Great Mollington Hyperfast

Broadband for the 21st Century

Coverage Area

Introduction

Not all Fibre is the same. There are two main types, Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and Fibre to the Premise (FTTP). FTTP connects an optical fibre direct to the customer's property and is capable of what is termed Hyperfast speed (generally up to 1000Mbps). FTTC only brings the optical fibre to a streetside cabinet (generally very close to the existing telephone cabinet) from which each subscriber's copper connection is linked back to the new fibre cabinet. FTTC can deliver superfast broadband download speeds (generally up to 100Mbps) for those consumers who live close to the cabinet, but can never match the speed that FTTP achieves, especially the further away the customer is from the cabinet. Customers who live more than (say) 2km from the cabinet are unlikely to achieve download speeds of greater than 1-5Mbps. B4RN, if the project gets the go-ahead, will install FTTP to each property where the customer wants it which will provide download speeds of up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps).

 

Great Mollington exchange was first converted to use “Superfast” broadband during 2015. This project managed by Connecting Cheshire (CC) on behalf of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is now into the third of four projected phases.

 

This exchange, and its immediate neighbours, has what is termed Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) for most lines within the parishes of Mollington, Lea-by-Backford, Backford (including Chorlton by Backford and Caughall) and the block of houses in Kinnington Way, Backford Gardens and Rosemere Drive which are actually in Great Sutton. The first two phases of the CC project involved installation of four cabinets sited nearby to the existing cabinets (Cabinet One at the junction of Station Road, Backford with the A41 Liverpool Road, Cabinet Two in Grove Road outside Grove Farm, Cabinet Three in Townfield Lane near to the junction with Well Lane and Cabinet Four outside Costco in Chester Gates Business Park.

 

Phase Three involved the installation of an additional cabinet (Cabinet Five) outside Backford Belles on the A41 and serves the Kinnington Way estate with far better connections than previously available, as well as some additional improvements in Backford itself and for the industrial properties between Station Road and the Canal on the A41 and has also involved the upgrading of service to properties along the Parkgate Road between Overwood Avenue and Fiddlers Lane.

 

Current Status

In 2017 Virgin Media obtained permission to run their new fibre trunk through Lea, Mollington and Saughall to Blacon and then on to Wrexham to replace the existing trunk route through the middle of Chester (which was scheduled to be seriously impeded by the proposed Northgate development). However, Virgin have experienced serious financial issues with building their new Project Lightning network and work to connect the residents of Mollington and Saughall has now been deferred probably until at least 2020.

 

The government's Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) published on 23rd July 2018 states that the existing copper-based network should be replaced entirely with Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) by the end of 2033. The bulk of the "commercial" rollout should be completed by 2025, when it is intended that the existing analog voice network that runs entirely over copper is replaced by Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). That will leave the more remote rural areas still to be converted. This will necessarily require continued funding by BDUK if exchange areas such as Great Mollington and its immediate neighbours are to be converted.

 

You may have seen stories in the local news a couple of years ago about Virgin Media’s announcement that they were intending to connect the majority of properties within a 5-mile radius of Chester to their Ultrafast network. Although work did start at one point it now seems that their plans for our area are on hold due to concerns about its financial viability and will not resume we estimate until 2020 at the earliest.

 

Now a new technology has been announced - wireless, which is being developed primarily by the mobile operators. This is 5G and in theory will give transmission speeds of up to 20Gbps. However, as this article explains, the handsets will not be available in the UK until 2020 and then only in major cities. Also, it must be borne in mind that buildings, especially high ones in the immediate vicinity will degrade the signal, as will internal walls as for present 4G networks.

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Broadband For The Rural North

B4RN started as a community project in Lancashire to bring fibre optic broadband to a rural area suffering from very slow broadband speeds and which was unlikely to be upgraded by Openreach. B4RN has now extended its coverage into parts of Cumbria and Yorkshire and there are also B4RN groups in Norfolk and Cheshire. Bringing B4RN to a new area relies on the support of local volunteers, investors and landowners.

 

The ducting that carries the fibre optic cables are laid underneath farmland wherever possible, having obtained the landowner’s permission, by the local volunteers which means the cost of installing the network is considerably lower than if a contractor such as Openreach were employed to do it. B4RN will provide specialist assistance with obstacles such as roads or railway lines. Please take a look at their website for more information, https://b4rn.org.uk.

We now have our draft core route plans from B4RN and as soon as we have reviewed it, we will be holding another public meeting to allow us to share our plans and progress with you.

 

Raising Funds

We need to raise a proportion of the necessary funds to initiate the work within the community before B4RN will allow work to commence (see https://b4rn.org.uk/b4rn-community/investors/ for more information). This took a matter of a few weeks for Cheshire-B4RN to achieve following their public meeting in September 2017. The build of the network is estimated to be approximately £1,000 per property connected to the B4RN service. This will be funded primarily by enough individuals investing in B4RN, either by purchasing shares or lending money. The terms of each of these methods of financing are explained in some detail on the B4RN website and will have tax benefits attached.

There is now another source of funding from the government - GBVS (Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme) which B4RN have initiated for several of their projects successfully. This will deliver up to £500 per residential property and upto £2500 per business connection, subject to a couple of restrictions - for each business subscriber, we can have up to 10 residents vouchers and there will be a minimum contract term of 12 months. The funds are only paid to B4RN after installation, so this will require the subscriber to pay the initial rental fee in advance. The full details are still being worked out as this article was created, so more information will be available soon.

 

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Taking the B4RN Service

A B4RN connection will give every property or business a broadband speed of 1000Mbps for both uploading and downloading regardless of the time of day and how many other users there are and no data limits. For domestic users it will cost £30 per month to take their service and there is no minimum contract period. There is a one-off connection charge of £150, this is waived if you invest a minimum of £1500 for a minimum period of three years.  For the costs to non-residential users please visit the B4RN website. As B4RN is an internet only service there is no telephone line provided. You can continue paying line rental to your existing phone provider, however, many B4RN users chose to subscribe to a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service instead as it can work out much cheaper. For example, Vonage (https://vonage.co.uk/ ) offers a basic phone package including unlimited calls to landlines for £9.25 per month. Please note, if you register with the project as not being interested, but then decide at a later date you wish to be connected, B4RN will charge you significantly more than the usual £150 fee.

The following table shows our estimate of the comparitive costs of an internet-only service for each of B4RN, Openreach and Virgin Media.

  B4RN  Openreach Virgin Media  Fibre on Demand
Installation Fee  150 55  20 500
Monthly Fee 30 75 50 80
Minimum Contract (Months) 1 12 12 12
Download/Upload 1Gbps/1Gbps 320Mbps/45Mbps 350Mbps/21Mbps 1Gbps/220Mbps

Virgin do not provide symmetric broadband services, although Openreach do, but the cost of Gigabit is significantly higher (Fibre on Demand above) and is also asymmetric and will also involve the survey cost and the FTTP Build Costs - which can be as high as £40,000, making it uneconomic unless a group of neighbouring properties apply.

 

The Next Steps

Once all the replies to this fact sheet have been collated the outcome will be communicated to you as soon as possible. If there is sufficient interest the next step will be to contact B4RN who will provide a suggested route and an outline cost. We held a public meeting on 29th August 2018 at Mollington, Backford & District Village Hall which was well attended. A copy of the presentation is available from here.

 

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