A large proportion of our District Council Ward was neglected by the first phase of Superfast Broadband. This left residents and businesses frustrated by faltering broadband, sometimes under 1Mb, unreliable service and little obvious confidence of improvement ‘any time soon’.
It has been a long and frustrating campaign so far, but that looks likely now to change… At our meeting last year, some may recall a few ‘chuckles’ when I suggested ultimately those NOT served by BT Openreach under the original Connecting Devon and Somerset Broadband programme, could actually end up with the best service in the longer term.
Is that really likely to happen here?
Yes - results of the Connecting Devon and Somerset Phase 2 procurement, I described at the Uplyme Village Hall meeting last October, have now been announced.
We are in tender package 5 of the 6 areas tendered, one of four awarded at the time of writing. All four have been awarded to Gigaclear, in part of the largest Government funded Superfast Broadband project in the UK.
A £62.25m network is to be delivered to an additional 35,225 of the hardest to reach homes and businesses in Devon and Somerset, by 2019. This includes £43.8m of private funding.
How will it help us?
Everything associated with our ‘online life’ will be massively faster. A movie will download in less than a minute, 200 holiday snaps upload in under nine seconds, or a full album download in a few seconds. Working from home will be a ‘breeze’, with connections better than most of those available to city centre businesses. Businesses will be able to grow and reduce costs, without moving from our beautiful area.
Why will it be so much faster?
The recent investment by BT Openreach is based on their aging copper based network. Whilst referred to as a ‘fibre’ network, it typically only includes a superfast optical fibre link between the exchange and the ‘green cabinets’. From here a geriatric copper wire carries signals to and from our homes and businesses. Whilst speeds are maintained over long lengths of optical fibre, speed over copper decrease rapidly, the longer the wire run from the green box to our premises.
In contrast, the Gigaclear network is referred to as ‘full fibre’ or FTTP. The whole of the network is optical fibre and speed can be maintained over long distances.
A further reason for the difference is that the BT Openreach service ‘upload’ speeds are much less, typically only 20%, of advertised ‘download’ speeds.
Again, the new Gigaclear network will be different. Speeds of up to 1,000Mb will be available to all premises connected, whatever the distance. Upload speeds will be the same as download, which makes the experience massively quicker.
Who will be able to get Ultrafast 1,000Mb broadband?
I have seen the map which covers the proposed investment in our area, but am not yet able to publish details.
I can however confirm that it includes a significant proportion of Uplyme, Rousdon, Combpyne and Axmouth premises, currently badly served by BT Openreach because of their long copper connection distance between their properties and ‘green cabinet’.
However, you can find out if you are likely to be in the Ultrafast programme now…
Simply, go to the Gigaclear website via the link https://www.gigaclear.com/postcode-checker/ enter your postcode and, if offered the choice, select your individual property.
If the information suggests you are ‘under review’ then congratulations – you are in the programme. Sadly if, like me, the return asks you simply to register interest, you are not currently in the programme – although a strong registration of interest may help change that!
When will it be available?
The contracted service is scheduled to be available by the end of 2019. Whilst it would be great to get a service first, my personal view is that we will be toward the end of the programme, due to our location at the extreme of the planned network.
How much will it cost?
Currently, Gigaclear offers home users unlimited service between £41.30/month at 50Mb upload and download and £76.60/month for a 1,000Mb upload and download service. You will not need to retain your BT line, as a telephone service is also available. There is no additional ‘line charge’. Full details are on the Gigaclear website at www.gigaclear.com
Can we do anything now?
I encourage everyone to register on the Gigaclear site www.gigaclear.com whether it indicates you are in the scope of the current investment or not. This carries no obligation at all, but greater interest can only speed delivery to our area and access for the greatest possible number of premises.
In the interim, several local residents are now enjoying an excellent, if not inexpensive service through a fixed 4G service (the same as your mobile phone network) which, despite the fact that the Connecting Devon and Somerset voucher scheme has now finished, may still offer a valuable alternative for those who need a better broadband service now.
This article is also published in the February 2017 edition of the Uplyme Parish Magazine.