change in BT Undetakings so a proper accounting of the £1.2bn state aid monies so more final 5% commuities can get the connectivity they need.

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