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Wireless ISP AirBand to Deploy Superfast Broadband in Dartmoor and Exmoor

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 (4:57 pm) - Score 1,587
wireless_rural_uk_mast

The Connecting Devon and Somerset project in England has announced that a fixed wireless access (FWA) provider called Airband has won their open tender contract for deploying superfast broadband to 5,800 homes and businesses across the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks.

The new deal, which is separate from last week’s disaster with the local BT and Superfast Extension Programme contract (here), has the advantage of not needing to dig up lots of roads in order to lay new cables and this also makes it both cheaper and quicker to deploy.

The service itself will be transmitted to homes from various masts dotted around the area and it’s understood that the roll-out will be funded by a public sector investment of £4.6 million. According to the press release, Airband’s solution is also designed to “overcome physical conditions such as trees, hills or structures“, which is probably just a general reference to the positioning of their masts and choice of radio frequency bands rather than some magical fix.

Andrew Leadbetter, Devon Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth, said:

We are delighted that Airband has been chosen to roll out superfast broadband across the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. They were selected for their innovative approach to delivering broadband in remote areas.

This contract announcement represents the next big step towards our aim of achieving 100% coverage across the region. By the end of 2016, many more homes and businesses across Dartmoor and Exmoor will be able to access superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more. People will be able to benefit from this innovative technology and faster internet connection speeds, enhancing their lives and productivity respectively.”

Sadly the press release doesn’t mention exactly what kind of service customers can expect to receive (100Mbps gets mentioned but the context is unclear), although “superfast” usually references Internet download speeds of 24Mbps+ or 30Mbps+. As such it’s likely that Airband may offer a different service to locals than the one on their website, which currently tops out at ‘up to’ 20Mbps. Prices start from £10 per month for an entry-level 10Mbps option with a 1GB allowance.

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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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8 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve Jones

    “last week’s disaster with the local BT and Superfast Extension Programme contract (here)”

    Just why is this considered a disaster (unless, maybe from a BT PR point of view)? So CDS and BT couldn’t come to a mutual agreement. Whether this turns out to be a disaster or not surely depends on whether other network providers can come up with better solutions. To put it down as a disaster at this point is surely to prejudge the outcome. Certainly Chris Doyle has stated she considers it a great opportunity for alternative providers. We’ll see.

    • Avatar Niall

      It is a disaster because it will almost certainly result in delays against the original 2017 objective as they now have to run a procurement process that they weren’t planning on running. The Phase 1 rollout was supposed to have pushed fibre closer to the next 5% thus supposedly doing part of the job. Will BT allow this to be used by alternative providers?

      As someone reliant on CDS I don’t think a move to an alternative provider now is going to be positive and it clearly wasn’t CDS’s first choice so they didn’t think so either. Yes I am prejudging and happy to stand corrected later, but I wouldn’t bet on a better outcome.

      The whole CDS process has been shrouded in mystery and misinformation from day 1.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      You are doing the same thing. Prejudging the outcome. It may well be that the 2017 schedule can’t be met (BT wouldn’t). We’ll see if other providers can do better.

    • Avatar Niall chatfield

      Yes I am prejudging I have admitted that. Are you directly impacted by CDS and if so Phase 1 or subsequent phase?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      No, I’m not. I can also understand the concern as there’s clearly a very significant risk. But other approaches (most likely fixed wireless) might realise improvements faster.

  2. Avatar MikeW

    If Airband’s solution is designed to overcome physical obstructions, doesn’t this mean they have chosen a technology that is non-line-of-sight (NLOS)?

    IIRC, The Airwave trial includes some way to test this – which in their case seems to be use of TV white spaces technology.

    It is lower bandwidth than full LOS FWA equipment, perhaps 8Mbps, so they’re intending to deploy both on the masts, and use TVWS only for those locations where obstructions get in the way.

  3. Avatar MikeW

    Another comparison with the Airwave trial …

    I have a vague recollection that North Yorkshire are expecting a subsidy-per-home rate of around £800 for fixed wireless – which very much matches the ones quoted in the article.

    Fingers crossed that the masts get planning approval…

  4. Avatar 3G Infinity

    NLOS needs something to bounce off, there are very few buildings in Dartmoor and Exmoor to do that. So most all links will be LOS, as Airband don’t appear to have licensed spectrum (guys correct me if I am wrong and they have a lease agreement with UK Broadband) they will use a mixture of 5.8, 5.4 and 2.4GHz bands.

    To achieve 30Mbps means a highly sectorised rollout at 5.8GHz to get the 20MHz channels needed to achieve these data rates to each and every house connected (not passed).

    They reference 1Gbps speeds for business, that means using 60GHz or similar microwave/mmWave links – they are short range 500m max OR 70/80GHz mmWave links – latter have 5km range at these speeds but are expensive.

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