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Real Estate Firm Tells UK Farmers to Build their own Broadband

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019 (1:01 pm) - Score 2,703
fibre optic cable rural broadband b4rn.org.uk

Real estate company Strutt & Parker has suggested that UK farmers, many of which aren’t exactly swimming in lots of spare cash, should consider investing to build their own “private” broadband networks instead of waiting for whatever the Government’s 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) will deliver.

The new legally binding USO, which will be installed by BT (Openreach) or KCOM and pledges to deliver a minimum broadband download speed of at least 10Mbps (1Mbps upload) – upon request – to those in disadvantaged areas (details), could be formally introduced at the end of 2019 (officially enforced from 2020). This will focus on the final 2-3% of premises that cannot yet order a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) service.

However Strutt & Parker have told Farming UK that struggling farmers, many of which will exist in that final 2-3% of premises, could instead invest to build their own broadband networks. The company includes a suggestion of three potential options (listed further below).

Stuart Gray, Strutt & Parker, said:

“In the past, the costs of installing a private broadband network may have looked unviable. But the importance now placed on good connectivity, with growing numbers of people working from home, means that attracting tenants is difficult without being able to offer a reliable broadband service.

Each of the options have their own pros and cons and not all may be available for a particular use or location. But the good news is that in most instances there are practical solutions to the problem, some of which may attract grant funding.”

S&P Proposed Alternative Broadband Options

1. A leased fibre connection to the premises (FTTP) which involves installing a physical fibre connection from the mainstream network across private land.

2. Satellite broadband which operates by sending and receiving a signal to a satellite rather than using the underground copper/fibre network.

3. Over-the-air solutions such as Fixed Wireless Access networks which use specific frequencies of the radio spectrum to transmit signals.

On the first option S&P appear to have confused a business leased line with native FTTP, or perhaps they’re referencing the halfway house of a Fibre on Demand (FoD) service from Openreach (BT). However the latter is not currently available to order due to an on-going “stop sell“.

Either way, for most farmers building their own fibre network to a single remote location is likely to be overkill and would cost thousands of pounds (possibly tens of thousands – depending upon the location); the Government’s Gigabit Vouchers are only able to cover up to £2,500 of that. This would only make sense for bigger commercial farms and not cash strapped local farmers who struggle to turn a profit.

On the other hand it may be a lot cheaper if you happen to be close to an existing fibre network or can work with the local community to co-fund a wider project (not unlike the B4RN model). A similar problem may exist with the option of a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) network, which tend to be quite niche in their coverage unless you can encourage one to deploy (they usually like to serve somewhat more than one client in such areas).

Meanwhile Satellite is less about building your own network and more akin to the traditional approach of subscribing to an existing ISP, which will then sort out the necessary hardware and installation (setup costs can often be covered by the Government’s Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme). But Satellite suffers from slow latency, meagre data allowances and heavy traffic throttling at peak times (i.e. best as a stop gap for basic needs).

We’d also point out that some rural farmers may be covered by 4G (Mobile Broadband) via one of the mainstream mobile operators (O2, Three UK, EE or Vodafone), which is another option that should be considered and is likely to be a better bet than Satellite as a last resort.

Otherwise there’s the option of waiting for the USO to begin, but just remember that the suppliers are likely to be inundated with early requests and from that point it could still be up to 12 months before the actual service goes live (this is likely to be built via either FTTC or FTTP, based on the current proposal).

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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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21 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    Given how close we are to USO i’m not sure any of these are good options until we know what will be offered.

  2. Avatar Optimist

    Soon payments under the EU’s common agricultural policy will cease to apply. Grants to invest in rural broadband, for the community as a whole not just individual farmers, could be part of a set of policies more suited to the UK.

  3. Avatar AnotherTim

    The problem isn’t building a local network. The problem is having somewhere to connect it to. If there was access to backhaul at a reasonable cost in my area we’d have had our own network years ago. BT’s nearest aggregation point is 11 miles (as the cable flies). FoD isn’t available at any price (even before the stop sell).
    Gigaclear’s network is 22 miles away (they are supposed to have already built FTTP here, but haven’t started yet).
    Can’t get a point-to-point wireless connection as there isn’t any where within range that has backhaul.
    USO won’t help as the £3400 limit is a few percent of the cost. 4G is the only hope for most.

    • Avatar wireless pacman

      Whereabouts are you, just to ask?

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I’m between Lydney and Chepstow, so my area is planned to be one of the last that Gigaclear build (since it is one of the furthest from any existing Gigaclear network).
      Now that the Severn Bridge tolls have gone, there is quite a bit of house building going on near Chepstow, so hopefully one of the fixed wireless ISPs may take an interest. Although, 4G is usable here (rather variable, but better than ADSL2+), so that may deter some.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @AnotherTim
      Have you tried an external aerial with 4G? That often gives a decent speed boost and doesn’t cost much to get fitted (from EE at least).

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      @New_Londoner, yes I use an external MikroTik SXT LTE router with a Three AYCE SIM (I load balance with my ADSL2+ line). I get a very good quality signal, but the problem is the base station doesn’t seem to have much backhaul itself and easily gets overloaded, so speed and latency are very variable depending on the time of day etc. It is never slower than my ADSL2+ though, and the upload is several times faster.

  4. Avatar Simon

    Well if this is done and Farmers sort it – why bother with BT to build?

  5. Avatar A_Builder

    Surely the comedy point that @MJ makes well is that they have confused the various service provision type yet they project this as an expert report.

    I agree with @Simon that local farmers can perfectly well form B4RN type cooperatives particularly as they will control the wayleaves so yes BT gets pushed out of more rural.

    Although I would be interested to know what happens when one of these cooperatives goes under. What is the living will side so that the connectivity is maintained.

    As with accountants and book keepers there is a regulatory requirement for there to be someone to step into their shoes if all goes wrong so that critical continuity is maintained.

  6. Avatar TheFacts

    I guess this about poor connectivity affecting sale prices and that most will have investigated the options already.

    • Avatar Fastman

      most are not even aware of what Is available from my conversations

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @ TheFacts

      It is a bit more about national levels of productivity.

      If you are a small farmer and have fill in online forms any your connection is slow and drops then you waste bundle of time doing simple stuff that should be quick.

      Hence productivity is hammered.

      If you are a sole farmer with a couple of labourers it is a big thing to have your time wasted like that.

      If you can’t rent out your old building as offices and the like, which you cannot if they cannot get broadband, it imperils the whole economic model of medium scale farming.

      Some of the big landowners have sorted this for their tenants and neighbours as there is a virtuous circle of propping each other up.

    • Avatar Joe

      Tbh it doesn’t help that farmers have bad broadband (generally) but it just adds insult to injury that the gov websites they have to submit all their payments/paperwork to/from is about as useless as anything out there.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: Sale prices for what? Please rephrase and explain.

      What do you suggest farmers should do to get proper fibre broadband?

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @GNetwon

      I think @TheFacts is correctly stating that quality of connectivity impacts the land values?

      It is certainly demonstrated and widely accepted that quality of connectivity affects house values.

    • Avatar Joe

      And rents for holiday cottages etc. Even campers expect wifi these days…

    • Avatar GNewton

      @A_Builder: Thank you for the clarification. However, you can’t just relocate a farm to another area where there is broadband.

      TheFacts hasn’t yet posted any constructive suggestions on how to deploy a widespread fibre broadband.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @GNewton

      I couldn’t agree more.

      The rural economy is important in all its many many forms.

      Let’s put it this was if you have rural held back, by factors such as broadband, then the whole UK productivity takes a hit.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Your like a broken record GNewton, haven’t you stalked the guy enough?

  7. Avatar A_Builder

    @Joe

    I have never had the dubious pleasure of experiencing Crapita’s agricultural offerings myself. But everyone I know who has speaks of it through gritted teeth.

  8. Avatar Rob

    Farmers should offer 3UK a discounted location for their 5G BTS in return for free high speed BB.

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