On 19th September those residents who registered interest with Airband on their website received an email that states ‘Great news – Airband is now live in your area! Click on the button below to enter your postcode, view our packages and order your broadband connection‘.
On contacting Connecting Devon and Somerset for some more information the Editor was told that the following Brentor postcode areas are live:
PL19 0LN – PL19 0LR – PL19 0LU – PL19 0LW – PL19 0LX – PL19 0LZ – PL19 0NB – PL19 0ND – PL19 0NE – PL19 0NF – PL19 0NW
Of course some of these postcodes cover a large area and not all properties within them are listed as actually being able to receive the service (when you use the postcode checker from the Airband email). This is because wireless broadband needs a good direct line of sight to operate – trees, buildings and hills prevent it from working. If your property is not listed you are told ‘please don’t panic’. However, if you do wish to find out if your unlisted property can actually receive a wireless broadband service, Airband asks you to sign up for one of their broadband packages (at a minimum total cost of about £740 for two years) in order for a ‘desktop search’ to be done.
Henscott Farm transmitter on 29 September 2016, with dangling wires on the bracket where the backhaul transmitter is presumably to be installed
The two transmitters that Connecting Devon and Somerset told the Editor are now live and serving Brentor are at Henscott Farm (near the A386 north of Brentor) and at Bearwood Farm in Brentor. However, currently there is no transmitter at all at Bearwood Farm and the Henscott Farm transmitter appears to be missing its ‘backhaul radio antenna’ that receives the main data signal, so may not yet be functional. It will be a month or so before the proposed transmitter on the Christchurch tower is due to be working, and Connecting Devon and Somerset inform the Editor that the proposed Wortha Farm tranmitter may not be built at all.
Although the wireless broadband network installed on Dartmoor by Airband is publicly funded and is an ‘Open Access Network’ that can be used by any Internet Service Provider (ISP), at present only Airband is offering to provide broadband as an ISP (although Torbay Telecom is also a provider in the Torbay area). Therefore there is no competition for superfast wireless broadband in Brentor and consequently no pricing competition. This may well be a concern for potential customers.
The Parish Council has received a newsletter from Connecting Devon and Somerset. The information it contains directly relating to Brentor is as follows:
The new tender builds on the phase two National Parks programme already underway in our most difficult to reach areas of Dartmoor and Exmoor. CDS will have by the end of 2016 delivered superfast speeds to around 5,800 premises across the moors, boosting the rural economy.
Airband Community Ltd, the wireless broadband contractor for Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, have concluded their network testing on Dartmoor and have begun to roll out the service to selected communities on an incremental basis. The build on Dartmoor is expected to be complete by the early autumn. Meanwhile on Exmoor the network is being installed and we hope to be able to announce the first connections there in the early autumn.
The CDS Broadband Voucher Scheme, which provides anyone with a broadband speed of less than 2 Mbps with a voucher for £500 towards the cost of a new broadband connection, has received in excess of 2,000 applications. Of these over 1,500 have been approved and the first installations have already been completed. 13 suppliers have joined the scheme with more in the pipeline.
Further details can be found on the CDS website at: http://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/cds-broadband-voucher-scheme/
You can see the entire newsletter sent to the Parish Council by clicking here.
Following a telephone conversation with Matt Barrow at Connecting Devon and Somerset on 11th August the Editor can pass on the following information:-
- Delays in rolling out the Airband Fixed Wireless system have been due to contractual negotiations with BT and Airband concerning areas where the fixed fibre and Airband systems coverage overlap. This is now virtually resolved.
- Already the system is live to premises in South Brent and Ivybridge. These areas are being used to iron out potential technical problems.
- Dartmoor coverage is being divided into nine sectors, and by 12 August four of these will be live and providing a service.
- Brentor will be served by just three transmitters, at Bearwood Farm, on Christchurch church tower and at Wortha Farm.
- Brentor will go live in two stages. The Bearwood Farm transmitter will go live on 29th August, serving the western side of North Brentor and some higher areas that can see this transmitter, such as Station View .
- The Christchurch and Wortha Farm transmitters will go live on 14th November and will serve the centre of North Brentor and the village of South Brentor.
- Some higher parts of West Blackdown will also receive the service, but much of this area in the valley near the Old Station will receive no service at all and may need to find a way of receiving it through the Voucher Scheme, which pays £500 per household to improve broadband where it is below 5mb per second. Potentially by aggregating this money from 8-10 premises an Airband relay station could be built to serve this area, fed from Wortha Farm or another transmitter. This will require the cooperation of all the residents there to achieve a service. Similar arrangements may be needed for other parts of Brentor outside the range of the Airband service.
- As areas go live on the Airband system Brentor residents who have expressed an intererest in using the service will receive an e-mail confirming that they can apply for the service through their choice of Internet Service Provider (ISP, such as Virgin, Talk-Talk etc).
On 22 April an email from Airband was sent to all those who have registered interest in their wireless broadband. It says that a detailed map of the availability of the system on Dartmoor will be available within 2 weeks on the Connecting Devon and Somerset website. Presumably this will provide us with details of exactly which properties in Brentor will be able to receive the service.
The majority of Dartmoor planning applications for transmitter poles have been submitted and to date 12 applications have been approved and not one refused. Deployment of the Dartmoor Airband network is fully underway, with much of the infrastructure mounted on existing buildings or masts now in place. The better weather and improved ground conditions are also allowing installations on new sites to come forward, with 17 sites either complete or in the process of installation. Live connections will apparently become available area by area.
So it looks as though many of us in Brentor will soon be enjoying 30mbs superfast broadband.
The planning for this project has been going on for some time. A broadband briefing meeting for local parishes was held at Mary Tavy Village Hall on 12th November 2015. This was hosted by the Connecting Devon & Somerset programme. It was reported that the government-funded programme to provide microwave-based superfast broadband in the areas of Exmoor and Dartmoor not being provided with fibre-based services is making good progress. The Worcester-based company Airband Community Internet Ltd has been awarded the contract to deliver this service. It will provide a 30mbs Superfast broadband service to the areas of Dartmoor National Park not served by the BT fibre optic cable network, including Brentor. The company has been contracted to provide the service to a minimum of 86% of the homes and business in these areas.
In late February 2016 the Editor spoke to an Airband engineer about the details of our service in Brentor. High capacity microwave transmitters around the edge of Dartmoor will feed encrypted Superfast broadband signals, via a relay of transmitters starting in Tavistock, to several relay microwave transmitters located around Brentor. These will send the data for our homes to small microwave receiver/transmitter units sited on our individual houses.
We were told at the meeting on 12th November 2015 that the system will guarantee reliable unlimited superfast broadband connections with no slowing down at peak times. Quite different to our current service! We were also told that the service would be no more expensive than that provided through cable and that users could also have their telephone provided via the Airband system. There will be a one-off connection charge (about £100-£150) for installation of the receiver/transmitter on our properties. The actual broadband suppliers who bill users (ISPs) will be the same as for cable, such as Virgin Media, Talk Talk etc. Airband itself could also be a provider.
The caveat is that, to receive the service, the microwave receiver/transmitters on individual homes will need to have direct line of sight to the relay transmitters, with nothing (such as hills, buildings or even trees) in between. This may be difficult to achieve in practice to all properties in Brentor.
During last summer Airband engineers surveyed, in house by house detail, the areas to be served, including Brentor. We were told at the 12th November meeting that by 20th November we should be able to find out which houses will be able to receive the service by visiting the Airband website. In fact this did not happen and according to the Airband engineer there will now be no map published showing reception detail at individual house level.
So far there has been only one planning application for a relay transmitter in Brentor parish, at Henscott Farm near Lydford, at the side of Gibbett Hill NE of Brentor (Dartmoor National Park planning application number 0034/16, which can be viewed on the DNP planning website). There is another nearby application for a transmitter at Cox Tor Farm. However, where installations are on existing buildings, Dartmoor National Park Authority has deemed that no planning permission will be necessary. The Editor has been told that there will definitely be a relay transmitter at Bearwood Farm (West of Brentor village) and others sites are being investigated including South Brentor Farm, the Gliding Club and on the top of Christchurch tower.
It was reported at the meeting on 12th November 2015 that the Superfast Broadband service for Brentor will be up and running by the middle of 2016.
When the Editor spoke to Matt Barrow at Connecting Devon and Somerset on 27th November 2015 he was told that if some houses in Brentor could not be provided with superfast broadband due to their location, Airband has also been tasked with providing a minimum of 12Mbs using other methods, such as satellite or radio technology.
IMPORTANT: Airband reports that Brentor residents have shown the highest level of interest in the proposed high speed broadband service. THE MORE PEOPLE WHO REGISTER, THE MORE CHANCE THERE IS THAT WE WILL GET A SERVICE FOR EVERYONE IN THE VILLAGE. If you wish to register your interest in receiving Superfast broadband via Airband you should register interest on the Airband website at www.airband.co AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
For more information and dates of information sessions in other parishes you can contact Matt Barrow, Stakeholder Engagement Officer, Connecting Devon & Somerset at firstname.lastname@example.org 01392 382221. You can visit the Connecting Devon and Somerset website by clicking here.
You can still check your broadband speed by clicking here. (Just click the button marked ‘Start Speed Test’ below the two dials).
Colin Dawes, Editor