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IX Wireless and 6G Internet Launch Blackburn’s New Gigabit Network UPDATE

Friday, June 4th, 2021 (5:08 pm) - Score 1,896
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Fixed wireless ISP 6G Internet (IX Wireless), which despite the name is not connected to the future 6G mobile standard, has today announced the launch of a new “game changing” gigabit broadband network across the Lancashire (England) town of Blackburn. The provider also aspires to cover another 250,000 UK premises this year and 4 million by 2025.

In case any of this sounds familiar, then that’s because 6GI previously announced their new network build in mid-2019. Back then their announcement committed to rollout a 1Gbps (rising to 6Gbps by 2025) capable broadband network across 38,000 homes in Blackburn (Lancashire) over the next 2 years and after that they’d aim to “reach 4 million homes within three years” (here).

At the time we took their grander rollout plans with a pinch of salt, not least because in 2013 the same ISP had promised to extend their wireless network across the rest of the United Kingdom within the space of 12 months (here), which obviously didn’t happen. The decision to continue naming their wireless broadband packages by using “fibre” terminology may have also raised the odd eyebrow.

The good news today is that their new “gigabit broadband network” in Blackburn has been launched, although the claim that it “has been built in only nine months” seems to be at odds with their prior announcement from two years ago.

Oliver Dowden MP, DCMS Secretary of State, said:

“I am delighted to join you for the virtual opening of your Blackburn gigabit network, which is really going to provide some of the fastest broadband on the planet to tens of thousands of people across the North West and it is all part of this government’s once in a lifetime upgrade to the digital infrastructure.

I would like to really pay tribute to you and other alternative network providers in that mission, particularly in the North West. The Blackburn network has been built in only nine months and I know you have got very exciting ambitions to reach another 250,000 premises this year and to reach 4 million premises by 2025.

It really does show how much we can achieve when we bring together the power of private investments and government programmes along with close collaboration with local government. Project Gigabit is the levelling up game changer. Northern towns and cities are getting gigabit first in a big boost for the region and it means people will be able to run a business from anywhere.”

Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

“At the present time, we have got some of the fastest broadband in the country. That is the sign of the town looking up and to the future.

We were the first borough to take up this opportunity and other local councils have followed suit. We have worked closely with the company to minimise any inconvenience throughout the process.

The result is we have something which is a real asset for the residents and will eventually become a major asset for the businesses in the borough too.”

Curiously, the press release contains no commentary from the provider itself, or much in the way of detail about the new network (how does it differ from their previous one etc.?) or its future rollout plan. Furthermore, we couldn’t see any 1Gbps packages on their website. At present the top “Ultrafast Fibre” tier is still a 100Mbps (20Mbps upload) service for £21.99 per month, which is similar to what they were offering two years ago.

We decided to try and check a Blackburn postcode or two via their submission form, but that only tells you whether the network is available. In addition, you can’t conduct an availability check without also entering some personal details and consenting to 6Gi “processing and storing this information,” much of which is unnecessary for the simple purpose of checking network availability (an address should be all they need).

In the meantime, we’ve replied to the announcement in the hope of getting a little more detail, such what network technologies they’re using and how much their gigabit speed package actually costs, as well as whether or not it exists yet. Lest we forget that Blackburn is also home to Virgin Media’s gigabit-capable network, while CityFibre have plans to deploy FTTP in the town too and Openreach has also reached a few small areas with their fibre.

UPDATE 14th June 2021

It took a while, but we did finally get a response from IX Wireless. The provider’s current wireless network is said to be based on the 802.11ac (WiFi) chipset from Qualcomm, which they claim “comfortably delivers speeds of 200Mbps to end users“. This speed is halved via 6GI for their residential packages as “they guarantee the speed, enabling the customer to cancel at any time, if not achieved.”

The 802.11ax R2 chipset is currently in trials and is expected to deliver 300Mbps to users, for the same price, in Q4 2024 for new towns. 6GI also offers an in-house guaranteed Wi-Fi product, using Wi-Fi 6 meshed (mesh installed via CAT5) routers, again allowing a customer to cancel if the minimum service speeds are not achieved.

A Spokesperson for IX Wireless added:

“6G Internet has found that on a 100Mbps service, 97% of customers use less than 22% of the bandwidth available to them and as such we are confident that customer usage is not being restricted and cost and speed of deployment are more important than a headline speed which only 3% of our base uses. Most likely, two thirds of these excessive users will not pay more, based on their credit scores and usage data.

We see this performance in chipsets and antenna designs going from 2×2 to 4×4 to 8×8 in 2024/5, to being able to deliver 1Gbps to the home, for the same price as we currently do 100Mbps.”

So, we won’t be seeing those gigabit speeds just yet, but on top of that they also plan to deploy some Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connections “in areas of heavy density of trees for example, or due to demand from industrial/business parks.” But at the time of writing, it’s not known precisely how much FTTP is going to be in their plans. “In Blackburn, this has been trialled in a residential area and an industrial area. Once we have had the required feedback, we will roll this out in the next town, Q4 2021 / Q2022,” said the spokesperson.

On pricing, IXW have a view that 1Gbps will be priced eventually, once the sign-up offers have lapsed, at around £49 – £59 per month, excluding bundles. The FTTP pricing will match these prices eventually, though initially they may be lower, to gain customers against other providers’ intro offers. “We will, however, make very clear that the prices will eventually increase, as FTTP costs more to deliver,” added the operator.

For fixed wireless packages, we will see prices eventually reach £21 – £34 (£21 for lower speeds such as 100Mbps and £34 for 1Gbps, with the internal Wi-Fi guarantee). In terms of coverage in Blackburn and all towns we go live in, we aim for 70% coverage day one and then over 18 months, back-fill to 85% coverage. We are already at 70% which is equivalent to approximately 33,000 plus homes. The backfill programme has already started and we intend to have it to 80% in Blackburn, by December 2021,” said the spokesperson.

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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
6 Responses
  1. Jim says:

    Looks like a Ubiquiti NanoBeam 19 wireless receiver to me…I hope they’re not claiming it’s ‘gigabit’ capable and in receipt of government vouchers.

    1. wirelesspacman says:

      I imagine it will be one of the new 60 GHz units that Ubiquiti are now selling.

    2. Jim says:

      Nope it’s not them.

  2. Steve says:

    So, potentially 4 suppliers of gigabit internet in 1 town? I live less than 5 miles from Blackburn and have no choice at all! I’m stuck with 18Mbps FTTC that seems to get slower every day. Why don’t the suppliers target different areas?

    1. andrew says:

      i live in burnley we have gigabit virginmedia and iv just seen the 6g poles being put up here hopefully they come to you

  3. John says:

    Would like to point out thG from personal experience I’d take this with a pinch of salt I was with 6G for 6 months and only 3 times they met the 100 mbps promise. Customer service is appalling and I only managed to cancel the contract via ombudsman. Issues were never resolved and poor communication within the company itself. I’ve left multiple reviews across different platforms however the company seem to be removing them and claiming they aren’t real (I have proof that I was a customer). I was with the company till December 2020 switched to BT which could only provide up to 30 mbps however I viewed them with more reliability

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