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ISP Airband Angers Village by Erecting Poles for FTTP Broadband

Sunday, December 1st, 2019 (9:30 am) - Score 6,784

Wireless and fibre optic UK ISP Airband, which holds a number of multi-million pound state aid fuelled contracts to deploy “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) across rural parts of Devon, has attracted a furious response by erecting new telegraph poles in a village that previously had them removed following a campaign.

At present Airband has already completed their £4.6m contract to cover 5,800 premises in the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks (here) and on top of that the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project has also previously awarded them a £7m Phase Two contract to reach parts of Northern, Central and West Devon (LOT 4). Overall the operator is contracted by CDS to cover 21,000 premises.

Initially most of their deployments tended to involve a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband network but CDS has also been working with Airband to increase their coverage within LOT 4, not least by including more Gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) builds in remote rural areas.

However the ISP appears to have rubbed residents in the beautiful coastal North Devon village of Berrynabor up the wrong way after they began installing new telegraph poles to run their overhead optical fibre cable. The problem is that the village previously conducted a successful campaign to get all of the local telephone and electric cables put underground and, where possible, poles removed (some still remain).

Suffice to say that Airband’s decision to add new ones has not gone down well with locals residents, which accuse the ISP of having “vandalised” their beauty spot (Devon Live). Some residents also claim that Airband’s engineers have occasionally trespassed on the gardens of local home owners in order to plan the position of future poles.

The village is in uproar about this and ask that the council stop the work immediately,” said one local. Questions have also been raised over why Airband couldn’t make use of existing poles and underground ducts, although doing so would have attracted a cost and duct space could have been limited (we suspect it was simply easier / cheaper to do their own poles).

A Spokesperson for Airband said:

“We take pride in the positive response we normally have from the communities that we serve – many of whom specifically request our services in recognition of our expertise in delivering rural broadband.

In Berrynarbor, many residents are desperate for better broadband – especially in Sterridge Valley where households are currently struggling with speeds of 0.5 Mbps as well as poor mobile phone coverage.

One Sterridge Valley resident told us ‘I’m absolutely over the moon that we are going to be getting the best fibre to door internet that is available. We’re currently paying for BT internet which doesn’t work most of the time – 0.5 Mbps -, and we have had more than 200 Openreach visits in the past four years.’

We are delivering ultrafast fibre to the premises – FTTP – broadband in Berrynarbor – which will mean they are one of the first areas in both Devon and the UK to have access to broadband speeds of up to 200Gbps, with the government funding a large proportion of the cost, via the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme. As well as boosting property value and helping support local tourism and business, access to ultrafast opens up huge potential for residents and businesses in the area.

Our Berrynarbor network will provide access to ultrafast connectivity for over 140 premises. Ninety-eight per cent of our network in Berrynarbor uses existing poles and underground ducts. To complete the network and provide ultrafast connectivity to the area, we have installed three new poles – all of which are sited outside the village centre and close to other existing poles. We worked closely with North Devon AONB to ensure these poles are not impacting in any way on the beauty or environment of this lovely village.”

The remark about broadband speeds of up to 200Gbps being available is perhaps a little misleading (the fastest residential package on their website is 100Mbps and 1Gbps seems possible via their setup) and most likely only refers to the backhaul capacity, rather than end-user connections. In reality it’ll be awhile before end-users can realistically access or harness 200Gbps but the physical fibre itself could certainly handle that.

As ever there can sometimes be a difficult balancing act between protecting the beauty of an area and ensuring that local homes and businesses are able to access the latest cutting edge broadband speeds, which are in many cases now better in this village than many urban towns or cities.

Meanwhile the bad news for angry locals is that Airband has already completed their deployment and it remains to be seen if a new campaign will be started to have the poles removed. Over the longer term we think it’s likely that residents could see greater advantages than disadvantages, as well as the potential for rising property values.

At the last update for North Devon it was noted that Airband had so far deployed to cover 7,369 premises and were on target to serve a further 3,500 over the next few months (at the last count they had more than 850 live customers on this new network).

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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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36 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder

    You can’t please everyone all the time.

    Unfortunately with civils anyone trying to do anything for any utility rapidly discovers they are unpopular with a fraction of the community.

    Most are not thinking of the community benefit of a nice new gas main that won’t leak or a water main that won’t flood the place but only of the disruption caused by the holes and reinstatements.

    One of the many reasons UK infrastructure rollout is so painful and expensive.

  2. Avatar FibreBubble

    Three poles, two spans, 100-120m.

    Should be able to trench that fairly cheaply. Especially the cheap shoddy shallow way they do it nowadays.

  3. Avatar mike

    If 30Mbps is superfast, what is a 350Mbps connection from Vrigin? Megaultrasuperduperfast?

    • Avatar Tom

      Not exactly, it’s MegaultrasuperduperfastMAX

    • Avatar Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

      Anything above 100Mbos is “ultrafast” – at least BT claims so.

    • Avatar JAH

      I’ve always found the Super/Ultra/Hyper/Max stuff really annoying. It’s all meaningless really and doesn’t actually allow for comparison. It just seems to confuse the average consumer. The sooner all the providers just start talking in actual speed measuremnts like Mbps/Gbps the better.

  4. Avatar Burble

    Much of Berrynabor is a conservation area, if it’s anything like where I live even painting a window the wrong colour will get the council down on you like a ton of bricks, then they have Airband putting up poles as and where they like.

  5. Avatar Chris not green fingered at all Sayers

    You can beautify the poles with Ivy, or any climbing plant

  6. Avatar TheTruth

    The statement said “we have installed three new poles – all of which are sited outside the village centre and close to other existing poles.”

    If the residents don’t like these 3 new poles why don’t they start a local collection to pay for the fibre cables to be undergrounded.

    • Avatar Nobroadband

      Brilliant .. great idea
      I what more of that where I live. AOB where you can just look but can’t work.

  7. Avatar Mark

    I always laugh at the term conservation area and it’s abuse.The Cotswold town I live even planning applications near my house and term “Conservation area” the town centre is full of old houses which is fair, but to include hundreds of houses built 1970/80s and 1990s is a joke, tarmac,concrete and all modern building materials, streetlight poles, traffic lights etc, certainaily not as picturesque as those areas in Devon, but they kick up same fuss trying place a green comma cabinet on a tarmac laden street, it doesn’t seem a level playing field.

  8. Avatar CarlT

    I trust the villagers paid for the electricity and telephone cabling to be moved underground, not the rest of us through our bills?

  9. Avatar AndyC

    Give them what they want, months of roads being dug up….

    • Avatar AndyC

      Or a very large wireless transmitter in the middle of the village.

    • Avatar FibreBubble

      The new slipshod, direct in ground shallow trench method they use nowadays would do 120m in half a day.

    • Avatar CarlT

      *Sigh*

      It’s not shallow, it’s the same depth. It’s not direct in ground it uses a bundle of microducts rather than a single larger duct with sub-ducting and swept-tees to each property.

      The microduct approach is fine as long as it’s done properly.

      You’re thinking of nanotrenching as done in the United States with some extremely mixed results, or you’re not thinking at all and have a problem with anything other than the obsolete building methods, however no such permissions exist in the UK for such processes. 100 mm wide trenches, 250 mm coverage from microducttop to surface in the UK.

      This depth is the same as the original cable TV deployments and may be easily confirmed through Google.

    • Avatar TheTruth

      @CarlT

      I am sure in years to come people will look back and regret micro-ducting, in the same way as we regret the decisions of the past to directly buried telephone cables.

    • Avatar CarlT

      It’s repaired in the same basic way standard ducting is repaired, bar needing a smaller excavation. When it’s repaired a new jointing chamber is built to permit access to the damaged microduct(s) which is then fixed in a similar manner to larger ducting. A new fibre may then be blown through the repaired microduct(s) to either replace the previous fibre in full or to replace the broken span, with new splicing at the inspection covers either side of the break, exactly the same as repairing fibre in larger ducts.

      You can’t repair directly buried cables in this manner. The repair option is a big excavation and then splicing / jointing of a new cable length inside the excavation spanning the damaged section has to be done. That or complete replacement of the entire cable bundle via bypassing the broken length.

      When replacement of the fibre is required, the existing fibre may be used to pull a new fibre, or it may be removed and a new one blown. This can’t be done with directly buried cables.

      I don’t see the problem, however if you’re sure it’ll be regretted you must be more familiar with the civil engineering and microduct deployment process than I am so I’d welcome the benefit of your knowledge TheTruth.

  10. Avatar John

    I live in rural North Wales, have FTTP and a spaghetti of poles and cables delivering 3 services – electricity, copper phone and fibre broadband. It’s still worth it….

  11. Avatar Pezza

    I say take them down, and leave them with what they’ve got and don’t supply any 4G or 5G, and squarely place the blame at the pathetic moaning minority who have blocked it all!
    I would say ignore this minority group and carry on serving the masses but these types of people take legal action then to get what ‘they’ want.
    Leave them stuck in the 20th century just like their thinking is.

    • Avatar Burble

      Telegraph poles date from the 19th century, time we moved on.

    • Avatar CarlT

      I’m sure North America, Japan, etc, would be fascinated to know they are living in the 19th century with their reliance on pole-mounted utilities and need to move on.

      Their far more widely available FTTP and gigabit broadband services, thanks in part to the lower costs of deploying above ground, should help them with this moving on.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @CarlT
      Indeed! A trip to San Francisco in the heart if Silicon Valley will no doubt come as a surprise to Burble and others!

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @Burble

      “ Telegraph poles date from the 19th century, time we moved on.”

      This might be truer than you intended (albeit slightly different meaning) according to BT board members when talking, on the record, about historical lack of investment it was highlighted that poles are still being found that indicate they are Victorian.

  12. Avatar Phil

    These places are beautiful areas because people do care about such things, and having won a campaign to move other services underground, to then have poles suddenly erected is quite rightly going to cause a problem.

    Services underground are preferred anyway as they are less likely to get damaged during times of extreme weather or get hit by truck or a car trying to navigation dark county lanes.

    Just because people care about their local area and keeping it’s character, doesn’t mean they should be insulted, as a few comments have done here.

    • Avatar Mark

      No one is denying that,just saying it can be abused, like my area, how can people object to a green Telecom’s cabinet on a street next to a substation opposite a fire station surrounded by streetlights, telegraph poles, main A road B road junction, and day it’s not in keeping with the area, those areas need some protection, but it’s ridiculous the planning regulations in some areas especially the Cotswolds.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Phil
      Fibre infrastructure doesn’t need planning consent in conservation areas, probably because the designation has been widely abused by NIMBYs to prevent any form of progress – to be clear, I’m not saying that applies here. In addition, all such areas have houses, roads etc and so are not exactly unspoilt areas of countryside – in reality a conservation area is simply seeking to preserve the appearance of a given period of development, not to prevent all development.

      Some people appear to have a somewhat odd aversion to telegraph poles and mobile masts but often want to enjoy the amenity that these services bring. Since this imposes additional costs, a key question is whether the residents would be happy to foot the bill to put the fibre underground (clearly not an option for mobile!).

    • Avatar CarlT

      They were even more beautiful before the houses, etc, were built there, and the moving of utilities underground changed the area but I guess the local character of the area has to be preserved at a convenient time for the residents?

  13. Avatar John

    Remind me again how we’re gonna have “full fibre broadband” by 2030?

  14. Avatar Peter

    If the phone lines were put in the ground recently, isn’t there capacity in the phone ducts for the fibre?

  15. Avatar Shawn

    The basic problem with Airband in the phase that covers houses on Dartmoor is trees. Their wireless broadband doesn’t work through tree cover, so my house is “covered” but they couldn’t install due to trees…
    I’ve got Three 4G via an external antenna on the chimney and get 50Mbps even though the house isn’t in a coverage area for Three. Unlimited data for £20 is cheaper than Airband too, so probably a good thing I’ve got trees.

  16. Avatar Gran.

    I will tell you what it is , it’s a Con that BT insist on Peddling, to customers, many of they Loyal. Personally I can’t wait for my Contract to end, so I can ditch them.Vote with your feet people, you have the control not them.

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