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AirBand Submit Plans for Wireless Broadband in Dartmoor and Exmoor

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 (10:13 am) - Score 1,207
wireless radio spectrum mast

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) provider Airband has officially submitted planning applications for a staggering 120 new “transmitter” (transceiver) stations, which will be used to spread superfast broadband across the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks.

The deployment, which was first announced last year (here) and aims to serve around 5,800 premises in the predominantly rural area, is funded by a public sector investment of £4.6 million. It also forms part of the wider Connecting Devon and Somerset project that has otherwise been rolling out fixed line “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) upgrades alongside BT (Openreach).

According to Somerset councillor David Hall (BBC), AirBand’s network is the “biggest wireless broadband project in England” (at least by transmitter count) and will cover an area of roughly 1,646 km squared using radio kit attached to masts or other buildings.

One advantage of the new network is that it won’t need to dig up lots of roads in order to lay new cables (at least not as many BT would require), which is useful in a National Park (residents don’t like a lot of disruption), and this also makes it both cheap and quicker to roll-out.

However the new application does include provision for some new masts, such as one that is 50 metres tall, as well as a few 25m masts and some averaging 12m. It’s entirely possible that some of these may not be greeted favourably by those in the local community, but AirBand intends to keep such masts to a minimum by putting most of their transmitters on existing structures, such as barns, telegraph poles and church towers.

AirBand claims that its new network will be able to offer Internet connectivity solutions from 2Mbps to over 1Gbps (1000Mbps), although we don’t yet know what their final packages will look like.

The ISP does offer some residential packages on their website, with prices starting from £10 per month (plus £150 installation) for an entry-level 10Mbps (1GB allowance) and rising to £35 for a 20Mbps package (100GB allowance), but some of their other networks offer different prices/speeds and so the above may not be indicative of Dartmoor and Exmoor.

In any case we may have to wait a little longer before the exact coverage details and package information can be confirmed.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar 3G Infinity

    I assume they aren’t going to be covering the up to 95% of the population first as normally stated and will be going just for the 5% not served by anything else.

    On a more serious note, be interesting to see/hear if any of these towers [masts have guy ropes] will be shared, eg a 25m tower has enough space for 2 x mobile operators and Airband’s equipment – that’s a nice revenue earner if you can make it happen. Also local councils planning policies favour shared towers, ie a single site that satifies the needs of multiple operators so that would work in their favour.

    • Avatar Craski

      “masts have guy ropes”

      Pretty sure that the dictionary definition of mast does not says it must have guy ropes 🙂

  2. Avatar wirelesspacman

    When you consider what has happened with UK Broadband in Swindon recently, it will be interesting to see if Airband fares any better. 🙂

    • Avatar 3G Infinity

      Yes, not sure of the politics in Swindon. Its been a situation of many attempts to build a wireless network with multiple interested parties and a council that has both been positive and then negative in the same breath, and not always directly linked to the policy guidelines they should be following when it comes to planning applications and planning committees.

      If Airband has or acquires code powers that will allow them the 15m sites (though not in a national park).

    • The UK Broadband Networks problem in Swindon was only a big issue in the urban areas, most of their other masts in more rural parts have been approved.

  3. Avatar dragoneast

    The other thing seems to me to be that Fixed Wireless requires line of sight (more or less) so is therefore much easier to achieve in rural areas (though densely wooded areas and high escarpments can play havoc), and with shared bandwidth in a sector also better where the recipients are more spread out. (So good in areas where fixed broadband is less viable). In urban areas it’s much harder to achieve blanket coverage without intrusive masts, particularly in residential areas without a few dominant high buildings which can be used for locations.

  4. Avatar Chris

    I will certainly be watching with interest. The rest of Devon and Somerset in the 10% camp have still to find out what is in store for them. The solution sounds far more compelling than satellite although the 100GB cap is still on the mean side. The price is not so bad if line rental is no longer needed though.

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