Our Chance to Upgrade Little Comberton's Broadband
Little Comberton Parish Council Coordinator: Nigel Jamieson
Contact through the LC email account
Mid May Update
The broadband coordinators for our local villages have had a virtual meeting with the Worcestershire Broadband team to discuss progress and to understand decisions that need to be made. This document will hopefully keep you informed and help us with decisions as to the way forward.
We are delighted to report that Worcestershire has been selected to be one of the first counties to benefit from the new ‘Project Gigabit’ – the Government’s objective to cover at least 85% of UK premises with gigabit broadband infrastructure, once the initial pilots have been completed. Although it is great news for Worcestershire, our communities are not guaranteed to benefit from this deployment. Securing gigabit broadband service, otherwise known as full fibre to each premises, we believe to be an excellent opportunity to “future proof” our homes. Download speeds that seem adequate now, may well prove inadequate in the future and the grant scheme currently favours Worcestershire rural homes.
Where we are now
We have more than 50% of households in all the villages interested in FTTP (Fibre To The Premises). By joining villages together we gain from collective savings and upgrading our area becomes a more viable option for the broadband companies so we have been working on costs as a group of 5-8 villages, possibly including: Little Comberton, Great Comberton, Elmley Castle, Bricklehampton, Cropthorne, Fladbury, Wick and Eckington.
We have initial estimates from Openreach and a Worcester based company called Airband.
Using all the Government vouchers we are entitled to, we still fall well short of Openreach’s estimated costs meaning that we would need everyone to make a financial contribution. As this is outside what we proposed we do not think going any further with Openreach is an option.
However, Airband is able to provide the infrastructure and installation within our financial constraints so we need to share with you the pros and cons of their offer so we know whether to proceed or not.
Airband is a growing Worcester based company who has been in the wireless broadband business for some years and has now expanded into the FTTP market. The company has successfully installed FTTP networks in Kempsey, Welland & Stock Green to name the few projects in Worcestershire. It, along with a number of other growing companies elsewhere in the country, is an approved provider and would use elements of BT/Openreach’s infrastructure to overlay the FTTP alongside our existing phone cables. Our existing BT/Openreach phones and internet access across the old wires would remain unchanged. After the new contract period, if any villagers were not satisfied with the quality of service, they would be able to return to their previous setup and internet service provider (ISP).
The Pros & Cons with Airband
Using Airband is within our budget so there would be no personal costs for the network build, cabling, hardware in our homes and installation or monthly landline charges. So long as we have sufficient homes it would undertake the collection of the Government vouchers on behalf of customers during the initial contract period. Airband would hope to start work towards the end of this year and then install to homes in early 2022. We would all have to sign an ISP contract with Airband and terminate our current internet services. Airband has indicated it will offer up to £250 to help customers terminate their current ISP contracts if necessary.
Airband is a small developing company and currently does not have agreements with any other companies to offer ISP services, although they are in the process of bringing other service providers to sell over their network, as this is one of Government’s requirements. At the time of signing any agreement we would not know of any future competitive packages. The Government voucher scheme stated that all recipients would have to sign up with their new ISP for at least 1 year. The shortest package Airband currently offer is 24 months although an 18 month initial contract is very likely but at the time of writing this is not confirmed. Details of its current packages seem comparable with other companies and are shown below.
There are still a number of unanswered questions that we need Airband to address and will obviously share their responses as soon as they become clear.
Before we progress with more comprehensive negotiations, including detailed surveys to ensure Airband cover all homes, including properties that fall outside village boundaries, we need to know if the majority wish us to progress with Airband? We are happy, and Worcestershire Broadband team does not have any concerns with progressing with Airband, to move on with the project towards the next stage of a finalised quote. We will be asking for an opportunity for villagers to meet with Airband where we would receive and share all finalised details before we ask anyone to sign individual contracts. However, we would ask any residents who DO NOT wish to be included to email us to remove them from our lists. In the event that significant villagers withdraw then we will let you know and will probably have to end the project.
Please email Nigel Jamieson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to withdraw from the scheme. If I do not hear from you I will assume you wish me to continue working with the other village coordinators and Worcestershire Broadband team to start more detailed negotiations with Airband.
Other projects undertaken by Airband
6,200 premises in Devon: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/02/cds-updates-on-uk-isp-airbands-devon-fttp-broadband-rollout.html
12,000 premises in Oxfordshire: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/03/rural-isp-airband-brings-gigabit-broadband-to-oxfordshire.html
4,500 premises across Herefordshire & Shropshire: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/07/isp-airband-fast-tracks-full-fibre-rollout-in-herefordshire-uk.html
2,200 in Shropshire: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/01/isp-airband-make-ultrafast-broadband-progress-in-shropshire.html
The above are full fibre deployments, many previous ones are wireless, which is not what is being proposed for your community: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/03/wireless-broadband-isp-airband-grows-and-moves-into-new-uk-hq.html
Airbands investment: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/11/airband-target-fttp-for-500k-uk-premises-after-investment-deal.html
Mid April Update
Email received 19/4/21
I chased Openreach today, and things are slowly getting back to normal after a massively busy period.
They are in the process of producing the final quote and looks like they are looking to produce one quote for all 6 projects (despite being on 2 exchanges).
It looks like they have produced an initial indication for 973 premises across all 6 areas at c. £1.2m (this is still being revised and expected to be reduced). Although it is high value, it actually is a very good cost per premises at c. £1.3k.
Lets wait to see when the final cost arrives.
That said, I have also shared your project areas with 3 other suppliers, potentially interested in providing a quote.
If I hear back from them - I will of course share their quote immediately.
Superfats Worcester Team
Late March Update
Worcestershire to benefit from 'Project Gigabit' launch
We are delighted to share with you the news about ‘Project Gigabit’ and inclusion of Worcestershire amongst the earliest areas to benefit from the launch of this £5bn scheme: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/03/gov-starts-gbp5bn-uk-gigabit-broadband-and-voucher-schemes.html & https://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/news/article/2480/worcestershire_to_benefit_from_project_gigabit_launch.
Many areas already benefit from superfast or ultrafast connectivity and we are continually updating our interactive map available here: https://www.superfastworcestershire.com/#where-when
Launching in April, Project Gigabit will largely be driven by three core strands:
Project Gigabit; where Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) will work closely with local authorities to extend gigabit coverage through a centralised procurement approach. More details will be shared in the coming months,
Hubs: Over the next 3 years, up to £110m of government funding will be invested into connecting rural schools, GP surgeries, libraries and other public buildings to bring new fibre right into the heart of communities for the first time. These buildings will then act as ‘hubs’, from which industry can connect surrounding homes and businesses.
Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme: Over the next 3 years, up to £210m will be allocated to deliver a Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which we know from experience provides a rapid method for communities to club together and get a subsidised upgrade. These vouchers will be available to rural businesses and households with current speeds of less than 100Mbps in areas unlikely to receive commercial gigabit broadband rollout.
If you are part of an existing Community Project – you do not need to do anything - we will be in touch in the next couple of weeks, to discuss next steps for your project. If you would like to start a project in your area – please contact us from April onwards via email on email@example.com.
The Superfast Worcestershire Team
March 2021 Update
We have completed everything required by Openrach to register all our interests in improving FTTP broadband for Little Comberton. Along with our other local village coordinators we are being advised and helped by Robert Stepniewski, the Worcester Senior Project Manager, Broadband & Connectivity Team. We have asked for an update for our villages and he has provided the following summary:
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are keen to continue voucher-supported delivery during 2021 and the details of a new scheme are expected imminently - targeting the hardest to reach areas which are least likely to benefit from commercial rollout.
While the majority of rural premises are likely to remain eligible for the new voucher scheme, in order to ensure that vouchers continue to support premises in the hardest to reach areas to access gigabit-capable connections, those that are likely to receive commercial rollout (Ofcom's proposed Area 2 postcode sectors) will not be eligible. Your project is expected to remain eligible.
We believe that DCMS aim to provide further information imminently.
At the same time, Openreach are in the process of producing quotes for projects, which are expected to continue post April (like yours).
As soon as I hear more I will let you know but for the moment it appears we are in a waiting game.
We have now closed registration for the Gigabit Broadband scheme with over 90 residences in the village having requested to be included. If you have missed the deadline pleasse email the village email account and we will hold your details in the hope that your home can be added at a later stage.
We now expect Openreach to carry out an onsite survey over the following months to produce a final quote and contract. It looks probable that Openreach will combine us with Elmley Castle, Bricklehampton and Great Comberton. We are working with Worcester Gigabit team to try to make sure all costs can be met. We will work with Openreach on your behalf to claim the vouchers and will probably ask for a small working group to look at the plans and contract once we have received them.
With the number of applications being processed across the country we can expect at least a year before any installation works take place so there is no need to worry at this time about renewing your ISP provision.
The installation is likely to use our current infrastructure. Most of the fibre optic cables should follow the old phone lines and are fixed to the same poles. Within the home they bring the cable into the house terminating in a wall mounted box. The new terminal will need to be positioned so it can be plugged in for power. Your modem (if it is less than 5 years old) can be plugged into the new box rather than the BT socket. Our old phone phone lines remain so phones etc remain unchanged. An example (a bit techy) can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-6LKAPlEyk
The only commitment any of us will have to make will be to sign up to an ISP for a 1 year package of at least 30MB. There are a range of providers and more are being added all the time as this rollout continues. Nearer the time I hope to work with a few of you to identify the best deals and hope to bring in quotes which offer best value similar to current costs. Current ISPs offering FTTP packages: https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/fttp-providers