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Brsk, FullFibre Ltd and IX Wireless Face More Pole Complaints

Friday, Oct 6th, 2023 (12:02 am) - Score 7,704
training telegraph poles openreach engineers

Several broadband ISPs and network builders, including Brsk, FullFibre Ltd and IX Wireless, have this week become the latest in a long line of UK operators to face complaints from various different communities about their decision to deploy telecoms poles to run new full fibre and wireless networks.

At the risk of sounding a bit like a broken record (gripes against poles are becoming endemic). Poles are a fairly common sight across much of the UK, which is in no small part because they’re much more cost-effective, can be built in areas where there may be no space to safely put new underground cables, are less disruptive (avoiding the usual noise, access restrictions and damage to pavements etc.) and faster to deploy than digging trenches. The lower cost impact can often mean the difference between building gigabit broadband into an area or skipping it entirely.

NOTE: Openreach alone has built about 4 million wood poles – usually c.9 metres high – and that’s before we consider the many builds by electricity, street lights and other network operators.

However, not everybody is a fan of poles. Complaints often focus on their negative visual appearance (some look worse than others), concerns about the risk of damage from major storms (example), and a lack of prior consultation. Most poles are built via Permitted Development (PD) rights and thus don’t have to go through the usual planning process, which means only the most minimal of easily missed prior notice is required (sticking a note to a lamp post).

The loudest complaints naturally occur when new poles are built into areas that haven’t had them before, such as locations that may have previously enjoyed the benefits of largely invisible underground infrastructure (examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

The Latest Complaints

The latest batch of complaints come from various different parts of the country. Firstly, residents of The Sands estate in the Cotswold village of Broadway have campaigned against FullFibre Limited‘s (Fibre Heroes) plans to erect 22 poles on the estate, as well as a further 21 elsewhere in the village, to help run their new FTTP network (here). The operator has already covered most of the rest of the community.

Some residents have said they’re even willing to be arrested if it means they can stop the work, with some planning to park their cars over areas of the pavement where the poles are due to be erected. Meanwhile, others have threatened the extremely dangerous, as well as highly illegal, activity of using a chainsaw to cut down any that do get deployed. Damaging critical comms infrastructure may well result in jail time.

A spokesperson for FullFibre Ltd said:

“We understand that poles can be deemed to be visually intrusive and that they can be unpopular with some, but they are a critical element of our infrastructure, and they are the mode of delivery for fibre to the premises (or FTTP) for around 80% of the population in the UK.

We hope local residents can understand the importance of this build and recognise the very positive impact that this new infrastructure will have.”

Elsewhere, another full fibre network builder, Brsk, is facing similar complaints from the communities of both Wollaston Court and Ravenscroft within the West Midlands town of Stourbridge (here). At present the first area is only covered by Virgin Media’s gigabit-capable broadband network, but Brsk wants to bring more competition, lower prices and faster speeds to local premises via their own FTTP network.

In some cases residents claim to have been told that Brsk will even be erecting some of their poles “in the middle of the gardens and drives“, although we assume they’d still be on the public footpath etc. But we have seen some complaints from people who claim that operators have tried to secure wayleaves for putting them on private gardens too (for smaller properties this would generally be considered, by many operators, to be a bit of a no no – hopefully for obvious reasons).

We note that brsk did withdraw similar plans for new telegraph poles on Ridgewood Avenue during August, following pressure from residents, but at present they don’t appear to have made a similar decision for Wollaston Court and Ravenscroft.

A spokesperson for brsk said:

“We have been made aware of concerns raised by some residents in certain areas of Stourbridge who feel that there hasn’t been sufficient effort to communicate during our fibre roll out process. Our dedicated Midlands team are currently working to address all queries received, as well as reviewing our communication process to ensure corrective measures are put in place moving forward.

We take community engagement very seriously, which is why we are working hard to speak to all residents and councillors who have raised concerns as quickly as possible. We aim to collaborate with local councils and are working closely with councillors across Dudley Council, including Cllrs Tromans and Eccles, as well as the leader of the council.

We are keen to engage with residents and have already started to make improvements to our process, with the support of Dudley Council, to ensure that moving forward we are working collaboratively in the best interests of the community.”

Finally, we come to residents on Clarendon Street in Rochdale (Greater Manchester), who have raised their own complaints against the large metallic radio poles (masts) being deployed by IX Wireless (6G Internet) – used to support their new fixed wireless broadband network (here).

Once again, the area is already covered by Virgin Media’s gigabit-capable network and 6Gi don’t currently offer a faster speed than 100Mbps to homes, so this one doesn’t make quite as much sense as the other FTTP builds.

IX’s poles are also a fair bit taller and wider than the traditional wood pole deployments, and some locals fear they may knock £10k to £20k off the value of their homes (there’s currently no evidence to support that).

An IX Wireless spokesperson said:

“The placement of the poles are within permitted development rules which allow telecom providers throughout the UK to undertake infrastructure work. Our permits are approved by the local council ahead of the installation of the poles.

We target areas where there is a clear demand for faster broadband, and this includes all areas across the region. We are concerned local residents have expressed their upset about the latest installation. We understand that while many people have welcomed investment in the roll-out of digital infrastructure, some people are unhappy and where necessary we are happy to speak to residents who may feel a structure is causing an obstruction.”

So far IX has only promised to speak with locals about their concerns, but they haven’t committed to stop the local deployment and indeed those poles that have already been built are highly unlikely to be removed.

Overall, poles remain one of the least loved pieces of modern broadband and phone infrastructure (not unlike mobile masts). However, with so many network operators now using them to deploy new services, then it’s hardly surprising that the volume of gripes has also increased.

Naturally, we’d all prefer it if broadband, power and mobile infrastructure was totally invisible, but that’s not always economically feasible. The government have allowed the current level of flexibility in order to support their plans for achieving nationwide (c.99%) coverage of gigabit-capable broadband by the end of 2030. Most people seem happy to accept such poles if it means getting full fibre, but it’s definitely not a universal sentiment.

At this point it’s worth noting that there’s a general election on the horizon and, as this issue seems to be slowly becoming more of a political one, then we might in the future see today’s concerns being followed by the reintroduction of some greater restrictions.

The risk there is that such a change could damage existing rollout plans and investments, which might have wider consequences for future deployments – both via poles and underground.

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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 Bob says:

    I am not certain that those poles come under permitted development. Certainly ordinary telephone poles are but these are Wireless Masts and they normally need planning consent. The fact that they are shaped like a pole will not change that

    1. Avatar photo RobC says:

      Wireless masts (within certain rules) come under permitted development as well, provided the ISP is a Code Operator.

    2. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      They aren’t all radio masts, as an example look at Bradshaw Brow in Bolton, they’ve installed additional new poles and appear to be using the new poles to backhaul into Harwood, rather than using Openreach ducts and poles. When the Government introduced Permitted development, I don’t think they intended miles of new poles lining roads where access infrastructure is already available. Obviously 1X don’t have to pay PIA rental on the new poles, so they’ve made an economic decision to use new poles, if all CP’s did the same it we’d be overrun with poles.

    3. Avatar photo Bob says:

      They seem to have changed the legislation in 2022. The legislations seems to have been written around Mobile Masts and not mast for Broadband

      Although permitted development they still need to apply to the local planning authority who have to carry out a Consultation

      Photos of some of these poles I have seen seem to exceed the permitted height they also appear not to be in compliance with the guidance for these masts

    4. Avatar photo Ian Upton says:

      They dreo under 15m but then then IX leve them in and then install transmitters later (after 6 months) illegally ithout “Prior Approval” which they are supposed to get

  2. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

    If the AltNet pole installers are not obliged by OfCom to allow access to their poles under a PIA, the residents can expect 2 or 3 times the number of poles once overbuild starts.
    They’ll also have to have a new hole drilled in their wall each time they swap CP and need a different ONT, so they best keep a tin of touch up paint or squares of wallpaper if they don’t want the view inside the property to be disfigured too.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Which suggests to me that once a customer has fttp installed for the first time they will be less likely to switch suppliers if that means having new infrastructure installed especially if you are required to leave existing infrastructure in place (I imagine for example if you were with Openreach and switched to an altnet you would be required to leave the Openreach ONT’s and CSP’s in place unless they chose to remove them). At least with ADSL/VDSL it usually was just a matter unplugging one router and plugging in another.

  3. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    It would make sense for the siting of poles, masts etc. to be decided in advance and registered with local authorities. The plans would be published on the local council’s website. All providers would be obliged to build or share poles in accordance with the plan, unless there were good reasons for deviating from it, e.g. unsuitable ground, then the providers would negotiate with the local authority to update the plan.

    1. Avatar photo Ian Upton says:

      They are supposed to seek “prior approval” even if permitted development.

      They dont and carry on illegally.

  4. Avatar photo Billy Shears says:

    In a village like Broadway I can understand the objections, elsewhere not so much. The poles really should be shared though otherwise, as someone has already said, you won’t be able to step off the footpath.

    1. Avatar photo rob says:

      Areas of Briadway, parts of the estate in question, do in fact have poles already… 95% of broadway has already been completed without the need for poles…

  5. Avatar photo rob says:

    broadway

    1. Avatar photo AGray says:

      There are no over head utilities of any kind in the area where they want to put these poles up in Broadway. There is already underground infrastructure that will provide FTTP.if a resident so chooses. Full Fibre Ltd still want to put poles up rather than use the existing passive infrastructure as per all the telcomms codes and guidance state they should be doing. Something is not right!

    1. Avatar photo Oggy says:

      Let people be held to ransom by NIMBY idiots.

      No thank you very much.

  6. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    As someone who lives in an area with zero poles I can understand the concern however with 50 year old Postoffice branded ducts in my estate we keep being skipped as no one can be bothered to clear them I really see the other side. I suspect while I and the other home workers/gamers on the road would happily take poles to finally get fiber (long line FTTC is garbage) I suspect the retired residents would kick up a similar fuss should they stick up poles (Had one old guy scream profanities at a trooli guy while he was attempting to rod the old ducts – no idea why – just heard it though my office window while watching the guy from half a street away…).

  7. Avatar photo Ian Upton says:

    Our street is still the only street in the UK to not only prevent a mat going in but have had the wooden poles surrounding the mast removed. See how we did it here .

    You’re wasting your time with petition, cllrs, MPs and objections – direct action has been the only way to have proven work

    We dont object to more technology but e do object to this blatant landscape vandalism.

    https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2023-01-08/residents-protest-against-plans-to-build-a-60ft-mast-in-front-of-their-homes

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/849765036098582

  8. Avatar photo Steve says:

    When Altnets remove poles in response to objections they are creating a problem. Fuelling more objections. Place poles with care, consult appropriately, but stick to plan. These groups believe consultation means they have a veto, they don’t. Don’t give in to nimbyism.

  9. Avatar photo binary says:

    The photos of the large stainless steel IX Wireless poles (masts?) do look pretty unsightly.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I have no problem with normal telegraph poles, been living with them since I was a child, so it is normal for me, also these normal telegraph poles don’t take up much space.
      Not so sure about the Wireless masts, as you say they are huge and looks awful, and also I am not sure if I would want one outside my window.
      Stick them in places where there are no houses or away from houses.

      Three have been trying to erect some masts around here, and they have been refused for a fair few of them.

  10. Avatar photo pointless masts says:

    I live in an area served by 6Gi and currently in the process of having gigabit fibre installed by Brsk but in the time being I have a 5G connection from Three which is 3x faster than the best 6Gi can offer whilst also being cheaper.
    I can’t think of a more pointless company. People I know who worked for 6Gi assure me they had done internal tests which can deliver full gigabit, but that was nearly 5 years ago now and they still only offer 100mb down.

  11. Avatar photo AGray says:

    I live in one of these communities. FTTP has just been provided underground by a new operator, OpenReach also already have underground ducting. The community already has superfast broadband, and residents will be able to connect to ultrafast broadband if they so choose. So why on earth should FullFibre Ltd be allowed to erect poles where there are no existing over head utilities of any kind at the moment and existing passive infrastructure? All telecomms code of practices state that operators should be using existing infrastructures, and this is blatantly being ignored. Why do these companies want to waste their time and our money on installing poles in areas where they are not required? Should they not be focussing on areas who are in need of faster broadband services and connectivity?

    1. Avatar photo Oggy says:

      Do you not believe in competition?

    2. Avatar photo AGray says:

      Residents have a choice of FTTP providers so there is already competition. If FullFibre Ltd want to be a part of it they should go underground as per the other providers and as per the regulations state.

    3. Avatar photo Telecom final boss says:

      Ok

  12. Avatar photo Andrew says:

    I am sure the same people who bitch about the poles or roads being dug up, will also complain that there is no competition in broadband in their area….. there’s just no winning with those people

  13. Avatar photo John says:

    Brsk installed poles on our estate half of which previously had no poles and was served by underground ducts.

    I’ve cancelled my pre order with them. The poles are a huge step backwards imo. The way brsk install them is to chain them to each other so if one pole goes down the entire estate will be cut off till it’s fixed. The BT ones are connected underground with the poles only the last 20m to a house.

    I 100% blame the gov, they have allowed overbuild in some areas and now allow any fly by night provider to build shoddy networks with no local input.

    I’m pretty sure brsk will go bust, hard to see take up being a over 10%, especially when as we already have virgin and BT will be installing fibre next year.

  14. Avatar photo Darren Bentley says:

    We have BTSK working locally to install FTTP in our Area which I think would be great since we only have FTTC available which is limited granted I live a couple of streets away from local telephone exchange so the ping is great for upto a max 72MBS as our fastest internet
    But since they have been working since last week locally my mobile signal is dead I cannot make a call no service or text let alone get any internet via mobile I was not aware that they would interfere with mobile masts but it seems they have or a coincidence I’m on id mobile which is running on three mobiles network when I run id mobiles coverage it states full coverage which I had not fast but able to use calls texts and mobile Internet but now I get nothing running the status checker I get
    We’re fixing an issue with our network in this area. Sorry for any disruptions this may cause.
    Our engineers are working on masts nearby, which means the rest of our network is handling more traffic than usual. We’re working as quickly as we can to provide you with a stronger network in your area. Status updates will be posted here.

    Last updated on 04:15 pm 27 October 2023.this has been the same since 22nd of October.
    But today I discovered I can pick up 5g but only whilst in back bedroom near the back bedroom window.

    5g speed is @ 0.01Mbs down and 0.07 Mbs up on multiple tests biggest gain I got was 1.74Mbs down 0.00Mbs up.
    It’s a joke that I can’t send a text or take a call unless I now go the back bedroom and hang out near the window to send text or make revive calls but that was short lived last a full 5 minutes then back to no service again.

    last week it was 4g at 30-50Mbs down and 27 Mbs up. Now it’s no longer working around the rest of my home I have a case open with ID mobile as they look into this but if I am not getting a basic service I’m a couple of months into a new 24mth contact which isn’t looking good so far.
    I’m all for updating the understructure and faster internet I’m not bothered by the wood poles as we have them anyway they seem to be using existing BT understanding boxes to run through existing ducting I walked the dog last night 12pm and they where hard at it on the main rd working nights. Looked like an all nighter which would be safer for them as our main road it chock a block through day time A666 road to hell.

    Do BRSK work on mobile masts too as this could be why I have zero mobile signal. If they are updating the 5g
    Just none can tell me when I will have my service back id mobile said it will contact me in 7 days but I’m not happy having to hold the phone out of back bedroom window to pick up 1Mbs when 3g was faster .

Comments are closed

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