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Wireless UK ISP Airband Begins Rural FTTP Broadband Rollout UPDATE

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 (11:55 am) - Score 2,363

Hybrid wireless and fibre optic ISP Airband has announced that they’ve started to expand their “bespoke” Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network into “current deployments,” which we assume includes those that have previously only had a service via their slower fixed wireless network.

The provider, which already claims to cover 20,000 premises and recently secured a £16m investment from the Amber Infrastructure-managed National Digital Infrastructure Fund (here), now aims to expand its network to an additional 50,000 business and residential premises in England and Wales by 2021.

So far the vast majority of their deployments have focused on growing a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) network, while their new FTTP solution (aka – Rural Optic) seems to stretch the meaning of fibre terminology. Rural Optic is spoken of as a “hybrid fibre network infrastructure,” where fibre optic cables are deployed locally to premises, but the network is supported by a high capacity wireless link (at least that’s how it sounds).

Successful trials of Rural Optic have already taken place in Shropshire and are said to have “demonstrated the huge benefits of this new technology, which delivers point-to-point fibre using existing infrastructure, avoiding the time delay and costs involved in digging up roads.”

On top of this Airband has also announced the appointment of two new board members (directors) – Peter Mathers (Operations Director) and Andrew Price (Finance Director) – as well as more than 20 new hires across the business to help support their growth.

Redmond Peel, Airband Founder and Managing Director, said:

“Peter and Andrew’s track records, experience and achievements are second-to-none and we are delighted to have them both on board. Attracting individuals of their calibre into the business is a great testament to our strategy and ambition.

We are pleased to be growing so rapidly and able to provide superfast connectivity to more rural homes and businesses in the UK and our aim is to continue to roll out our solutions to boost connectivity in rural communities.

The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) announced in July as part of the UK government’s modern industrial strategy, outlines that remote rural areas need to be prioritised for funding. It also recognises that a blend of technologies is required to deliver superfast access – we see our hybrid wireless and fibre model as being ideally suited for these areas so it’s an exciting time for us to be at the forefront of ensuring that rural locations get the digital infrastructure they needed and do not get left behind.”

Sadly today’s announcement doesn’t tell us anything about precisely which locations will benefit from the new “FTTP” Rural Optic network or what packages and prices may be on offer. We hope to update with some further details a little later on today.

In the meantime Redmond said, “We plan to integrate our FTTP RuralOptic solution in a number of our current network deployments, with an ambition to utilise 50 per cent FTTP and 50 per cent wireless technology. We believe our hybrid model offers a compelling time to market, clear upgrade path and broader reach compared to traditional fibre-only or wireless-only solutions.

As well as Shropshire, Airband also has networks in Devon, Somerset, Herefordshire, Shropshire, The Midlands and parts of Wales.

UPDATE 1:28pm

Airband informs us that they are currently in talks with the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme and contracting councils to confirm which areas are suitable for its FTTP solution. Decisions over exactly where FTTP will be deployed will be made in the New Year.

UPDATE 15th Nov 2018 @ 07:01am

We’ve had a more useful description of Airband’s approach from Redmond, who says: “Airband have an aim to deliver full fibre to the premise from the UK national network, in the short term this will utilise existing mast backhaul points, current fibre pops and BT EAD. Our approach will stay ‘hybrid’, in the sense that we will have a wireless and a fibre network using the most appropriate technology to each premise. At its simplest level this may look like, FTTP to hamlets and villages and wireless to remote properties or isolated dwelings. We intend to use BT DPA and soft-dig on private land.”

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe says:

    Its certainly not exactly clear what they are doing. (or perhaps more the extent they are doing it!) Sounds a bit like they are making a local FTTP network in say a rural village then backhauling it to the best Aggregation point. Its probably not a bad solution in some rural hills and valleys where getting FTTP all the way is a nightmare. (And potentially down the line its ‘real’ fttp ready if fibre makes in in the long term.)

    More info would be good here…

    They might get caught up by events in the ‘fttp’ definition court case thats ongoing of course!

  2. Avatar Matthew says:

    This sounds like they are planning on connecting a village up to FTTH then using a wireless backhaul to a town or city basically a reverse mobile phone network.

  3. Avatar AnotherTim says:

    This approach would probably work in my area – part of the Fastershire area 3c. There is no backhaul here, and Gigaclear are incapable of providing any for years. If there was backhaul to connect local FTTP to I can imagine everything being much faster to rollout.

  4. Avatar Al says:

    This sounds like something decent, but it’s fairly vague on what it means and where it’s going to be installed.
    We’re covered by one of Airband’s existing FWA deployments and are in a small town.
    I wonder if this means we’ll be covered by the new 100mbps upgrade.
    We have a 30mbps fttc line with bt, but I would be rather happy with and uplift to 100.

  5. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

    Airband have just admitted they are unable to supply service to my hamlet in West Devon which we were promised would be delivered here by BDUK Phase 2 (CDS Lot 4). As a result we are being de-scoped from the project and I suspect many other hamlets in West Devon are about to find out they are in a similar situation, this being a hilly and heavily wooded area so doesn’t suit microwave wireless at all. I guess this idea offers a glimmer of hope but I’m not holding my breath.

    1. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      If Airband are descoping areas, I suspect others will do the same – I expect Gigaclear will have to do the same, as they obviously don’t have the capacity to complete all the BDUK areas they’re contracted for. I think the wheels are coming off the BDUK bus.

    2. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

      Phase 1 only got to around 80% here (constituency data), phase 2 is supposed to be adding another 6%, but based on the current take up rate for the completed areas nearby (only 9% of premises supposedly served) I’m thinking they will be lucky to reach half that. The wheels are certainly looking wobbly.

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