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UPDATE Blow for Wireless Broadband in Swindon UK as Masts Rejected

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 (5:01 pm) - Score 1,709
uk broadband mast swindon UK

The state aid supported plan to bring superfast broadband (24Mbps+) services to North Swindon (Wiltshire, England) has been dealt a blow after the local planning committee rejected UKB Networks proposal to erect five new 15 metre tall masts in Taw Hill, Oakhurst, Haydon End and Redhouse.

The £1.9 million contract, which could benefit around 20,000 homes in areas that have been left neglected by commercial fixed line operators, was signed between the Swindon Borough Council, Broadband Delivery UK and UKB Networks at the start of last year (here).

But since then some politicians have warned that the solution is not good enough (here) and a few locals have complained that they are unhappy with the proposals to build new masts, with some fearing that it could devalue their homes.

Overall a total of 16 new masts were supposed to be built, although only the above 5 in North Swindon’s more urban areas have attracted real concern and indeed an earlier planning submission was withdrawn after complaints. But some locals felt as if UKB Networks still had not done enough to address the problem and, despite a recent call for three of the five sites to be approved (here), they have now been rejected.

uk broadband mast swindon UK

The situation means that UKB Networks cannot proceed with its deployment in North Swindon and as such they will have to hunt around for different sites, which could just as easily suffer the same problem or potentially even reduce the effective reach of their network.

Damon Bower, Haydon Wick Parish Councillor, said (here):

“I’m absolute ecstatic. It’s the result we wanted. We thought two would get rejected but to get all five refused is a real plus. The residents came out in strength tonight to make their voices known as did the parish council. We want to protect our community and residents.”

At this point it looks as if the original hope of getting the network completely built and live by Summer 2016 is now well and truly out of the window. Meanwhile those hoping for better connectivity will be left to wait even longer while a solution is found and that’s assuming it doesn’t run into the same problem.

However UKB Networks will still continue to build the other masts that cater for areas outside of North Swindon, which should benefit 13,000 premises.

UPDATE 11th Feb 2015

The official response from UKB Networks has just been issued to us.

A UKB Networks spokesperson said:

We are disappointed that the planning committee feels the way it does about the provision of superfast broadband in North Swindon. We are pleased that the rest of the borough is more receptive to superfast broadband and we are really encouraged by the numerous messages of support we have had over the past few days. We intend to push ahead as quickly as possible to bring superfast broadband to the 13,000 homes in the scheme outside North Swindon.

We remain committed to finding a mutually acceptable solution to providing superfast broadband in North Swindon and will be having further engagements with the ward councillors and residents in the coming days and weeks to find an amicable solution to this issue.”

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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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48 Responses
  1. Avatar Darren

    And in the next breath , the residents will be out in force complaining about lack of broadband , something which I suspect will devalue their homes more than a monopole 🙂

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      Agreed, the level of utter stupidity is off the scale. After all, a 15m monopole is pretty much a lamppost without the lamp!

      I do get the feeling that the local politicians there are behind this, though why the residents are falling for the claptrap the politicians are coming out with is beyond me.

    • Avatar matt steele

      darren not really we have 12mbps fixed why would i want to goto to a wireless solution when FTTH is round the corner for us – these masts are being proposed outside peoples home – can i ask you this if you would mind a 50ft monopole outside your house

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      FTTH is round the corner? How do you work that one out?

    • Avatar Pold

      @wirelesspacman “FTTH is round the corner? How do you work that one out?”

      Because the infrastructure that supports it is sited a stones-throw away.

      BT G.Fast FTTH is being put into trial across 150 homes literally 300m from my house (I live in the middle of the proposed 4G area).

      Because the provider has already offered it, and has confirmed they can run it through existing ducting (the house in the affected area here are all newish-build).

      We also have Virgin cable right up to the perimeter of the proposed 4G roll-out zone, with Virgin ready to move once 4G gets dropped.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      Ok, now I understand. When you say FTTH you mean copper to the home not fibre!

      If the “infrastructure” you allude to is so close then pray explain why BT and Virgin would have told the council that they had no intentions of feeding the area concerned?

    • Avatar Pold

      @wirelesspacman

      My bad, it’s Openreach FFTH, no mention of G.Fast. 500mbps-1gbps down and 50mbps up.

      As for why BT/Virgin wouldn’t compete, read like every other reply you have received here.

  2. Avatar Ignition

    If they are this anal about masts probably just as well they didn’t take up Virgin Media on their offer to cable / FTTP the area.

    Virgin would’ve had a nightmare getting their work done.

    • Avatar matt steele

      how incorrect are you – virgin have chosen not to do the area unless this wireless solution is scrapped – the council made the decision to go wireless we all want FTTP

    • Avatar Lee

      Parts were cabled. But only the bits that weren’t pencilled in for 4G rollout. Basically, the local council bundled much of north sSwindon in with a bunch of outlying villages and asked companies to tender for the whole lot. This meant cable providers were never going to offer. They then wouldn’t roll out (Virgin publically stated they would not provide fibre as it would then seen as being in direct competion with a public-funded project). It was nothing to do with Nimbyism, and everything to do with telling the council to f**k itself for trying to force a bu11shit solution on us for years to come so that they could tick some boxes for “Superfast” (read superfast it it were still 2010) broadband coverage to appease some DMCS person in Whitehall.

    • Avatar Craski

      @Matt
      Pretty sure most of the UK all want FTTP:)

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      If Virgin was in the slightest bit interested then they should have told the council that in the first place and the area would then have been excluded from the bid.

    • I’m sure you all want FTTP though so do the rest of us! 🙂

      Virgin were offering to build on their own dime both cable and some FTTP as part of Project Lightning.

      This would’ve involved digging up streets which has been…. problematic for them at times.

  3. Avatar FibreFred

    Simply amazing!

    Nimbys are Nimbys are there any other wireless networks of a similar size and nature that didn’t complain or is this likely to be a common reaction to wireless?

  4. Avatar Lee

    Just an FYI, as a N. Swindon resident, no one wanted a 24mbps 4G connection because we already have ADSL2+ and the 4G system stood directly in the path of us receiving fibre. I won’t bore you with full details of the political BS involved, but no one wanted masts because we DO want faster internet. Hence massive public input. Toodles X

  5. Avatar Em

    This article is quite misleading. The service they were offering is substandard, only getting a speed of 24Mbps, which technically I believe is not super fast. Download caps of 10GB which is worthless.

    BT and Virgin refused to help whilst state funded project was in the pipeline. We are to be involved in a trial of the new 1Gbps service from BT.

    It’s really not about NIMBY it’s about what isn’t in our backyards. We were being sidelined makes no sense and the big players are interested again.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      “BT and Virgin refused to help whilst state funded project was in the pipeline”

      That is just plain rubbish. Both BT and Virgin would have been specifically asked if they had any intention to cover the area as a commercial rollout. Both of them obviously said no – hence the area got included in the project.

  6. Avatar Colin Polonowski

    For the sake of balance, this scheme was actually preventing the rollout of Cable AND fibre so by stopping it we will get real Superfast broadband. In fact BT Openreach have started trials of 1gb Internet within this area this week with a view to rolling out to the whole community. Also Virgin have funds set aside to fill in from the other end of the area as soon as the 4g scheme is scrapped.

    Not so stupid now eh?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      So people are complaining that an alternate telco isn’t good enough and they would rather knock that back and use BT?

      This can’t be right? 🙂

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      “For the sake of balance, this scheme was actually preventing the rollout of Cable AND fibre”

      Absolute garbage.

      Also, if what you are saying about BT is true then that is such a blatant abuse of their market position that if there is any justice in the world they would end up in court.

    • Avatar Pold

      @wirelesspacman

      The council was offering a £2m subsidy to for very specific tender. They bundled a big, densely populated area of north Swindon with a bunch of outlying villages that a physical-cable-based solution was unable to reach economically. Hence BT and Virgin did not tender for it. In spite of your opinion it is documented fact.

    • I believe one of the councillors was rather ‘enthusiastic’ about a wireless solution. I wouldn’t be surprised if kickbacks were involved.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      @ Pold

      I agree that BT and Virgin did not bid for the project, but that is totally irrelevant.

      The issue here is why the dense area was included in the project. Both of those two companies will have been specifically asked about their plans to improve superfast coverage of the dense area (as well as the rest of the area). They will both have responded that the dense area was not commercially viable (aka they had no plans). Hence the area was included in the project.

  7. Avatar Craski

    Reading the comments it sounds like a coordinated effort from locals to reject what on the surface looks like a decent scheme but if the comments are true (e.g. 10GB data caps etc) I dont blame them for rejecting.

    • Avatar Pold

      It was a terrible scheme. Imagine your fleet manager saying that everyone in the firm has to have a ride-on lawn mower instead of a Lamborghini because Mrs Miggins in the postroom lives in buttfuck nowhere. Same thing. The difference between 24mbps and gigabit FTTH is overwhelming. With FTTH when you hit play you literally don’t get time to unzip.

    • Avatar Pold

      It was a terrible scheme. Imagine your fleet manager saying that everyone in the firm has to have a ride-on lawn mower instead of a Lamborghini because Mrs Miggins in the postroom lives in b*ttf**k nowhere. Same thing. The difference between 24mbps and gigabit FTTH is overwhelming. With FTTH when you hit play you literally don’t get time to unzip.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      Firstly, I really have my doubts that the “comments” are more than brown smelly stuff. Secondly, even if they were, what right does that give them to refuse planning for the masts?

      IF the “new” solutions alluded to above are so much superior, then why is everyone so scared s…less of them being allowed to crack on? After all, since “everyone” (aka 100%???) wants fibre then no one (aka 0.000%) would EVER take up the LTE option.

      To me this smacks of dirty tricks.

    • Avatar Pold

      @wirelesspacman

      The planning for the masts was refused due to a *huge* number of planning objections raised on legitimate planning grounds.

      No one wanted 4G to go ahead because the alternatives won’t run the PR quagmire of competing against a public funded project.

      If the alternatives rolled out regardless no one would want to waste £2m of public money on a project that has failed before it begins.

    • Avatar Dave

      the picture above shows as if this mast is in the middle of no where – it doesn’t show all the houses and play areas around where it would have been …. so to answer the question what right do people have object – well maybe i have just given a few !!

  8. Avatar Some Actual Facts

    Virgin statement in regards to comments above saying no one else is interested in providing solutions.

    “As I think you are aware, Virgin Media had indicated a strong intention to invest private money to extend our broadband market to the areas of North Swindon that are the subject of Swindon Council’s 4G wireless roll out.

    Virgin Media made very clear to the Council that we could only build to these communities if they were removed from the plans under the Superfast Swindon scheme.

    It is matter of principle to Virgin Media that the taxpayer should not be asked to contribute to the cost of roll out of connectivity in areas of the country where we or other suppliers are saying they will invest private money to do the same thing. Taxpayer money should be reserved for areas of public spending where it is needed.

    Unfortunately, Swindon Council confirmed to Virgin Media last year that they would not remove these areas from their plans. We are acutely aware of the strength of demand for connectivity in these areas and stand ready to make an investment if the Council reconsider their position. “

    • That’s cool. Per my previous comment it was about that VM have to dig roads which has caused a few ‘unhappy’ people. I’m quite aware of their plans and that the council rebuffed them, which is what I said, not that VM didn’t want to do it.

    • Avatar Vince

      Of course it’s also not in Virgin’ interest to rollout where they’d have any meaningful competition and for many 20 meg or so is good enough.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      Virgin Media had the chance to inform the council, when asked, about there plans. They clearly at the time said they did not have any, ditto BT. So it is a bit rich for them to now blame the project for their lack of courage.

  9. Avatar MikeW

    Rejecting planning permission won’t be the end of things. UKB still has a contract to fulfill, and to avoid penalties, will still need to pursue coverage. BDUK can’t offer a contract for subsidised coverage to anyone else until the current one fails completely.

    Because the terms that BT offer are well understood by BDUK nationwide, it is a decent assumption that BT aren’t chomping at the bit to provide commercial coverage; UKB’s presence wouldn’t be stopping that. No commercial offering, and no ability to take over the BDUK contract. This decision doesn’t, on the face of it, affect BT at all. Not yet.

    As already mentioned, VM will indeed be put off from having to compete with a subsidised offering – but to stymie that subsidy, all they had to do was tell the council’s OMR where they were going.

    Unfortunately, VM wants to maintain a competitive advantage, and has stated they don’t want to report where they are going to go. But that is true everywhere … yet VM are still rolling out coverage where they’d be competing with BT – in either their commercial or subsidised rollout.

    If VM are saying that they won’t rollout in Swindon because of subsidised competition from UKB, it sounds like sour grapes or politics.

    Can someone from Swindon post a link to somewhere where FTTH is being promised?

    Likewise can we have a link to the BT trial too? BT are very noisy about the trials going on in Huntingdon, Gosforth and Swansea … It would be strange for them to stay silent on Swindon.

  10. Avatar Some Actual Facts

    No formal announcement but this post on FB by a local representative is doing the rounds.

    “This morning I met some very good people from a small company called BT Openreach not sure if you heard of them. Well these guys work in a department called Fibre to the Premises. This included the Director of the department. As of next week they are installing into Mayfly Road Boatman Close and Minnow Close Fibre to the house.
    Well what does this mean? this fibre is able to deliver up to 1Gbps as it is going straight to the Fat pipe.
    This is a trial for uptake and as long as uptake is good it will then rapidly roll out to the rest of Oakhurst RedHouse and Haydon End they will also mop up the areas left in TawHill.
    Here is the best bit NO ROADS being dug up as unlike UKBs claim BT can and will use the existing ducting to the houses. They plan to have the 150 trial houses fibre ready within the month.”

    Maybe someone can do some investigation.

    • BT can and will use existing ducting but still need to build new chambers underground and do need to do some civils work.

      Can’t see any street works in those areas. May already be done I guess but I think it proves my point above that the ‘best bit’ is no roads being dug up. Virgin would’ve had to dig new ducts all over.

      That was all I referred to. I am quite aware that Virgin wanted to infill that area as part of Project Lightning, building cable in the more dense urban areas alongside, as they have in a couple of other locations, trialling FTTP.

    • I can see Virgin planning to build in Cloudberry Road and a few streets off there, starting in April, with a nice long run along Westfield Way to get there, so obviously the start of a build 🙂

    • Lastly, excuse the mass of responses, trying to find out about FTTP. Stand by.

  11. Avatar SH

    SBC secured BDUK funds (which SBC matched), and then began an “open” tender process. They claimed BT and Virgin were not interested. Various local residents contacted BT, who explained they wanted to bid, but SBC’s chosen framework meant they effectively couldn’t. In the end, only one company was able to submit a valid bid. Arguably SBC at that point should have declared competition collapse. They didn’t.

    At no point did UKBN, or SBC make efforts to contact local residents on the scheme before the contract was signed. Indeed, one member of SBC, in response to complaint emails often quoted “the silent majority” being in favour. In a local area meeting in December, it emerged that this “silent majority” was nothing more than UKBN’s assurances of likely take up of the service based on a similar UKBN scheme elsewhere in the country. The only research done by either party was by UKBN contacting local schools – and by their own admission, didn’t get responses from all. SBC and UKBN maintained a predicted 30%+ local take up. Online polls created by local residents suggested a figure closer to 5-10%. These polls were dismissed by the same cllr as above as “unscientific and meaningless”.

    Meanwhile, our local MP, local councillors, and local residents continued to try to press Virgin and BT to come to the area. Virgin apparently have a policy of not “competing” with state-funded projects. Not sure how 24meg competes with 200meg, but there you go…. Nonetheless, and I’m sure much to the disapproval of those members of SBC that were trying to force this junk on us, we are now seemingly looking at getting BT Gfast rolling out soon. That news emerged on the same day the monopoles were rejected.

    SBC have always maintained that they chose the UKBN solution as “bringing fibre to rural areas is not feasible”. Some members of the public have repeatedly tried to draw SBC’s attention to the Connecting Devon and Somerset project, which in partnership with BT, is bringing Fibre to 800+ communities large and small, urban and rural, for £92m – an average of £115000 each. This suggests the £3m available would have been enough to cover all communities in the borough. These emails were repeatedly ignored.

    I wish the local rural communities the best of luck with the UKBN service. From what I’ve read, they’ll need it.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      “In the end, only one company was able to submit a valid bid. Arguably SBC at that point should have declared competition collapse. They didn’t.”

      Using that logic, BT would have not been awarded virtually all of the BDUK contracts they have already won.

    • Avatar Steve

      “At no point did UKBN, or SBC make efforts to contact local residents on the scheme before the contract was signed”

      They had a public meeting about it in March 2015 before the contract was signed! It appears in Swindon idiots elect idiots.

  12. Avatar Michael V

    There’s something wing with these people. They are up for it and needing b’band buy more the infrastructure had arrived they back track. So what. It’s like a lamp post, flag pole. I wouldn’t care if one was put up outside my house. We ask want and need connectivity. Get over it

    • Avatar Once more for the cheap seats

      N Swindon aready has BB. For mist they can already watch a couple of HD streams. The 4G solution was only promised to be marginally faster. Reviews of such services elsewhere have been terrible. The 4G service didn’t facilitate any improvement in usage. It would facilitaye 4K video, it offered no tangibke improvement other than a nominal increase in line speed. Given we have had our current 12-17mbps lines over 10years… What residents wanted was actuallyfast internet. Seriously, if the 4G scheme had offered reliable, unshaped, uncapped access at 200mbps or above they could put up as many masts as they wanted and residents would have offered them sexual favours for the privilage.

  13. Avatar dragoneast

    The Town Planning system is a key part of democracy. Even perhaps one of the few left. And I say that as a former planning lawyer who often felt like tearing his hair out as some of the views the public would express and Councillors would accept. But I am shocked at the utter contempt that a number of posters exhibit for anyone who doesn’t accept their prejudices. Any of us that go through life thinking other people are stupid, are the problem; not those others. Nothing is worth ploughing ahead with, ignoring all other considerations. We are not machines.

    Democracy is about the right of people to say no. And you have to respect their right to do so, as we all would if the roles were reversed. And oftentimes a better result will come along. In due course.

  14. Avatar finaldest

    I have just moved to Swindon and I am pleased that the planning permission was turned down.

    Having looked at numerous new builds I had to turn down due to poor bb connectivity made looking for a place to live a nightmare as i wanted to be in the north Swindon area.

    There is good infrastructure nearby and VM had pledged to move into the area but refused to compete with a public funded effort. the locals have spoken and want a fibre based solution and i cannot blame them.

    There are thousands of homes needing connectivity which can easily be done with private investment so a 4G solution is a waste of time, money and effort for little to no gain.

    I would support improved mobile phone coverage though.

  15. Avatar Chris Lambourne

    The wait is over. 4G lost, Fibre won.

    “FTTP” has just been run to and on to my house in Taw Hill, Swindon. I am so glad we stood our ground and said “no” to these 4G masts. As instead of top speeds of 25mbps and tonnes of latency issues, we now have the potential to receive stable speeds of up to 330mbps.

    So for those people above saying “what is the problem with a mast, its just like a lampost”, you are entirely missing the point. By accepting the 4G ‘mast’ proposal, we would have been kissing all hopes of a ‘fibre’ solution goodbye.

    http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/04/bt-expand-north-swindon-fttp-broadband-trial-277-homes-taw-hill.html

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