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30Mbps Wireless Broadband Network Goes Live in Dartmoor and Exmoor

Friday, November 25th, 2016 (12:00 pm) - Score 962

Fixed wireless ISP Airband, which last year won a £4.6m contract with the Connecting Devon and Somerset project to roll-out their 30Mbps+ “superfast broadband” network to 5,800 premises in the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks (here), can celebrate today after their service went live. But the roll-out isn’t complete.

The new Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) network, which was originally intended to be completed by the end of 2016 and also comes in a wholesale flavour (here), has been rolled out via combination of existing buildings and masts. All of this has been designed to minimise the environmental impact (although there are some taller masts of up to 25-50 metres). Overall the network should cover an area of roughly 1,646km squared.

Interesting today’s announcement reveals that building the Line of Sight (LOS) network has been quite challenging, particularly in regards to groundworks due to the difficult terrain (this required the use, for example, of specialist equipment to drill through rock before installing poles).

The dramatic topography of the moors is also said to have presented accessibility challenges, where at times “vehicles have struggled to climb steep hills or reach very isolated spots“. The nature of the wireless infrastructure means that there has been no need to dig up roads and lay cables to connect with the exchange points, thus reducing its environmental impact.

Despite these challenges, works have continued to progress and the connectivity on the moors is now said to be live “in areas“, although we’re not told which areas or how long it might take to fully complete.

Redmond Peel, Managing Director of Airband, said:

“We’re delighted to be involved in coming up with a next generation communications solution for one of the most challenging areas in the country in terms of the dense treelines, long distances involved, hills and existing structures. Through our experience of rural deployments and specialist expertise in implementing fixed wireless broadband, we’ve been able to minimise disruption and maintain this area of outstanding beauty.”

David Hall, Somerset County Council (Business), said:

“The Connecting Dartmoor & Exmoor programme builds on the success of the first phase of the CDS programme and is already making significant impact with some 2049 premises already able to connect to the wireless network and many more will be able to connect before Christmas. This will bring long-term economic benefits to the Moors that will be felt for many generations to come.”

The Connecting Dartmoor & Exmoor project forms part of the wider CDS Phase 2 programme with the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK initiative, much of which is still subject to an on-going procurement that aims to make superfast broadband available to 95% of Devon and Somertset (here).

We should say that Openreach (BT) had initially been lined-up to tackle most of CDS Phase 2, but that deal collapsed and the wider project has since suffered significant delays. This is all separate from the Dartmoor and Exmoor side of the programme.

Otherwise we note that Airband’s network appears to be using antennas that operate in the 5.4-6GHz range and they have a backhaul solution that uses 17.7-19.7GHz, although the exact setup of their network is still a little unclear.

Elsewhere the packages on Airband’s website only offer a maximum speed of 20Mbps and do not appear to reflect what residents of Dartmoor and Exmoor will be able to purchase. We did run a number of postcodes through Airband’s site to check, but they all returned a “Register your interest” page (the info. on their site is also largely the same as it was in June 2016).

Hopefully we’d get some extra details soon.

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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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