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Airband Wins Superfast Broadband Deal for 13,000 Premises in Devon UK

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 (1:18 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 727)
devon and somerset airband gigaclear contracts

Fixed wireless ISP Airband has won Lot 4 (Northern, Central and West Devon) of the Connecting Devon and Somerset project as part of a £7m contract, which is on top of their existing £4.6m deal (here) to deploy “superfast broadband” to 5,800 premises in the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks.

Under the new deal Airband will be expected to expand their “future-proofedFixed Wireless Access (FWA) network so that 13,000 rural premises (homes and businesses) in some of the hardest to reach areas of the region gain the opportunity to connect with broadband speeds of “at least30Mbps (their website talks more of speeds up to 30Mbps rather than “at least“).

Apparently this service will also have “future capacity to deliver ultrafast speeds” of up to 1Gbps, although we’ll believe that when we see it being deployed. We suspect they might be talking more about business connectivity because 1Gbps over wireless to homes is a tricky proposition in their setup.

Redmond Peel, Managing Director of Airband, said:

“Our whole ethos is focused on getting good value, high speed, quality broadband to the hardest to reach parts of the country, helping to tackle the digital divide between rural and urban areas. The technology is completely future-proofed so speeds will only increase in years to come.

Our Dartmoor and Exmoor project has been both enjoyable and successful, and we’re wholly delighted to be contributing to the rollout of superfast broadband across further areas of Devon.”

Stuart Barker, Devon Cabinet Member for the Economy, said:

“Digital connectivity is a vital element of our economy and everyday life, but the market alone cannot deliver. In the hardest to reach areas of Devon public sector intervention from Connecting Devon and Somerset has been instrumental in ensuring rural communities and businesses will not be left behind. We are reducing social isolation, enabling more people to get help, advice and information in their homes and helping our businesses to trade without boundaries. I am pleased that this new investment continues our drive to provide the best broadband for our communities and economy.”

The news means that only Lot 1 (Upper CDS) from Phase 2 of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme has yet to be formally awarded to a supplier, while Gigaclear has already picked-up the £62.25m contract for Lots 2 (North Coast), 3 (Eastern), 5 (Exm2sea) and 6 (South Moor). As part of that Gigaclear aims to deploy their 1Gbps fixed line Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network to 35,225 rural premises in the region by 2019.

Sadly no clear time-scale or % coverage goal has been published for Airband’s new contract. Otherwise the Line of Sight (LOS) network itself tends to use antennas that operate in the 5.4-6GHz range and they have a backhaul solution that uses 17.7-19.7GHz.

However it will be interesting to see how Airband copes with a contract of this scale, particularly as their earlier deployment in the national parks seems to have taken longer than expected, with issues like difficult terrain and admin delays (e.g. planning permission) getting in the way.

According to Thinkbroadband, around 94% of Devon and Somerset can now be reached by a “fibre” (FTTC/P/DOCSIS) based broadband network, although “superfast broadband” speeds of 30Mbps+ are only estimated to be available to 86% of local homes and businesses. The Gigaclear and Airband contracts should give this a boost, although we do wish that CDS would be a bit more transparent with their progress.

devon and somerset airband gigaclear contracts

Credits to one of our readers, Niall, for highlighting the announcement. CDS usually sends us major press releases but for some reason this time they neglected to do so.

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4 Responses
  1. R Smith

    Interesting to find out if they plan to 30+ Mbps service to those connected under this contract as per the CDS and EU condtions for funding phase 2. At the moment a quick check of some areas that are in lot 4 on the Airband website only gives 20-30Mbps.

  2. MikeW

    This isn’t a surprise to me. Of any of the CDS lots, lot 4 looks the closest in topography to the 2 national parks Airband already cover, and it nicely borders both of them.

    The original tender had lot 4 down as 16,000 premises in need, so the project’s target of 13,000 is a good proportion (over 80%) compared to Gigaclear’s plans in their lots (35,000 out of 53,000, or 66%).

    If it works out correctly, it should get the area to 103,000 premises out of 106,000 having superfast speeds.

    For all those who thought fixed wireless should have been part of phase 1, then this area will probably be the closest thing to that potential outcome.

  3. DartPaddle

    Delayed is being kind, here on Dartmoor when it finally was available a year after they said the service is terrible it’s off more than it’s on & complaining gets you no where – they seem to have loads of equipment failures & “cable faults”. One of my neighbours calls them Airbad

    I feel sorry for North Devon, everywhere else gets Gigaclear and they & us get this.

  4. Fibrepartner

    Congratulations to Airband but cant help feeling sorry for the communities that could have had fibre; some LAs are too hasty to give up on fibre when FTTP now being deployed to areas just like this

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