More than twelve million pounds is being invested by Dumfries and Galloway Council to speed up the roll-out of superfast broadband. The authority hopes that 100% of all homes and businesses will be connected by 2021. But a business, just ten minutes outside of Dumfries, has spoken out about losing customers due to a lack of internet access.
The Mabie House Hotel is unable to take bookings online because the internet connection isn’t fast enough. The hotel’s manager has criticised the council for not moving quick enough when it comes to providing superfast broadband. People nowadays like to book online there and then they don’t want to sort of go on the website and then have to phone up. We’ve got to do this and we’ve got to do that…they just want to book there and then so it sort of becomes oh we’ll not go there because I’m too busy.”
– Phillipa Proudlock, Manageress, Mabie House Hotel
The owners of Mabie House Hotel can’t get any wifi on site so they set up their broadband hub further down the road with a neighbour. But if the wifi goes down for any reason, they have to wait for that neighbour to come home and reset it.
It means they sometimes go for hours without any internet. At first it wasn’t really an issue because broadband wasn’t a big thing back then.”
We lose on business contracts, basically because we have no broadband wifi so when they come back to the hotel they can’t do their emails they can’t do their work. It’s really quite embarrassing.”
– Phillipa Proudlock, Manageress, Mabie House Hotel
Nationally the average download speed is 23.4 megabits per second. The average broadband speed in the Scottish Borders is just 14.7 megabits per second. Cumbria is above the average at 26.1 megabits per second. The speed is even better in Dumfries and Galloway where it’s 27.3 megabits per second. However, that speed can only be accessed at three quarters of homes and business.
I think in a rural economy our businesses need to be able to compete. You can’t compete without the infrastructure of broadband. You can’t sell the fabulous products we’ve got unless you can reach the customers in their homes and across Europe and the world.
– Gavin Stevenson, Chief Executive, Dumfries and Galloway Council
A friendly family event, a free stargazing evening, is being organised as part of the British Science Week on 12th March. One will have the opportunity to learn more about the moon, the stars and the solar system in this event being led by one of the Biosphere Dark Sky Rangers, Elizabeth Tindal. The event will be hosted at the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere there. It will be also be at Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. Elizabeth Tindal will be helping everyone to get a good look with her astro binoculars at the new crescent shaped moon, besides the dark sky filled with stars to gaze. There will be a chance to discuss about stars and the importance of Earth in the Universe. A small fire will help to bake some damper bread or toast marshmallows. Those interested in joining the free event1 should wear warm clothing and can meet at 7:00pm at the premises of Glentrool Old School, Glen Trool, Dumfries and Galloway. To know more, call Elizabeth Tindal on 01671820814.
Or please send an email to- [email protected]
Eleven pilot projects were given the chase sometime ago by DCMS/BDUK to show what smaller providers can deliver and how they will give better service at a lower cost to the public purse in the final 5% of the UK and now we have an initial report on the findings from the projects1. We presume that a follow up report will happen later in 2016, since some projects still have low take-up due to the time taken to roll-out the new connectivity. While not part of the pilots, Gigaclear who have won several BDUK phase 1 projects is the poster child for what can be done, and the impact of their roll-outs will be increasingly visible in the next couple of years. The summary of what all the pilots have done and actually delivered is shown below:
Supplier and project area Coverage target Technology Premises passed by Dec 2015 1st live premise % take-up Airwave, North Yorkshire 270 premises Wireless 68% Oct 2015 17% Avanti, Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, The Borders, Antrim and Fermanagh Satellite 1,000 customers across 23,472 premises 30% (300 premises) June 2015 3% Call Flow, Hampshire 1,670 FTTP, FTTC, Wireless 80% March 2015 13% Cybermoor 287 premises FTTP, Wireless 100% April 2015 24% Quickline, North and East Lincolnshire Wireless 4,211 premises 85% June 2015 8% Satellite Internet 420 premises Satellite/Wi-Fi 13% January 2015 13% AB Internet 1,600 premises Wireless 0% N/A N/A
The Avanti figures need some explanation and not in the small print, the premises passed is based on the number of premises aware of the service i.e. have had marketing sent out to them.
So to simplistic people like us this means Avanti has only mailed 300 out of the 1,000 target customer level and actually has just 9 customers. Hardly a ringing endorsement for satellite broadband to satisfy an insatiable desire (based on moans from those that cannot get it) for superfast broadband if that figure is correct. Though based on the volume of survey responses in the appendix C of 57 (survey had 93 responses in all) from the Avanti footprint it appears the 3% figure is wrong. The take-up figures from most of the other projects look more in line with what you would expect, and while still well below B4RN levels as soon as you move away from a full volunteer/DIY approach that has had years of community engagement then things tend to happen slower. Another factor is that even in BT/BDUK and commercial areas take-up can vary considerably even across different cabinets in the same village, something that no one has fully explained yet.
On whether the projects have delivered superfast broadband the report is pretty upbeat and includes some basic speed test results, though it appears this is based on just 67 tests from those who responded to the survey which is a very small number, but given number of properties served significant enough. By and large the data we have been also been seeing for the providers we track (and for those small providers we don’t track, all we need is your name and details of your IP blocks) is in line with the BDUK report. The results are skewed a bit low, because a number of providers offered 10 Mbps packages which at a lower cost were unsurprisingly popular with 29 out of 67 subscribing to one and their speeds ranged from 5 Mbps to 14 Mbps, though three did get results of 15 Mbps or more. Another part of the report tells a little more on the buying habits which is that 43 (46%) purchased a 10 Mbps or slower package, and 34 (37%) a package of 30 Mbps, and as we know 29 bought a 10 Mbps service, we know that 14 picked an under 10 Mbps option.
27 of those who ran the BDUK test subscribed to a package of 30 Mbps or faster and only one third registered a speed of over 25 Mbps, and one quarter got speeds under 14 Mbps. This either means that superfast broadband is being watered down, or another possibility that we see is that people when running speed tests don’t always do so in an optimum way and this only becomes more obvious once you are able to collect much larger data sample sizes.
0 to 0.5 Mbps 0.5 to 2 Mbps 2 to 4 Mbps 5 to 14 Mbps 15 to 24 Mbps 25 to 29 Mbps 30 to 99 Mbps Over 100 Mbps Download Speed 3 2 5 28 20 5 4 0 Upload Speed 7 18 18 13 4 5 2 0
The overall result is in line with what we have seen over the last few months and has concerned us at times, certainly if this spread of speed test results was from a larger sample covering a BT/BDUK area there would be lots of complaints and people being dragged in front of committees. There should in theory be some FTTH results in this mixture, but the survey drew no responses from Cybermoor customers and for CallFlow the sample size was just 11 responses so it is possible no FTTH is present in the speed tests at all. The speed test information is heavily skewed towards the satellite services, since 65% of the survey respondents were on the satellite services.
The full report has a lot more in it and the appendices give you further insight into the pilots, but we have to say our feeling is that the pilots have demonstrated a set of options for delivering a Universal Service Obligation of 10 Mbps with some being able to get beyond, but for superfast delivery things look a lot less rosy and that is worrying as we know fixed wireless can deliver based on the speed tests seen from the established operators. Perhaps the real result of the pilots is it will improve the confidence of the local authorities to work with others who are not BT, and the pilot was about double checking some of the costs involved so Westminster will have some idea of what sort of money it needs to find to push superfast closer to 100%. The general of the feeling from those who have joined the pilots seems to be that the connections are better than the previous fixed line broadband offerings they had (which in some cases was no broadband was possible at all).