BROADBAND AND PHONES

An Update on Broadband Services for the Village – the Digital Connectivity Group

Further our last update in October 2016, much has happened with the provision of Broadband services to our village.

The Highlights –

  • BT Openreach have provided an optical fibre connection to the main cabinet serving the village by Swalcliffe Barn
  • SugarNet, now owned by Voneus, have provided a point of presence on the Church tower, enabling wireless broadband provision to houses in line of sight with the tower or indirectly via a repeater station
  • A quick check of moneysupermarket.com (other comparison sites are available) shows 9 providers advertising to provide service in the village, each with differing pricing and service options for land line and broadband provision

So this is a lot of progress from our last report, but let’s have a look at the fine print.

We have three choices for the provision of Broadband – either through your phone line or through a wireless connection, or via 4G mobile. The phone line connection is likely to be available to all houses in the village, the Voneus wireless option currently relies on a connection to the Church Tower and 4G mobile relies on good mobile radio coverage.

So what are the pros and cons of each solution?

The service that is delivered via your phone line falls into two types, ADSL and Fast Fibre.   ADSL is the older broadband technology relying entirely on cables between exchange and property.  This service can now be upgraded to Fast Fibre (also known as Fibre to the Cabinet or FTTC), in which a fast fibre-optic cable connects the exchange to a nearby roadside cabinet, but the final connection between cabinet and property still uses the old phone cables.  Fast Fibre is now being offered by BT and other providers but is not an automatic upgrade, it requires an upgrade to your service contract.  Having an optical fibre connection to the village means that high speed broadband is a possibility but the reliability and speed of the connection is by no means consistent since it relies on the old cables to the property which, as we all know, do not have a good history of reliability. This is why broadband providers do not generally guarantee a speed, so there is a possibility of purchasing a high speed package but not getting the speed advertised.

There are websites that let you check the possibilities – https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/index.php is an example that might help you set expectations. The leading Broadband speed check service on Google is https://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/  – this can give you your current speed and allow you to search for options to improve your speed with different providers. You will notice that the site shows AVERAGE speeds – this is defined as the speed achievable by at least 50% of the homes in a postcode area at peak times. This is an improvement on sites that show a theoretical maximum, but still means some homes may not be able to achieve that speed. It is worth talking to your neighbours to find out what their experience is before committing to a new package.

Another key factor in service performance is the condition of your internal telephone wiring and your internal wireless network. Many of us have the nice problem of beautiful houses with thick internal walls which can defeat WiFi, or old or sub-standard internal phone wiring can seriously affect the broadband signal.  For this reason it’s always best to locate your Broadband Hub as close as possible to the master socket, (or get your master socket moved to where the Hub needs to be), get your master socket upgraded to the latest type (which has separate sockets for Hub and phones), use wired data (Ethernet) connections wherever possible between the Hub and your devices, and avoid long or old internal wiring.   It is really worth having your internal wiring checked – as often a good service coming in gets seriously degraded.  There are a number of local companies that can do this work or talk to your electrician.

It’s also worth remembering that although we have perhaps 9 different companies offering ADSL or Fast Fibre services, they all use the same infrastructure to deliver that service. BT Openreach is what is known as a wholesaler, so whether you go to Sky, BT, EE or any of the other companies offering service, the underlying service delivered by BT is the same and many of us have experienced unreliability. What is different is the customer service, support, and pricing levels – but you will always see an Openreach engineer in the village if work on the infrastructure is required.

The village has worked hard with SugarNet and now Voneus to give us a credible alternative to the land line delivered service. This is a wireless radio delivered service so does not rely on aging copper wire infrastructure. The key benefit is a much higher speed for upload and downloads. Also, Voneus, whilst a national operator, is much smaller than the key brands that you will see on the comparison websites – so their service is much more personal. Admittedly, we have had some issues with the service during bad weather, but their commitment to our village is strong. Clearly to maintain this we do need residents who can take advantage of the service to see it as a credible alternative to the phone line delivered options.

The 4G option also bypasses the Openreach cable network and provides a wireless connection via the mobile phone network and requires a contract with a mobile service provider.  This works well for some residents notably in the outlying farmsteads where there is a good signal, but the mobile signal in the core of the village is very poor and is unlikely to provide a satisfactory broadband connection there.

So what should you think about when considering a broadband supplier?

For us, customer service is paramount. Issues will always occur, but how the supplier reacts is most important. Some providers do offer a connectivity promise – BT for example will provide a mobile data alternative if their service is interrupted. But if you are in an area that has poor mobile reception this will be a poor or ineffective solution. Voneus seem keen to support their local customers here.

Price is always an issue. But to our mind you do get what you pay for, so cheap deals rarely provide value.

Speed is a key consideration. Download and upload speeds determine how usable the service is and what you can use it for – some applications require good speed, such as streaming TV content, others, like email, can function well at low speeds. So what you use your broadband for is an important consideration. There is an interesting article from Which? that can help – https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/broadband-deals/article/what-broadband-speed-do-i-need

As a very rough rule of thumb, at the time of writing, ADSL (standard Broadband) should deliver up to 14Mbps download and about 1.5Mbps upload, the new fibre services will average around 60Mbps download and 18Mbps upload, and Voneus around 19Mbps download and 17Mbps upload.  Sugarnet (Voneus) is unique in that it provides the same speed for uplink and download.  This is highly valued by anyone running a business or regularly posting a lot of stuff since the upload process is much faster than with ADSL.

So, in conclusion, much has changed – progress has bought new challenges. Do please share your challenges with us – the more we know about issues in our village the more we can do to ensure that we get the services we need.  And you can help yourselves, and us all, by complaining to your service provider if your service is faulty or unsatisfactory.  It’s hard work complaining and “putting up with it” is easier, but if the provider does not know there is a problem or dissatisfaction they will not improve.

We would also be happy to chat through any issues and share our experiences with any of you considering your next steps in digital connectivity.

Please contact us through the village Facebook page –https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/Swalcliffe-village-page-1418387438427415/

or from this website https://swalcliffevillage.co.uk/index.php/contact-us/

The Digital Connectivity Group