Just as the rest of the world discovers 5G mobile networks (which is a whole other story), we finally have 4G coverage in the Balquhidder area. That is on the EE network, and via their new masts that were installed for the new Emergency Services Network (and don’t get us started on THAT).
So, if you’re thinking of moving to EE to take advantage of this, be aware that there are a few things to consider:
- The network locally, as in many rural areas, runs at 800MHz, a lower frequency than most 4G networks (including most of the rest of EE’s). That has two effects – it reaches further (good) and has a lower data bandwidth (less good). Anywhere else, your phone will automatically choose whichever frequency is available. At Stronvar, I’m getting about 5Mb/s download and 2-3Mb/s upload indoors and about 5Mb/s both ways out of doors.
- It’s 4G only, which means that you either have 4G or nothing – unlike other places, it doesn’t fall back to 3G when you run out of 4G coverage. Again, that’s only an issue where a base station is 4G only, such as in the glen. This means that there may be some dead patches in the glen, particularly heading up towards Monachyle Mhor – I haven’t had a chance to test this out yet.
- Latency is ridiculously bad here – around 650ms and about 10x worse than it should be – which could cause problems for some online services. I have no idea why that’s the case – there’s no good reason for it.
- If you buy an EE SIM for your phone, EE doesn’t automatically configure your account/SIM for the 800MHz network, so it appears that you have no coverage. It takes a call to EE support to get this sorted.
There’s no sign yet of Vodafone or O2 getting their act together on 4G for the local area yet, despite the latter putting in for planning consent several years ago. So if you need data coverage when you’re away from your broadband’s Wi-Fi and the coverage works for you, EE seems currently to be the only game in town.
After a longish stretch of fine, dry and bright weather, it was entirely predictable that the day for the blowing of the first fibre in our network would see the weather revert to type, dark and soggy was the order of the day – the Scots word “dreich” covers it beautifully. Continue reading Fibre: Reel to Real
In March 2017, following a second failed procurement run through Community Broadband Scotland, we formally withdrew from that public funding process and reverted to seeking de minimis (up to €200,000) public support for our project. This followed more than three years effort in engaging with CBS, and that after its taking two years to establish whether or not we would qualify for funding. So the decision was taken with the greatest reluctance, not least because doing so would create a significant shortfall in our project budget.
Now, a parallel community project, with similar goals to ourselves and itself with a great deal of expertise, North Skye Broadband, has also been forced to withdraw from the public funding process, issuing this press release, one that we could have issued practically unchanged to describe our own experience.
Continue reading North Skye, BCB, CBS and R100
Images from planning, preparation and the first dig at Stronvar…
…or it is when the first segment of the network has to run along an unmade track. But here’s the first demonstration that we’re finally turning years of effort and planning into reality: this, today, is the very first section of dig for the first network segment.
It’s slightly ahead of the rest of the project – our local property developer needed to surface the track to his plots so has kindly offered to dig in the ducting for us, to save us (and him) from having to dig up his newly surfaced road again in a few weeks’ time.
But this is going to serve the first segment of network from the access point to the fibre backhaul at Stronvar, from where the network will be radiating out to the rest of the glen, just as soon as we can get ourselves and suppliers organised – that’s an ongoing job.
We’ve also got the final network design review happening next week, after which we should have everything nailed down, routes and equipment chosen. Then we’ll really be ready to get going.
As many will know by know, the pioneer project in self-assembly broadband isn’t Swedish, but from Lancashire, where the staff and volunteers of B4RN have now rolled out true fibre broadband, so far to 2600 properties, with the number growing by the day. Their service is truly future-proof, delivering 1Gb/s now, rising soon to 5Gb/s for those who want it. To put that into perspective, that’s 3x as fast on download and 17x as fast on upload as BT’s fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service, even in the few areas where that is available. And it’s 12.5x as fast on download as BT’s so-called “Superfast Fibre” (which it isn’t). And, when there’s a demand for even more performance, all B4RN has to do is turn up the wick, not dig up the ground.
Continue reading B4RN Storming
We set up BCB after years of trying to persuade BT to do something – anything – to improve local broadband. Where they’ve been consistent is their contention that our area is not a viable commercial proposition even for their half-baked FTTC service. They wouldn’t even engage with us to help develop our model through their community outreach programme, although they did tell The Telegraph that we’d turned them down. Not so. Continue reading BT Moving in Mysterious Ways
The original R100 was the most successful British airship of the 1930s, insofar as it never actually crashed and burned, unlike rather too many of its contemporaries. So let’s hope that’s a good omen, as the Scottish Government’s new broadband programme has been given the same name. In this case though, it stands for “Reach 100%”. By that, they mean provision of coverage of 100% of properties with “superfast” broadband by 2021.
Continue reading R100
Things may have been a little quiet publicly on the broadband front, but that simply means that, like the swans on the loch, we’ve been paddling furiously beneath the surface, trying to make headway against rising currents. Those currents have been in the form of some hair-rending bureaucracy that’s been belatedly thrown at us by government bodies and which are currently causing us months of delay. So let’s first rewind to this time last year, when we entered into the procurement process required by Community Broadband Scotland for public funding. We followed their process and went out to market to solicit bids for a future-proof broadband service that could be provided at a market-competitive rate. What we got back were a few bids that were mostly poorly prepared, didn’t meet local needs and which offered equipment that would need replacing every few years. Uncool. Continue reading Project Update: June 2016
Yes, these are pictures of a nuclear bunker, this being the forthcoming Bogons data centre near Comrie. It is also where our fibre should meet that of the wider world and will, we hope, achieve economies of scale from aggregation with other users that will make our network ever cheaper to run: if we just bought our backhaul (the link between the glen and the wider internet) at about the same initial cost from a commercial provider, we’d still have to pay Openreach’s Excess Construction Costs to get the link from the Strathyre Exchange to the entrance to the glen, but we’d never thereafter gain any benefit from others using the wider link. With the bunker, the idea is that we start at par and then go down in cost from there.
Continue reading Two Steps Forward, One Step Back…