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Rural Broadband ISP B4RN Upgrade to 400Gbps UK Core Network

Wednesday, Jul 12th, 2023 (10:00 am) - Score 2,752
b4rn ftth broadband summer 2018 rollout

Fibre optic builder and ISP B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North), which since 2011 have been working with community volunteers to roll out a 10Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network across rural parts of England, has confirmed that they will upgrade their core network to 400G in order to make it future-proof through 2030.

The provider, which is a registered Community Benefit Society that has already covered well over 20,000 premises, first began deploying their full fibre network to remote rural homes in Lancashire over a decade ago and they’ve since expanded out across parts of Cheshire, Cumbria, Northumberland, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Yorkshire.

NOTE: B4RN charges £33 per month for their 1Gbps package (plus a £60 connection fee payable over 12-months).

In the case of their core network, B4RN has previously used equipment from Norwegian firm Smartoptics, and they intend to do so again to upgrade their entire backbone network. The project aims to support 400G in the rural core network with new Dark Fibre extending about 650km, creating a ring around the north of the UK between Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds.

Distances between nodes in the backbone network range from about 40 to 100km – typical of a rural operating environment and longer than many metro networks. Smartoptics open line systems, along with 10G and 400G optics, have been selected to future-proof the network through 2030.

Tom Rigg, COO of B4RN, said:

“Cost efficiency, quality and reliability were key decision criteria for us. Smartoptics products were the best option we could find, meeting these criteria brilliantly and effectively meeting our needs for everything from 10G to 400G.

We also appreciate the plug-and-play setup and ease of use. But as much as we like the products, our close relationship with Smartoptics is no less important. Smartoptics has been there for us as we continue to grow and bring greater connectivity to underserved communities.”

The announcement doesn’t state how long this upgrade will take to complete, although we can’t say that we’ve ever seen any complaints about poor speeds from B4RN’s customers and so this is clearly more about maintaining that quality in to the future.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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16 Responses
  1. Avatar photo chris conder says:

    Gig symmetrical too. The best network in the world. I tried out the 10 gig symmetrical service at my remote farmhouse. wasn’t any different really but good to know it was possible with a simple router swap and different optic in the cab. Truly futureproof ISP, built to last, by the people for the people. Run by a dedicated team of brilliant staff and an amazing helpdesk for customers.

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      not that you’re biased 🙂

    2. Avatar photo Somerset says:

      VM installing round here. 10G up and down to customers, 400G from local cabinet.

    3. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

      @Somerset. A link to the VM page where I can actually buy a domestic 10Gbps symmetrical service would be useful.

      B4RN have offered an actual 10Gbps symmetrical service for some time and anyone on their point-to-point network, even into some of the remotest rural communities, can order it.

      Everybody else on B4RN has to make do with 1Gbps symmetrical. Poor souls.

    4. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I’m not aware of VMO2 testing a 10Gbps package on their XGS-PON estate yet, at least not with regular customers.

    5. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      On VMO2 they are not testing 10G, partly because their network isn’t capable of it. XGSPON maxes out at 8.5G, then there are some overheads on top.

      Congratulations B4RN on your success but keep it real. 🙂

    6. Avatar photo Vince says:

      Did you forget to post as someone else Chris so we wouldn’t know how obviously biased you are – given you literally are connected to B4RN.

      (sent from my 10gig ethernet via Openreach).

    7. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

      Oh look, some other humans have banded together to improve the lives of their community and they’ve become really good at it. I’d better log onto ISP Review and belittle them anonymously

  2. Avatar photo Trying to speaking the truth says:

    @Mark Jackson

    Shame you haven’t also removed Chrissy Conder’s false claim about B4RN being “The best network in the world”, If she wants to post bull then others should have the right to challenge her.

  3. Avatar photo Barry Forde says:

    I dont think the press release does justice to the project. B4RN’s core has become a ring running from Manchester up the west coast via Lancaster to Penrith then crosses the Pennines to Newcastle and onwards down to Leeds and finally back to Manchester. The whole ring supports 40 wavelengths that can operate at 10G, 100G and 400Gbs. The filters are tight so can probably take 800Gbs coherent waves when available. So at todays 400Gbs level thats 16Tbs of capacity, amazing stuff! Of course they will only light one or two wavelengths today but the rest is there when needed. The Smartoptics kit is very “Smart” and able to balance power levels across the wavelengths without needing attenuators or amps the way current DWDM kit does, so upgrades are easy peasy. As Mark says they havent had any bandwidth issues so far and this will ensure they dont for the foreseeable future. Well done B4RN and it would be nice to see some more info released on how its all fitted together so lessons can be learnt?

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Would make a great UKNOF or LINX talk 🙂

    2. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      B4RN have done excwellent talks before for UKNOF.

    3. Avatar photo Barry Forde says:

      @anon – good idea, lets hope they can be persuaded!

    4. Avatar photo Trying to speaking the truth says:

      @Barry Forde

      Thank you for the value added information.

      Its a really shame Chrissy Conder doesn’t learn from your insightful posts before trying to bang the drum.

    5. Avatar photo James @ UKNOF says:

      We’re aiming to have Tom from B4RN speak at UKNOF in September (we’re already in talks with him).

    6. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

      @Trying to speaking the truth

      I’d be grateful if you could point out what is ‘Bull’ about Chris’s comment ?

      As far as I can tell it seems pretty accurate.

      B4RN is gig symmetrical (or 10 gig if you want it)

      I think this article and, Barry’s detailed post, demonstrates that increasing capacity and resilience anticipates B4RN’s capacity requirements far into the future on a service that is not under stress anyway. Futureproofing.

      The B4RN network is all buried blown fibre. No cables to blow down is storms which have been know to happen occasionally in the wild and beautiful rural north.

      B4RN was formed because rural communities were not going to get service from the big telcos. Rather than moaning about it, they decided to build a high quality network themselves.

      You could argue that the ‘best network in the world’ is hyperbole. However, it’s faster than most, it’s very high quality, and what they have done is just very impressive.

      I think you can allow a little boasting now and again.

      It’s a pity then that you, and others, elect to make personal attacks every time Chris comments.

      If you disagree with someones opinion, or you think their facts are wrong, then argue your case and open the dialogue. Dismissing something as ‘bull’ without explaining why is just lazy.

      Thankfully, the disgraceful thread you started here was deleted. You didn’t ‘challenge’ Chris. You and others just hurled personal insults.

      So, lets see more cogent arguments and points of view.

      Or perhaps you just like being an insult troll ?

Comments are closed

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