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Rural Gigabit Wireless Broadband Trial in Wales Delivers 30Mbps+ UPDATE

Monday, July 1st, 2019 (9:50 am) - Score 5,175
broadway partners 60ghz mesh wireless

Homes connecting to a supposedly 1Gbps wireless broadband trial in the tiny rural Monmouthshire (Wales) village of Llanddewi Rhydderch, which is supported by the UK Government, have yet to experience “anything near” to those speeds. A recent council meeting also suggests that the service becomes “patchy when the weather is poor.”

The trial (original story) forms part of the Government’s wider £2.1m 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT) project, which was announced last March 2018 (here) and in this specific case is being supported by Broadway Partners (they also run UK ISP Broadway Broadband) and Cambridge Communication Systems (CCS).

The new 5G style network uses a 60GHzmesh” radio technology developed by CCS to reach hard-to-connect properties, each of which had one of the company’s Metnet 60G Mesh radios attached. The kit operates in the unlicensed mmWave spectrum band from 57GHz to 71GHz and they also appear to be compatible with the 802.11ad WiFi (Wi-Gig) standard (normally used for short range indoor networking).

At the time of our first report (February 2019) we remarked that exact details of the trial setup were unclear, although the use of mmW spectrum pointed to a very short-range network. Such signals don’t travel very far so the homes would have to be fairly close together, most likely fed by a longer range wireless relay positioned nearby and higher up. But initial feedback suggests that the promoted speeds of 1Gbps have not materialised.

Llanover Community Council Meeting

“With regard to the issue of fast broadband, the Clerk reported that he had heard from Lucy Hywel [Local champion for the project] that the trial of the Broadway system will come to an end shortly.

At the present time users are not experiencing anything near the 1 gigabyte [clearly they meant ‘gigabit’ here!], as promised, on the basis that they have been marketing the project. Also, the service appears to be patchy when the weather is poor.

Lucy will be meeting Broadway representatives … to establish how many houses the system will reach and what the proposed plans are to meet the needs of properties outside the inner boundary of the village.”

We understand from other sources that the issues with poor weather have now been overcome. A plan also exists to potentially extend the network to properties further away.

At present we understand that 6 properties are testing the technology and all are now said to be achieving consistent and reliable speeds of up to 30Mbps (we think some local properties might be able to get similar using 4G mobile), which is obviously a big improvement over the previous sub-1Mbps fixed lines on Openreach’s (BT) old copper network. Nevertheless this is many times slower than the heavily promoted 1Gbps (1000Mbps+).

According to the council, Lucy was assured by Broadway Partners that 1Gbps is “obtainable“, although the operator appears to be quoted as telling her that “as nobody really needs these levels there serves no purpose in providing it” (except perhaps for the fact that the promoted purpose of the trial was to try and deliver 1Gbps to a rural community, wasn’t it?). The quote is not clearly attributed.

Broadway Partners recently won the Most Viable 5G Use Case award at the 5G Realised event in London for their deployment of 60GHz mesh radio in Llanndewi Rhydderch, which they merely said is “delivering Gigabit-capable service to a rural community.” Hopefully they can show such performance via tests at local homes in order to confirm that it’s possible, even if not yet needed.

Despite these issues it’s understood that the community is still happy with the current improvement and Lucy is preparing to recommend that the entire village switch to the new network. In the meantime we’ve shot off an email to Broadway in the hope of getting some clarity on the live tested network capability.

UPDATE 2nd July 2019 (8:08am)

Barry Weaver from Broadway Partners has responded to clarify some of the points raised by the council and Lucy Hywel.

Apparently the operator also deployed a “separate” 30Mbps service alongside the Gigabit pilot (we’ve not seen this stated anywhere before) and this used the lower 5GHz frequency band because, in referencing the Gigabit pilot itself, they “simply didn’t have enough 5G equipment for everyone” (please don’t confuse 5G and 5GHz here, 5G is a mobile technology standard where as 5GHz is a radio spectrum band).

The operator added that they haven’t had any complaints from customers (although they do intend to ring around to ask) and were able to deploy Gigabit speeds into the village hall in less than a month via the mmWave bands connected to the backhaul fibre 5km away.

Barry Weaver said:

“In addition to a 60GHz mesh pilot, there is a separate 5GHz and UHF overlay. This is so that the rest of the village could connect to a service. We committed from our own funds to help the village with 100% superfast coverage. We didn’t feel it was right that some got good speeds whilst the rest of the village only got 1mbps via copper.

We also committed to giving the village hall a free broadband connection which is in and working. This is free for anyone to utilise as a community benefit. We also lit Llanarth Village Hall and are in the process of lighting up a local church with free superfast broadband. If you are a village hall or place of worship and within our network footprint, that’s what we do.

At the risk of disclosing too much information, I can confirm limited details regarding the rain issue but was a fault logged by a 5GHz customer. There was an incident prior to the meeting recorded by the Clerk where a 5GHz CPE was replaced as faulty. It is possible there was water ingress – assumption. Because this was an issue several months ago I was not able to offer Mark an immediate answer – in truth I had not been aware and had to consult the ticketing system for potential answers. The team just fixed it as per usual fault escalation processes.”

According to Barry, the quote in the council meeting (“nobody really needs these levels..“) could be a personal opinion from somebody, albeit not Broadway’s own official position.

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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.
Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. Avatar Michael V

    Most people don’t need more than 30 on download speeds. Unless there’s hefty gaming going on! But the Gigabit speeds should have been delivered of that was advertised. However, 5G is in its infancy so no one should promise the fastest speeds. I hope this gets extended to the whole of the village. Reliability will only improve over time. But they must get the coverage right for the residents.

    • Avatar Rob

      You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Avatar SomePeople

      @Rob

      Don’t hold back with what your thinking

    • Avatar Badem

      As Rob says, but clarifying the point

      4K UHD streaming needs a minimum of 20Mb, recommendation is 30+

      So on this alone you can either stream UK HD (such as Amazon Prime/Netflix and do nothing else…)

      Also given the amount of devices people connect to a single router the 30mb can quickly be over utilised – for example Downloading Steam Games, watching Netflix on 2 devices and Prime on a 3rd would result in buffering for everyone.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      He said “most” people do not need more than 30Mbps download. I would tend to agree with that.

      Remember, not everyone streams and needs to download games in under an hour. A lot of people still just browse, facebook and email.

    • Avatar Michael V

      @Rob. I gave my opinion. Deal with it. I do know what I’m talking about.

    • Avatar Michael V

      @FibreFred. Thank U for reading my comment & thinking about it! This is a place is for conversation not hate.
      Anyway,
      It was similar when LTE launched. It wasn’t anywhere near the speeds that we ‘can’ see today.
      The network in the village is a trial, they didn’t achieve the speeds, but the great part of it is that a village got a reliable ‘faster’ connection to the internet than with DSL broadband.

    • Avatar Mike

      Please don’t superimpose your needs on to others.

  2. Avatar David Tang

    Gaming doesn’t need large bandwidth except for initial game downloads. It needs good stable line with low latency. Higher bandwidth is for streaming, mostly movies and especially if 4k content continues to increase. That is what most users will be using more 30Mbs for …

  3. Avatar The Mole

    If this won the Most Viable 5G Use Case award I dread to think how bad the other use cases were!

    Would be interesting to compare the performance a 5GHz wireless network would give them.

  4. Avatar TheFacts

    ‘Issues with poor weather have now been overcome’ Big umbrella?

  5. Avatar Peter

    This article is unclear. The technology that is deployed is capable of Gigabit speeds.
    1) it is entirely possible that 1Gbsec was delivered to the village. Once this is ‘shared” amongst multiple users the individual experience will be lower. All networks use some level of over subscription, typically driven by economics.
    2) the article cites a ‘clerk’, who quoted a ‘champion’ who got their information from where?
    I would love to see an engineering analysis not just 3rd party hearsay.

  6. Avatar John

    We are already delivery mmw 60ghz services with 5ghz backup to leicestshire business and rural sites with over 200 deployments. We constantly delivering on demand service which average easily 700 to 800mbps up and down. Maybe they not using the correct vendor or don’t have a gigabit backhaul.Our latest deployment achieved a solid link over 2.4km.

  7. Avatar xavier

    @Michael V Must be the reason why this whole country still sits with slow internet connection and buffering issues and some people okay with that i guess.

  8. Avatar Barry Weaver

    Hi,

    I received an email forward from our marketing team earlier today from Mark to generic info@. I replied to Mark but I didn’t know he had gone straight to publishing the article. There was no mention in the email of any intention to publish. I didn’t know that there were a set of minutes published from a few months ago or the nature of the enquiry.

    In my reply, I concluded there sounds like some confusion, I offered to speak to whoever had the issue, passed on my details and promised to keep Mark abreast of developments.

    I haven’t heard back but got a call later this evening to tell me about the article from a 3rd party.

    There is a Gig into the village which feeds the 60GHz pilot mesh network. We are in the pilot phase of the 60GHz mesh. The testing involves switching through nodes to the head end – not point to point or point to multipoint – actually over the mesh. The plan is to upgrade the firmware of the nodes and redeploy with different switching enabled in the second phase.

    In addition to a 60GHz mesh pilot, there is a separate 5GHz and UHF overlay. This is so that the rest of the village could connect to a service. We committed from our own funds to help the village with 100% superfast coverage. We didn’t feel it was right that some got good speeds whilst the rest of the village only got 1mbps via copper.

    We also committed to giving the village hall a free broadband connection which is in and working. This is free for anyone to utilise as a community benefit. We also lit Llanarth Village Hall and are in the process of lighting up a local church with free superfast broadband. If you are a village hall or place of worship and within our network footprint, that’s what we do.

    At the risk of disclosing too much information, I can confirm limited details regarding the rain issue but was a fault logged by a 5GHz customer. There was an incident prior to the meeting recorded by the Clerk where a 5GHz CPE was replaced as faulty. It is possible there was water ingress – assumption. Because this was an issue several months ago I was not able to offer Mark an immediate answer – in truth I had not been aware and had to consult the ticketing system for potential answers. The team just fixed it as per usual fault escalation processes.

    The comment regarding maximum download speeds and not requiring more than superfast that seems to have caused some debate – quoted by whoever said it – I guess is a personal opinion?

    The second phase of the report will be published in the next few months.

    Till then if anyone would like to know more you are welcome to call me on 01414658500 – Barry – Broadway Partners Ltd.

  9. Avatar Mr Fibre

    I think this is a good example of how wireless is pushing the limits to deliver Gb speeds. Sure they will get better. But these are only temporary fixes.

    Using mmWave technology is susceptible to weather especially heavy rain and snow. We have has some pretty bad rain in Wales recently and most wireless connections were affected. I do have doubts about the statement that a 5Km mmWave link delivers reliable Gb speeds. That is definitely pushing the technology to the limits in this country.

    Also regarding the statement that 30Mbs is good enough for most people. Well it may be at the moment but usage is growing fast in the region of 30 – 50% year on year. When iStadia is launched in November you are going to need at least 30Mb just to get average performance.

    We are living in an ever increasing connected world with more and more devices being connected. In addition the quality of connections is just as important as speed. Unreliable connections will prevent faster connections from working properly.

    Most wireless installs have higher latency than fibre so that will have an impact.

    Wireless is a last resort technology for home broadband. If you take up use of wireless you shouldn’t expect the best.

  10. Avatar Gary B

    This highlights the inappropriate use of funds for this stuff, they had funding for this project it seems from the 5G pot, realistically outside of EE and Vodafone what impact will this have part from setting very poor expectations.

    I would ask Mark Jackson, to go back to the same source and ask if the TV whitespace project that got funded by the welsh gov there, is delivering the commercial 50Mb services they quoted on this web site over the last few years, and how many residents receive that service for the £0000s they received. I would suspect its a similar situation

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