Following a telephone conversation with Matt Battow 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 in 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 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 also 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 will 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.
- 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 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 email@example.com 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