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100Mb Community FTTP Broadband Connects Rural Herefordshire Villages

Saturday, June 11th, 2016 (7:58 am) - Score 1,416

A new 100Mbps capable community and government grant funded fibre optic (FTTP) broadband network has officially launched in rural Herefordshire (England) today. The network serves two small rural villages – Dewsall Court and Callow – as well as a few surrounding premises.

The Herefordshire Community Networks (HCN) project is a Community Interest Company (CIC) that was officially formed last October 2015 with the aim of building an ultrafast Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network into the aforementioned areas, which is designed to meet the community’s needs for the next 25 to 50 years.

Funding for the project was secured from a mix of sources, including from within the local community itself and interestingly also through central governmental assistance via Broadband Delivery UK’s now closed and business focused ‘Connection Voucher‘ scheme administered by Digital Birmingham. Sadly we’re not told how much it all cost, but we have asked and will report back.

Construction of the entirely underground network, which was assisted by the Duchy of Cornwall and other landowners in the community who have provided access across their fields, began in February 2016 and completed at the beginning of May 2016. Since then some 28 local premises have already been connected to the service, over half of which are businesses.

hcn_fttp_network_map
Network Map (red line shows the core fibre optic cable)

Apparently the local BDUK and BT dominated Fastershire project “supported the costs” to provide the backhaul network capacity for the scheme, which according to their website links into the London Internet Exchange (LINX) and is provided over a local fibre circuit from BTOpenreach (the network’s head-end is at New Barn, Dewsall). Specialist network equipment, design and construction was also undertaken by local firm Fibre Options Ltd.

The new network represents a major boost in connectivity for the otherwise remote communities, with key contributions coming from its local directors, broadband champions in the community and network construction by Mike Price of Monkhall Farm, Dewsall, and his team. David Bland, who acts as company secretary, has also undertaken the co-ordination and overall design of the scheme.

Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, said:

“The lifeblood for rural communities over the next 100 years is how we communicate with the outside world. This community network is real progress and the first in my constituency. HCN is enabling businesses and homes in this rural area to access high-speed communications previously only available in some cities. It is going to preserve the welfare of our rural community, and allow us to lead the lives we want to lead.”

Mike Price, Local Resident and HCN Team Leader, said:

“I’ve been a farmer all my life and had never seen a piece of fibre until three months ago. The skills needed to lay it are common sense and knowing how to dig a trench. If you had told me last year that I was to build one of the country’s top rural broadband networks I would have said you were crazy. But we were able to do it during a quiet farming season and really enjoyed it. It feels really good to know that we’ve laid fibre optics which will last not just us, but our children and our children’s children.”

As a CIC the network infrastructure is owned by local shareholders and any profits will also be returned to shareholders and other community projects. Unfortunately there are no plans to expand the network further afield, although HCN has said that they’re willing to share their knowledge and experience with other rural communities who want to avoid the long wait for better broadband.

Meanwhile local premises can enjoy a selection of three packages, which start at £35 inc. VAT per month for an unlimited 30Mbps (5Mbps upload) service and go up to £80 for a symmetric 100Mbps business class connection. It’s important to remember that this is the total cost and there’s no need to pay for separate line rental, which actually makes it pretty good value.

UPDATE 7:34am

Overall the project has so far cost £55,000 for 28 properties widely spread over a 500 hectare area (take up of 65% and growing), with £27k coming from the old connection voucher scheme and £28k from community shareholders using SEIS. At about £2,000 per premise that’s not too far off the figure of £1,700 for Phase 2 of BDUK that some areas have used (example).

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

    Wow, well done guys!

  2. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    Brilliant effort by all involved. An indictment of feeble government broadband policy that they had to do it.

  3. Avatar NGA for all says:

    Great to see! It be good to know the nature of the backhaul provided using spare publicly funded fibres! Is it a rehearsal for a dark fibre reference offer?

  4. Avatar gah789 says:

    Good for them! The costs illustrate the problems of serving genuinely rural areas, especially by FTTH.

    Think of the issue in terms of area served. In this case, there are about 45 premises which can be served spread over 5 km2 – the average cost is £11,000 per km2. My community has about 150 premises spread over 50 km2. The cost of the wireless network serving the area has been about £40,000 including backhaul. On the other hand take-up is lower and the operational problems of a wireless network are much higher.

    Fibre is great for those who live in communities with high enough densities but not for the scattered farmhouses, cottages, small settlements which are typical of much of rural Scotland and parts of England & Wales. A mixture of solutions will be required for either the USO or Scotland’s 100% Superfast target. We are nowhere near a viable model to do this on a large scale.

    1. Avatar Jeannette says:

      What area are you in? Type of terrain etc. We are being quoted lower costs for wireless with not many more premises than yourself. Do you know the annual cost of your backhaul, monthly cost per user (download and upload speeds) and initial cost to household for initial set up?

      Grateful for any additional info you may have.

  5. Avatar Jeannette says:

    Going by the article figures the cost for fibre would be huge for your area 50km

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