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Rural Wales Wireless Broadband Trial Hits Near Gigabit Speeds

Friday, October 11th, 2019 (9:08 am) - Score 1,857
broadway partners 60ghz mesh wireless

Good news for residents in the tiny rural Monmouthshire (Wales) village of Llanddewi Rhydderch. Broadway Partners (UK ISP Broadway Broadband) has informed ISPreview.co.uk that all homes within their local pilot network coverage should now be able to take a true 1Gbps capable ultrafast broadband connection.

The trial (here), which formed part of the Government’s wider 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT) project and received a share of £3.5m in public funding (here), originally promised to turn Llanddewi Rhydderch into a “Gigabit Community” by lighting up “this forgotten village with broadband speeds of up to 1,000Mbps.”

However in July 2019 we reported that the new wireless network, which harnessed a 60GHzmesh” radio technology and some of the lower 5GHz frequency band, had initially only ended up offering broadband speeds of around 30Mbps+ to most local homes (here). At the time it appeared as if only the village hall and a few other properties had actually gained access to “gigabit” speeds via the new network.

Fast forward another 2-3 months and the ISP says they’re now able to provide Gigabit class broadband speeds to every local home within their coverage (when ordered – requiring the install of new customer premises kit), although the current backhaul fibre optic link is 1/10Gbps but that is due to be upgraded as part of their recent contract win with Monmouthshire council (here).

As proof of this the ISP provided a couple of sustained speedtest graphs – verified independently by Lancaster University on their speed test servers – from the properties themselves (automated through the mesh), which shows speeds hovering up to around 957Mbps across several days. Broadway’s COO, Barry Weaver, told ISPreview.co.uk: “We’re seeing between 850Mbps and 950Mbps depending on who is doing what.”

llanddewi rhydderch 5g trial speeds

Barry also highlighted one other noteworthy point, which is that the mesh node isn’t affected by the fact it is going through a head end node (i.e. “it is meshing as fast as it would be directly connected“). In other setups this can sometimes be an issue but clearly Broadway’s approach seems to have overcome those.

Obviously these speeds will suffer when end-users connect through their own internal and highly variable WiFi networks at home (not an issue if you used a wired link to the router), which is just as much of a problem for “full fibre” broadband ISPs too. Some locals are also still taking the slower 50Mbps service and so will need to purchase the faster tier in order to benefit from the above speeds.

Related packages (i.e. those that go beyond their standard tiers) now show up on the Broadway Broadband site as “100Mbps and beyond“, with prices starting from £29.99 a month for the first 12 months (£44.99 thereafter) on a 24 month contract term; this gets you a 100Mbps+ (average speed) plan with unlimited usage. But if you want 1000Mbps then be prepared to pay £199.99 a month or £99.99 for 300Mbps.

Simplified Network Diagram for the Village

llanddewi rhydderch network map

NOTE: The reason for that additional 5 port copper switch is to aid testing as the router packages everything as PPPoE, which can prevent accurate testing. “A quirk of network security,” said Barry.

Barry Weaver, Operations Director at Broadway Partners, said:

“We believe that Gigabit connectivity by 2025 is achievable through the right mix of technology, knowhow and some positive energy! The 5G pilot in Monmouthshire proved that Gigabit services can be delivered to communities at a very quick speed. We are in the process of replicating this all over the country. Let’s get Gigabit done.”

At this point readers may recall that Broadway Partners recently confirmed that they would start to build a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in the village too (here). Barry informed us that the aim here is to have a mix of different technologies and the customer can then choose what works best for their particular circumstances.

The FTTP work is at a delicate stage and dependent upon securing all of the necessary wayleave agreements and some aggregated (PRP) Gigabit Broadband Vouchers from the Government. All of this represents excellent news for locals and is a significant improvement over the 1Mbps or less speeds that locals had previously been forced to suffer via Openreach’s (BT) old copper broadband lines.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Name

    I’d like to see stable 1Gbps on P-t-M-P link based on 5GHz band in the peak time 😀

    • Avatar A_Builder

      If you can supply a stable 330/330 at peak connection in place of a 2/1 ADSL then most domestic users and homeworkers would be able to get on this that just fine. And if that surges to 500/500 off peak then that is a pretty useful connection.

      Wether anyone can get exactly 850/850 over wireless methods is a fruitless argument.

      If this really is working as advertised this is big positive deal for those who are lucky enough to be able to get it.

    • Avatar Name

      No it is not fruitless argument. WiFi is not a cable, thats the point.

    • Avatar Mike

      If you want FTTP and want to live in the middle of nowhere then don’t be surprised if you end up paying for the privilege.

    • Avatar Barry Weaver

      Might be do’able with WiFi 6 (802.11ax on a 160MHz channel) but I think you’ll struggle till then and I don’t think Ofcom allow a channel that big but could be wrong.

  2. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    Are there issues in using the unlicensed 57-71GHz band such as inteference from another source? And are there problems in penetration with such high frequencies?

    • Avatar Barry Weaver

      It is unlikely you will get interference from other sources in that band in a rural location. The band is extremely high frequency so more susceptible to moisture and rain fade and is best suited to shorter distance to achieve very high speed. 700m – 1.5KM PTP and 200-700 meters PTMP.

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