• Goudhurst gets broadband improvement without BDUK help - next step fibre?

    Kent Messenger article
    I was sent a link recently to a Kent Messenger press article in the July 26th 2013 edition. The Email providing the link was accompanied by the text "Goudhurst gets 1Gbps". This wondrous announcement naturally peaked my interest, as B4RS is designing a network that will deliver precisely this, to every person on the network. Perhaps we'd missed the boat, and someone was putting fibre-optic cables into the ground throughout Goudhurst?

    All too quickly, the clouds began to gather, and the technical reality of what is being provided started to appear.

    When is a Gigabyte not a Gigabyte?

    When it is in fact a gigabit. In the third paragraph of the article, there is the common misunderstanding between gigabyte and gigabit. The writer used "GB" instead of "Gb". One represents 1000 Megabytes and the other 1000 Megabits. It's like buying a car when the dealer tells you it will do 100 Mph, when it actually does 10 Mph. Something you want to get correct, if you want to avoid a conversation with the Trading Standards officials.

    The paragraph continues to suggest that each individual would receive this speed in their own home, which is intriguing. The cost of wireless equipment which can provide a 1 Gbps (the correct way to write 1 gigabit per second) remains prohibitive for householders, and certainly isn't available on anyone's smartphone or broadband modem today. Now, assuming that the Reverend Hugh Nelson is providing the site connection to the internet, with everyone in the village sharing his 1 Gbps link provided by Call Flow, the reality of the situation starts to come home.

    The true speed of the Goudhurst project
    Here's a link to the Call Flow map for the Goudhurst project, where the estimated coverage and speeds are suggested. The Call Flow project displays a map with 15-20 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload coverage. It is important to remember that all the telephone exchanges providing BT Openreach ADSL to this area had been the older ADSL technology - only "up to" 8 Mbps. With Ofcom starting to pressure BT into dropping the wholesale price of this technology, BT are upgrading or have upgraded, 90% of their UK exchanges to ADSL2+, which provides (sometimes) "up to" 20 Mbps, precisely the same speed as the Call Flow project.

    Someone has their sums wrong
    Now, someone is losing out here, or has possibly got their sums wrong.

    Either BT has been less than forthcoming about the reach and capability of the ADSL2+ upgrade in the exchanges relevant to the Goudhurst residents, or Call Flow are competing with the incumbent operator with a hard to differentiate service. Given that Call Flow are a relatively small, yet well respected Kent based ISP, they likely can't afford to make a mistake on this scale. My guess is they do not expect the BT ADSL2+ upgrades to reach their rural project area, or if they do that the BT upgrades will not provide a service comparable to their own offering. There's a dated, yet just as valid today, article about this by Lorne Mitchell on the Goudhurst website - HERE.

    The future is bright - it is in light

    The Call Flow project appears to be radio based, with a microwave backhaul to the internet running at 1 Gbps. This is no doubt a marvelous improvement for the residents across Goudhurst, Flimwell, Lamberhurst and Cranbrook. Where do they go from here? With the limitations of the wireless backhaul, and the in-house radio traffic, and the asynchronous nature of the connection (20 times more download speed than upload speed), the future isn't "that" bright. Were Call Flow to get access to a fibre optic backhaul, at commercially acceptable pricing, and then begin putting fibre optic cables into the ground to the residents' houses, the picture becomes very different indeed! Oh, wait ... that's what B4RN have done, and B4RS wants to do. My question to Call Flow is, why can't you do this?

    The obvious answer would seem to be that this isn't commercially viable. The B4RN and B4RS financial model relies on community investment, and community ownership, and doesn't require a profit margin for shareholders. Maybe that's the difference?

    What do you think?
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. gbrown100's Avatar
      gbrown100 -
      100% right! A typical example of Journalism plucking at the highest number possible with little or no understanding of the subject. It's great that there are companies willing to step in to try to provide a better service and it's likely that this will indeed give a comparable speed to BT but over greater distance (with clear line of sight of course) but it does seem to be dressed up as much more than it is... Namely an ADSL 2+ equivalent service with less speed reduction over distance but with a reliance on fine weather and line of site to the church.