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Herefordshire UK Expands 100Mbps Broadband via Fibre and Wireless

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 (4:58 pm) - Score 729
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The state aid supported Fastershire project has announced that they’ve secured a further £5m of funding from the Government’s Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme (RBIS), which will be used to extend a new hybrid fixed wireless and fibre optic ultrafast broadband network to reach remote premises in 10 additional areas.

At present the existing Phase 1 and 2 contracts with Openreach (BT) and Gigaclear are already working toward extending local “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) networks to reach 98% of premises in Herefordshire by around 2020 (here), which ise up from around 86% today. This is predominantly being delivered via a mix of superfast Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology.

By comparison today’s announcement involves a new deal with fixed wireless ISP Airband (they’ve also won contracts in Shropshire, Devon and Somerset etc.), which will be deploying their new Rural Optic (RO) technology to help “provide access to 10 dispersed clusters of premises spread across the county.” Apparently this new network will be able to deliver broadband speeds of 100Mbps+.

Councillor David Harlow said:

“This is another significant milestone for Herefordshire. Currently 85% of Herefordshire can already access superfast broadband as a result of phase 1 of the project and over the next two years, phase 2 will increase superfast coverage to 98%.

As more properties gain access to faster broadband the remaining hardest to reach premises will require increasingly more innovative and bespoke solutions like this. We are doing everything possible to extend access as far as we can, including through the use of EU funding currently available, either through this RDPE funding or our ERDF business grants.”

Lord Gardiner, Rural Affairs Minister, said:

“It is excellent to see more rural areas such as Herefordshire benefiting from connections to fast and reliable broadband. Rural areas should not be left behind in the connectivity slow lane, missing out on the opportunities high speed broadband can bring. Thousands of residents and businesses in Herefordshire will benefit.

The funding made available through the Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme champions our countryside communities and businesses by opening up access to broadband in some of the hardest-to-reach areas.”

The news is good, although their description of the new network appears to confuse the definitions of “full fibre” and wireless. The project claims, “this will see fibre to the premise served from a microwave backhaul which is capable of delivering broadband speeds of 100mbps … The microwave element will remove a major cost barrier and will allow some of the most remote properties in the county to be reached.”

By the sounds of it they will use a multi-Gigabit wireless (Microwave) link to supply the capacity for an optical fibre network, which is the reverse of what we normally see (i.e. fibre being used to supply a wireless network). However we can see how this approach might work in some areas, although it’s confusing to call the fibre side FTTP since that usually reflects a complete end-to-end optical fibre network.

We should point out that it’s by no means the first time that a provider has used radio (wireless) infrastructure to supply a fixed line network. For example, Openreach’s Wireless-to-the-Cabinet (FTTW / VDSL2) technology has been used to supply FTTC style connections to homes in a number of rural areas. However the WTTC service has occasionally suffered the odd problem, such as when the Microwave links go out of alignment (e.g. bowing of the wooden pole it sits on or weather damage).

Sadly the announcement doesn’t include any information about how many premises will benefit or where, although we recall a related update in August (here), which suggested that Airband would cover parts of Foy & Brockhampton, Dormington & Lugwardine, Putley & Tarrington, Brampton Bryan, Staunton & Stansbatch, Richards Castle & Little Hereford, South Kington & Hergest, Tedstone Wafre, Madley & Credenhill and Monkhide & Yarkhill (plus Oxenton in Gloucestershire).

The same announcement also hinted that another fixed wireless ISP, Voneus, was expected to be awarded the roll-out contract for clusters that will cover parts of the Slaughters, Maisemore, Sharpness & Newton, Hatherop and Fairford in Gloucestershire (Gloucestershire and Herefordshire are both part of the Fastershire project). But so far there has been no further information on that.

The project said its vision is that “by the end of 2019/20 all residents and businesses in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire will be able to order the broadband service they need, and a high percentage will be using faster broadband to do more online, boost business growth and achieve their potential.”

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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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