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New Broadband for Rural Kent (B4RK) ISP Preps FTTP Rollout

Saturday, October 24th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 2,520
rural broadband landscape uk

A new ISP called Broadband for Rural Kent (B4RK), which as the name suggests is modelling itself on B4RN’s community centric build strategy, is in the process of being setup by Tim Higgs and plans to help cater for poorly served villages in the county by deploying a new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network.

Tim began this year as the boss of a tiny Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) network, which was used to serve family members and 38 other neighbours in part of rural Kent. The network was originally established after Openreach quoted his community just shy of £230,000 to rollout FTTP in the area, which was understandably deemed to be economically unviable by local residents.

Although I still intend to expand the wireless coverage to provide a solution, I have since changed my plans and I am [now] looking at running fibre in a way much similar to B4RN, where fibre will run through farmland where possible. I will also look at making use of [Openreach’s existing cable ducts and poles (PIA)] and micro duct in more built-up areas,” said Tim.

The build, which is currently intended to start in the villages of Boughton-under-Blean and Selling, will be part-funded by the community (using a shares offer) and additional investment is hoped to come from the UK Government’s rural gigabit voucher scheme. The plan is to reach 659 properties, most of which are unable to get “superfast” (30Mbps+) speeds today or considerably less.

All of the properties being targeted reside between the M2/A2, A251, A252 and A28, although this is not full coverage of the area and that leaves plenty of room for further expansion, which Tim hopes could eventually take this to over 1,000 premises.

Tim Higgs told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We have the opportunity to build a network, part-funded by the community, for the community. If we do not do this now the opportunity will be lost.

Right now I have self-funded the wireless network build, however with plans for fibre I am now searching for capital investment to make this possible. I’m also looking at the option of shares for anyone that wants to invest in the network to help it be built to them, in a similar way to B4RN’s model. More details about shares will be announced in the near future.

I am also looking for 3 more rural areas in Kent that can start as their own project areas, with the intention that all 4 areas are connected to each other in a couple of years’ time as the coverage expands out. I expect to pick up diverse dark-fibre routes to London (Telehouse) from SSE and Colt that run near to my network area as I expand the network.”

Residents and businesses in rural Kent are now being asked to pledge their rural gigabit vouchers to his project – http://b4rk.co.uk/pledge (a related Facebook page also exists), which will help the ISP to track where the highest demand exists and design their network build around that. Assuming all goes according to plan then Tim optimistically hopes to have the “first few customers connected to my fibre network and delivering 1Gbps to them before Christmas this year.

Customers can tentatively expect to pay around £30 per month for a 100Mbps (30Mbps upload) package, which rises to £40 for 300Mbps (100Mbps upload) and then £50 for the top 900Mbps (300Mbps upload) tier. Faster business packages with symmetric speeds are also expected at extra cost, which could go as high as 10Gbps using XGSPON technology.

Establishing a new full fibre network is far from an easy or cheap task, but we wish Tim the best of luck and look forward to seeing how this progresses over the next year.

Leave a Comment
16 Responses
  1. Avatar Sam says:

    Hard to see how this will cost less to deploy that the £250k quoted by Openreach. £250k / 659 premises = £379 per premises. That’s pretty good value for an urban rollout let alone rural

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The £250k was for a single small community, but the above project will rollout to much more than that. So 659 premises is not the right measure as that will cover several communities.

  2. Avatar Fastman says:

    mmmm selling didnt they get some grant to do an FTTP in 2012 from Government was interesting

    mark so what was the 250k quoted for, when was it quoted and how many premises did it cover

    all in the context

    1. Avatar Tim says:

      The quote of ~£230k from Openreach was for 154 homes, many of which already get FTTC at 30Mbps+ only 54 out of that are sub 10Mbps.

      The area I plan to cover includes more properties, most with sub 10Mbps and lots with sub 30Mbps but will also include some that have up-to 80Mbps FTTC which are more likely to be PIA areas.

      Yes Selling had a failed FTTH network 10 years ago. This is a rebirth of what that network should have been but is not related to that network.

  3. Avatar chris conder says:

    Brilliant! Good luck to Tim and the community. Altnets go where the monopoly fear to tread. Amazingly once it is built then openreach come along and do it for nothing, overbuilding. Bit of a waste as they don’t get any customers for their efforts, once they are on a real community fibre there is no churn.

    1. Avatar Fastman says:

      Amazingly once it is built then openreach come along and do it for nothing – Disinformation of the hightest order as ever again

    2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      I wish his project well but with OR FF underway in Faversham and Canterbury then it is very likely these initial areas chosen will be covered in the next OR tranche. Also both locations have outdoor 4G (except around Step Wood). This increases any investment risk to the proposal. The pricing is good but nowhere near B4RN practice/speed/cost.

      It emphasises again that those considering investments big or small (including individual investment in 4G/5G) really need forward visibility of proposed OR and Altnet activity by timeline and we need to know how the Government intend to spend any subsidy, sooner the better. DCMS/Ofcom could easily mandate this.

      If people knew that there was no hope of improved broadband for X years all consumers could then consider their alternatives properly.

    3. Avatar Mr What says:

      @Meadmodj

      Even when BDUK show properties in scope for FF doesn’t mean their infrastructure will get upgraded, people can lose years believing that FF is coming so they do nothing just to find out later that they have been excluded at the final hurdle as the money in the contract runs out. Nothing is certain until the infrastructure goes live.

    4. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      BDUK FTTP and other OR FTTP programmes are completely different to the Fibre First rollouts. My comments relate to current FF in plan/progress in this area and that OR are following a contiguous approach to allow their consolidation of telephone areas and hence in all probability will also include these satellite exchanges.
      Yes OR have no obligation to rollout FTTP to every area or every premise. Hence why I make the point that DCMS could mandate visibility of all provider intentions 2 years out.

    5. Avatar The Facts says:

      @CC – according to TBB there may be 5 postcodes which have B4RN and OR FTTP, so your statement may not be correct for B4RN.

      ‘Altnets go where the monopoly fear to tread. Amazingly once it is built then openreach come along and do it for nothing, overbuilding’

  4. Avatar barf says:

    Whos’ waiting for B4RF?

    I am come on Falkirk or somewhere starting with F 🙂

  5. Avatar A_Builder says:

    Hope it works out for them.

    @Tim are you getting tech help from B4RN?

    @MJ if it is possible to get backhaul from SSE then I guess the first few properties are going to be very close to that so might just be done that quickly. But there again the existing wireless network must be connected to something somewhere so maybe it is leveraging that?

  6. Avatar FibreBubble says:

    Tim. Please don’t put your house up towards this.

  7. Avatar Werner Erasmus says:

    Nice!! Love to see it expand down the A2 towards the coast.

  8. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Wish i could pay £30 a month for 100Mbps and there’s nothing rural about where I live!

    Also “corrected information as not true”

    “most of which are unable to get “superfast” (30Mbps+) speeds today or considerably less.”

    30Mbps+ is not “superfast” in 2020.

    1. Avatar No Superfast says:

      @Buggerlugz

      30Mbps seems great to those on a slower connection, call it what you want but the government definition of superfast was 24Mbps and now its 30Mbps it may seem slow to those who have better but not to those who don’t

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