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20K Council Homes in Wandsworth to Get 1000Mbps Fibre Broadband

Friday, September 4th, 2015 (11:12 am) - Score 3,429

The London Borough of Wandsworth has joined forces with a little known ISP called Community Fibre in order to create what could be one of the fastest council estates in the United Kingdom, with residents in a north Battersea estate receiving broadband download speeds of up to 1086Mbps.

Apparently the first to see the service are council tenants and leaseholders within Thessaly House on the Savona Estate, but the plan is to then gradually install the service across Wandsworth Council’s housing stock and that could eventually offer well over 20,000 homes access to the same broadband performance.

We have seen fibre optic connectivity being used to supply smaller housing estates in the past (usually private rather than publicly owned ones), but we can’t recall seeing anything on this sort of scale before. Most housing blocks usually only have access to the same old copper BT lines as almost everybody else.

Community Fibre Ltd claims that they will also be working with the council to identify estate households which currently have no Internet connection, so they can be offered an introductory package that will help them to get started on the web (no details for this are given).

Cllr Paul Ellis, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:

The speeds we’re seeing are absolutely incredible. This breakthrough infrastructure project means our council estate residents are on course for some of the fastest home broadband speeds in the entire country. We’re on the brink of a tremendous achievement that could set a blueprint for other social and private landlords to follow.

It will mean our tenants and leaseholders have access to all the benefits of an incredibly fast and reliable broadband connection which will far exceed the speeds of existing services. It’s particularly important for anyone with high data demands like the many local people who work from home or run their own business.

Our ultimate goal is to see a network of this speed rolled out right across the borough and I encourage local residents to help us demonstrate the business case for this type of investment by completing our home broadband survey.”

The council claims that it will cost residents £30 a month to subscribe to the unlimited “gigabit per second” service (a separate line rental charge is NOT required), although Community Fibre’s website only offers three packages (10Mbps download (2Mbps upload) for £15 per month, 50Mbps (10Mbps) for £30 and 100Mbps (20Mbps) for £40) and all include a free router.

On top of that there’s also a Fibre Phone service, which is explained as follows: “If you have a broadband package pay us just £5 per month and you can plug your existing phone into our fibre and make low cost phone calls all around the world. If you don’t want Broadband then the phone service is just £10 per month.”

The new Thessaly House connection will be tested further in the days ahead and will then be rolled out across the rest of the Savona estate later this year. The neighbouring Patmore and Carey Gardens estates will be next, followed by other council estates in Battersea.

Mind you it’s not clear who is paying for all this and how much it’s costing, which could be a politically very contentious point. However the local authority has hinted at an aspiration that could eventually see the network being expanded to the entire Borough, although we can’t imagine that this would make commercial ISPs very happy.

The council has also launched an online survey and is asking Wandsworth households to rate their home broadband and to help demonstrate local demand for faster services.

NOTE: It goes without saying, but that 1086Mbps test is subject to Ookla’s system as the laptop probably doesn’t have a network card that can actually cope with such performance. Never the less it’s still Gigabit class speed and that’s what counts, be it 900Mbps or a little over 1000Mbps.

UPDATE 2pm

Still no reply from the council on our investment queries, although an announcement from 2014 (here) states that “Community Fibre Ltd will pay an annual fee of £50,000 to the council so we are also raising revenue to invest in our housing services.

Never the less we don’t think £50K per year would cover the costs of this and there are a lot of unknowns about how much it’s actually costing and who is footing the bill.

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Bob2002 says:

    Wasn’t really expecting a Conservative run council to do anything spectacular with broadband. The Conservative stereotype is penny-pinching so you would assume it is properly costed?

  2. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Sounds great but yes would be nice to see how it’s funded in such times of austerity

  3. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

    @Bob2002, @FibreFred

    I believe Wandsworth Council are generally regarded as one of the best run councils in the UK – with a low Council Tax to boot.

    As such, I would imagine they have costed it carefully and/or taken steps to limit their liability if it goes wrong..!

    Having said that I see the Council reported in June that

    “Paper 14-253 gave approval for the award of a contract to Community Fibre Ltd. The contract has now been let however the contractor has encountered difficulties and the start date of the pilot is still awaited.”

    I think the original plans were based on achieving a full roll out by late 2016.

  4. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

    It seems the roll out is being done at zero cost to Wandsworth Council: https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=31772&ISATT=1#search=%2214-253%22

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