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Northumberland Village Gets 80Mbps Wireless-to-the-Cabinet Broadband

Thursday, May 5th, 2016 (10:20 am) - Score 2,098

Homes and businesses in the remote rural Northumberland (England) village of Coanwood, which is home to around 200 people, have become the latest to benefit from BT’s hybrid Microwave (radio) and VDSL based ‘up to’ 80Mbps Wireless-to-the-Cabinet (WTTC) broadband technology.

Over the past 3 years we’ve seen BT pilot WTTC in a number of areas, such as on the remote island of Rathlin (here), in the Devon village of Northlew (here) and around the small village of Westow that sits on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors (here). So far it seems to be a niche technology that targets very specific areas, such as those where a normal fixed line approach wouldn’t be cost effective.


In a normal Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) network BT will run a fibre optic cable from their nearest Telephone Exchange and use it to connect with a local Street Cabinet. After that your broadband service would be delivered using VDSL technology over the existing copper line that runs between the cabinet and your home or business.

WTTC works in a similar to FTTC but it replaces the fibre optic line, which runs between the exchange and your local street cabinet, with a line-of-sight style point-to-point Microwave wireless radio link for the capacity supply. Otherwise ISPs treat the service in the same way as they would a normal “fibre broadband” (FTTC) product.

microwave wireless to the cabinet

Likewise the deployment in Coanwood harnessed a 5 kilometre Microwave radio link to the village, with a small football sized transmitter dish being installed at the top of a specially built 11 metre high wooden pole close to the telephone exchange building. A similar receiving dish is then constructed alongside the local street cabinet.

Mike Reynolds, Project Manager at Openreach, said:

“Using microwave radio was the ideal solution for Coanwood. We were determined to find a way to make superfast fibre available to the village, however the cost of laying five kilometres of new duct and fibre was prohibitive and the necessary roadworks would have caused significant disruption.

We still had to overcome other technical challenges including the need for a specialist rock hammer drill to dig down deeper than usual as we needed to erect a 11m high poles. We also needed temporary ground matting for our specialist vehicle, used to erect the radio dishes to overcome the effects of ground water saturation caused by Storm Desmond.

The microwave link uses a dedicated radio spectrum so there is no possibility of the signal being lost or interfered with. For people using broadband in the village, it will be exactly the same as if they were connected up using fibre optic cables in the ground. The increase in speed and subsequent benefits are exactly the same. Customers’ premises are connected up to the fibre cabinet in the usual way so there is no need for any special equipment in the home.”

It’s interesting to note that the 5km radio link is a greater distance than BT’s pilot in Westow, which was conducted over a distance of 3km. Never the less we haven’t seen many deployments like this, which is despite the first known trial popping up all the way back in 2013. As ever it remains a useful tool for BT, albeit one that is only viable for certain specific areas.


Never the less we may see more solutions like WTTC or the equally rare Fibre-to-the-remote-Node (FTTrN) being deployed as BT’s roll-out through the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme has begun to reach some increasingly remote rural communities, where traditional methods are often too expensive to use.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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