Is Ewhurst OK for High Speed Broadband?

This was a question posed to me recently, with another, much simpler:

  • What is the location of BT boxes able to connect to high speed fibre?
  • Is every location in Ewhurst OK for HIGH speed broadband?

It’s still a very confusing situation; I hope my replies helped clear things up, and perhaps others may find them useful…

Cabinet locations for Ewhurst, with photos and coverage, can be seen on the cabinet status pages at www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?page_id=3460. Note that the Ellens Green cabinet is not included here because it is on the Rudgwick exchange and so could not be covered by the same project (see instead www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?p=3861).

Anyone within around 1 km of their cabinet (line length) should now have “affordable” access to “superfast” performance (over 24 Mbps). For those very near their cabinet, with cable lengths within about 150 m, the fastest available service is currently up to 80 Mbps. Quite a few could get this in central Ewhurst, but most opt for the cheaper 38 Mbps packages, and this speed is available over a much larger area, up to around 500 m.

This means that perhaps 10% of Ewhurst premises are denied access to “superfast broadband”, along with probably most of Ellens Green. This compares to 4% across the whole of Surrey (see labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/index.php?area=E10000030)

Openreach are trialing various methods for improvements to FTTC performance and “reach”, but have not announced when or where they plan to deploy these. In any case they are stop gap measures; since many copper line lengths will need to be reduced much further at some date. There have already been incremental improvements since FTTC was first installed here, and one such earlier this year appears to have resolved most of the problems we were having with “availability” on long lines. But these have only improved download speeds marginally, and upload speeds not at all.

The (non-binding) 2 Mbps download Universal Service Commitment (USC) is now in force. If someone cannot get this speed from any “affordable” fixed line service, they can apply for a voucher for satellite installation (£400). However, I am in contact with one resident on Pitch Hill who was also unable to get a reliable satellite service. There are likely to be a few others still not achieving the USC, but they have not yet contacted me. 2 Mbps services are barely adequate to access online Government services and to communicate by email, but not usually adequate for video streaming or transferring very large files, for example, and can really only be used by one person or device at a time.

Of course, the universal 2 Mbps USC is a far cry from the promised whole of Surrey “superfast” availability. SCC do have a “phase 2” project in planning stages, see superfastsurrey.org.uk/superfast-surrey-state-aid-public-consultation and www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?p=3962 but they are already saying that available funds will not be adequate to achieve their original goal.

The promised Universal Service Obligation (USO) is now likely to be delayed, since new legislation is required. It was planned to introduce a 10 Mbps USO by 2020. There are many in the Parish without access to an affordable 10 Mbps service, let alone “superfast”. My own connection is around 10 Mbps, and is currently adequate for our household of 2 adults, although our domestic usage is modest compared to others. It is now barely adequate for my business requirements, and does restrict what I can do somewhat. The 0.5 Mbps upload speed is the main problem. Certainly it will become increasingly inadequate well before 2020.

Currently Ewhurst is probably slightly worse off than average in Surrey. This is partly because our FTTC was installed on a “commercial” basis (because of the high demand we demonstrated when applying for the grant), whereas other similar villages were installed as part of the SCC/BDUK funded project, and thus additional funds were available. This extra cash was partly used to provide some FTTP e.g. Alfold including Knowle Lane. In other parts of the UK, BDUK funded projects are still in progress. Even once complete, premises in rural areas will still be far worse off on average than urban areas. Also note that the onus is on the subscriber to seek out their best available service, and to resolve any internal wiring issues, and that the older and slower ADSL services are now much cheaper than “superfast” services.

Openreach will now work with communities who wish to fund certain improvements themselves. One Surrey community has privately funded their own FTTC cabinets. These are two entirely new cabinets to serve an area over 2 km from the existing BT cabinets, a community of 118 premises. Openreach have charged rural communities up to £60,000 (including VAT which may be refunded) to install each new cabinet. See www.gu8superfast.co.uk/?page_id=226. The long lines in our Parish are widely dispersed, so additional cabinets may not be cost effective here. Openreach have been trialing “mini cabinets” for some time, but I do not know if these are yet available for “gap funded” community projects. Also, “native” FTTP seems to have been excluded from these projects for commercial reasons. [Edit 27/09/16 by DN: A BT representative has since indicated that FTTP is now an option. Together with the interest generated by this article, this resulted in my invitation for the community scheme being posted today.]

The Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, developed by the government to support the 2 Mbps USC, has recently been revised to include a number of additional Satellite and Wireless providers (see superfastsurrey.org.uk/revised-better-broadband-subsidy-scheme).

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4 Responses to Is Ewhurst OK for High Speed Broadband?

  1. Thanks for your updates David. I always look forward to them with fingers crossed for some good news. My broadband on Pitch Hill has always been bad – less than 2mbps but about 6 weeks ago it became even worse. I had BT out and they stayed for 6 hours and could not get the line faster than 0.75 Mbps download and 0.10 Mbps upload – certainly not enough to run my business. They do not know what is wrong with it apart from the fact that I am the last property on a long line running up Barhatch Lane out of Cabinet 6. It is very frustrating when properties on Pitch Hill up to the Windmill Pub running out of Cabinet 20 get 15Mbps. Iv’e tried satellite with no luck and will soon try a big aerial on the roof to get 3G. Failing that it will mean renting an office in Cranleigh or Dorking as it currently takes 20 minutes to load Google!

  2. David Nye says:

    Hi Jeannie, I have not forgotten you. I recently sent the following to DCMS (responsible for the USC): “We have a few parishioners still unable to get reliable affordable broadband at 2 Mbps. One of these has already tried a satellite service and tried to get other wireless services, but due to surrounding trees these were not successful. There is an easy solution; provide a line connected to the nearer Cranleigh cabinet 20 rather than cabinet 6, but the BT/Openreach staff we can speak to are unable to authorise this. Surely BDUK should have a mechanism to sort this daft situation out, to meet the USC?”

  3. Glyn Jarvis says:

    A mini-cabinet in the middle of GU6 7SW postcode would be ideal….

  4. Walter says:

    Except new fibre cables will be required all the way from Sayers Croft and with some ducts jammed solid. E.g. they only installed an extra duct loop for cabinet 18′s second duct set when they had jammed the old duct solid with the first tie cables, fibre cable and finally squeezed the 5 pair telemetry cable in.

    Then an extra power cable will be required and an additional phone cable loop installed to intercept the existing cable.

    Now do the same for Somersbury Lane, Lower Breache Road, Northbreach Road, Mapledrakes Road, those around Cobblers Brook, Holmbury Road, Wykhurst Lane, Conyhurst Lane, Moon Hall Road, Two on Peaslake Road, The warren and at least two on Barhatch Lane / Horseblock hollow. Whilst the mini cabinet should be a bit cheaper all the labour and civils costs are almost the same for large cabinets and we are all having to pay for the extra power consumed, assuming there is still sufficient power margin.

    I will leave those with far clearer crystal balls to estimate the costs and delivery timescales for re-cobbling the entire UK Public Switched Telephone Network both in rural and semi-urban areas PLUS all the additional Openreach support effort.

    Finally may I remind you of Dr Peter Cochrane’s (Former BT CTO) comments from three years ago:-

    _____________________________________________________

    All this was so obvious way back in 1986….but ‘real engineering and economics’ has been driven out of the telecoms industry. You can’t beat physics (loss and crosstalk) and you can’t stop Moore’s Law! Mini-DSlams are an insane option!

    To get network reliability and resilience you have to take out electronics not put more in! To get a ‘Green Network’ you have to reduce the amount of material used and energy consumed! And Mbit/s are not enough for an obvious future rushing towards us. We have to start talking Gbit/s. But if you want sub-optimal industries and a population who just sit and watch sport on TV….just keep installing copper!

    With a copper network you need over 6000 switch sites in the UK. If you install optical fibre this number drops below 70. 20,000 man in van crews goes down to 1,000, and all water ingress related faults just go away. Now redo the economic argument. Go figure!

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