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1Gbps Edinburgh Wireless ISP WeLink UK to Cease Operations

Saturday, Jul 15th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 3,608
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Alternative fixed wireless access (FWA) ISP WeLink Communications UK, which had been offering wireless broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps to poorly served homes and businesses in the city of Edinburgh (Scotland), has confirmed to ISPreview that they are “withdrawing” from the market.

The situation first came to our attention after a number of WeLink’s potential customers in Edinburgh informed us, at the start of this week, that their planned installations had suddenly been cancelled. At around the same time, we noted that a number of the provider’s staff appeared to have been made redundant.

NOTE: Edinburgh is already quite well covered by gigabit-capable networks from Openreach, Virgin Media (VMO2), CityFibre and Hyperoptic. But WeLink were focused on a smaller set of patches that had, so far, been left excluded.

On top of that, some of those customers with cancelled installations claim to have been told that it was because the business is ceasing operations in the UK. The move came as a surprise because the provider only launched during summer 2021 (here). At the time, their Edinburgh pilot service was one of the first in the UK to deliver 1Gbps+ speeds to homes via the millimetre wave (mmW) bands, using 5G style technologies.

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In March this year, WeLink followed that up by announcing that their carrier-grade coverage had been expanded to cover 27,500 premises in the city (here) and they were even planning to upgrade this so that it would be “capable of delivering” speeds up to 10Gbps in the near future. But that will no longer happen.

A Spokesperson for WeLink told ISPreview:

“We are very disappointed to have to announce that as a result of commercial, technical and financial issues between WeLink UK and WeLink Inc, we will now be withdrawing from the UK ISP market. This will directly affect a small number of customers in one major UK city and will leave our other services unaffected .

We regret that events have developed as they have, but we are left with no option but to withdraw from this market and to focus upon our other UK operations.”

The exact details of what occurred to cause this are unclear, although being a wireless ISP in an urban area with plenty of growing fixed line rivals can’t have been easy.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
29 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    5G broadband in a built up, competitive area always seemed a suprising choice to me when other operators are doing GPON for £300 per prem in similar areas.

    1. Avatar photo charles says:

      Isn’t this what Three tried to do with Relish? I can’t remember the exact setup but sounds familiar?

  2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    fibre will win the day over wireless I suppose. Wireless is not the most reliable way of sending data, many factors can affect it.
    Shame really as when I was using a wireless network I loved it until it did not work as well as it should have.

  3. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    A major city would seem an odd choice for wireless service since it is likely to be well served by fixed line connections. You’d have thought it would lend itself to somewhere more rural with spread out premises.

    1. Avatar photo r says:

      You would think so, but I was one of WeLink’s customers in the city centre of Edinburgh (Old Town) and this is disastrous for me. It is very hard to get fibre cables installed under the cobble roads here due to it being a national heritage site, so it leaves myself and large portion of Old Town without usable wifi above 4mbps. This is in the very city centre of Edinburgh, it is now being pushed back to the dark ages. Very sad indeed. I am dreading next month when we are disconnected and left without alternatives.

    2. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

      Yeah when I was a student they redid all the cobbles on the Royal Mile so clearly being a heritage sight is not the problem. The real problem is not because it is hard to do it’s just expensive, you have to put the cobbles back, you can’t patch it with a bit of tarmac. I would point out that if a water main were to burst or there was an electrical fault the cobbles would come up immediately.

    3. Avatar photo Mike says:

      To reiterate what r said above I originally tested WeLink in the Old Town (Edinburgh) and I’m one of the customers now being cut off on 11 August.

      I have no fibre option and it is unlikely this will change anytime soon due to the costs involved and the slow pace in reachint the fibre “not spots” particularly in the World Heritage Site.

      Unfortunately this poor provision extends to standard broadband. A recent check of EE states “Great news! EE broadband is available in your area. You can get a maximum speed of 2Mb/s.”

      The provision of mobile broadband is equally poor due to heritage restrictions in placing masts (a recent plan which would have blocked a tourist view of the castle was withdrawn), the topography of the Old Town and that is before you consider the poor mobile data signal during tourist peaks such as the summer, festival time, and over Xmas.

      So all in WeLink offered a solution that aligned perfectly to the needs of the Old Town in Edinburgh and there is simply no viable alternative other than a return to the dark ages of single digit standard broadband.

      For WeLink to withdraw their service in the middle of the festival is a further kick in the teeth, as mobile broadband is not a reliable alternative and the chance of getting a phone line reinstalled for standard broadband in the middle of the festival chaos is slim to none.

    4. Avatar photo r says:

      Mike, I have a Zoom meeting with Angus Robertson, our local MSP, about this problem on Monday. If you are able to, I would encourage you to book a surgery with him in the near future too, to bring noise to this issue.

    5. Avatar photo Mike says:

      R, I intend to raise it formally as secretary of the community council so feel free to drop me an email if you want to be updated.

      secretary[at]edinburgholdtowncc.org.uk

    6. Avatar photo charles says:

      @r

      With all the Duct sharing agreements going on surely there is hope?

    7. Avatar photo Jim says:

      In the US WeLink inc laid off most of their staff around end of June after investors pulled plug on funding. It’s not clear what the relationship between US & UK operations is / was and who owned the spectrum or any IP but you suspect the US did hence the issue

    8. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Why not just use 5G?

  4. Avatar photo B says:

    The accounts are quite interesting as of march 22 there was 2 million of debt, burning 1.2mn that year. Assuming similar spend since they are likely at 4m debt or similar. Quite a lot for 7000 or so premises passed.

  5. Avatar photo Alan Cameron says:

    This is extremely sad news for the industry as we suffer another loss. I would like show support for welink and their network and I am saddened by this news.

    This obviously has hit a little closer to home for myself as I am the MD for Gigaair a Wireless ISP based in Glasgow. We cover over 17k premises passed so far with more on the way.

    That aside wireless has a place in the digital world from bridging the digital divide, backup connectivity, event connectivity. Wireless has much faster lead times and just as fast service with 99.999% uptime gtd on a 10Gb link. It’s just as reliable as fibre

    Fibre came to Glasgow in 2014, but there is still no fibre broadband in most of Glasgow city centre. And fibre comes at a heavy environmental toll compatible wireless. And with usually massive lead times for installation.

    There is pro’s and cons on both sides of the fibre v wireless debate but we look at it as an extra tool in the toolbox and in city’s it’s the better solution for our customers.

    Welink, we’re sad to see you leave.

    Alan Cameron
    Managing Director
    Gigaair Ltd

    1. Avatar photo R says:

      Please please please roll out your services in Edinburgh next

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I take Alan that it wouldn’t be viable for your company to acquire the assets of WeLink and continue the service?

  6. Avatar photo Shaukat says:

    This somewhat randomly reminds me of Ionica who tried wireless fixed telephony back in the 90s. We have used to have a dish somewhere.

  7. Avatar photo Trevor Ross says:

    I live in the centre of Edinburgh and this service wasn’t available to me because too many trees were in the way. Goes to show how limited the mmwave stuff is. I can get around 10MB from the Rose Street exchange which is too slow for me. I don’t get how I can be around 200-300 metres away from an exchange and get such slow speeds?! Why can’t they upgrade that exchange properly? I’ve lived this close to an exchange without fibre before and got around 80MB so it is possible. I now use mobile broadband on the EE network. 4G+ is better than the 5G they have. I get anything from 50BM to 150MB and a ping as low as 25ms.

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      Seems to be a number of cabinets around there that were never upgraded to FTTC probably due to planning restrictions in that part of the city.
      Getting FTTP might be even more difficult

    2. Avatar photo Declan M says:

      Rose street was never earmarked for FTTC because there were too few residential lines most businesses had leased fibre lines already or virgin cable. Rose street is down to be upgraded to FTTP but god knows how long that will take. Brilliant looking building the telephone exchange in rose street always take a detour to pass it if am up at the Hackett store or cruise.

  8. Avatar photo David Lewis says:

    What about Starlink? Their website shows good coverage in Edinburgh.

    1. Avatar photo Vince says:

      Starlink needs a fully clear view of the sky to actually work properly, so I imagine that it is completely off limits for many people. Starlink isn’t the magic solution to all issues some might hope it is.

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Also apparently Starlink performance isn’t as good if there are lots of users in close proximity to each other, they all lock on to the same satellite and have to share the bandwidth. Starlink is intended to serve remote locations.

    3. Avatar photo charles says:

      “they all lock on to the same satellite and have to share the bandwidth.”

      Respectfully you need to learn how Phased Arrays work.. My Starlink is currently locked on to 11 Sats at the same time. yes it’s contended but so is the wireless tech. The UK is not anywhere near capacity. I see 200mbps+ all day long. Starlink is nothing like the old internet used to be – there are over 5000 birds in the sky right now and they want 40K up there.

  9. Avatar photo The Facts says:

    TBB shows a lot of Openreach, Virgin Media and Hyperoptic in the centre of Edinburgh.

    How much is missing?

    1. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

      Probably mainly the Royal Miles and the wynds off it would be my guess. It is going to be expensive to fibre and will probably need subsidising to be viable due to the extra expenses from it being a world heritage site. To be honest one wonders how antennas for wireless work given the heritage status.

    2. Avatar photo Alan says:

      More than that – we’re on George St in the New Town and none of those are an option. We’ve just been cut off by WeLink and are extremely disappointed by it; we finally had reliable internet for the first time and now it’s just gone. Did an informal survey of some of the shops along the street today and plenty of them are struggling too; one well-known international brand was doing manual credit card transactions because their wifi had gone. I’m also booked to raise it with the local MSP next week, and already dreading trying to rely on a mobile phone hotspot during the festival.

    3. Avatar photo AQX says:

      @alan CityFibre seem to be doing maintenance outside doors 13-21 in Young Street (Young Street, New Town/Broughton, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh) unsure much else on that as searching the postcode on CF website just says the area isn’t planned, despite roadworks.
      Might be worth checking with a councillor or such if they may know.

    4. Avatar photo Trevor Ross says:

      All of them, where I stay anyways. Guess it depends on the part of Old Town

Comments are closed

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