FAQs

Phase 1 Rollout

I am a Service Provider, what do I do?

We are keen to ensure that broadband service providers are aware of the location of the newly built infrastructure and how to get access to it. Service providers can register with either BT Openreach, in phase one areas, to get this information and Gigaclear & Airband for phase 2 and the National Parks.

We had a new green cabinet installed in our town / village months ago – why has no-one been able to get superfast broadband yet?

Providing superfast broadband to an area requires a huge amount of engineering work, often with many miles of brand new underground fibre cable being installed. Building the new cabinet itself is often the first activity that takes place, as it also needs to be connected to the fibre network, electricity supply and copper connections to the existing cabinet. This can take between six to nine months due to the complexity of the work being undertaken, which often requires road works and permission to work on private land – all of which required additional time. Even once fully connected, it needs to be tested rigorously by Openreach engineers.

We work as hard and as quickly as we can to connect people, but given the amount of work that needs to be done, it often takes some months between the appearance of a new cabinet and residents and businesses being able to take out a superfast broadband contract.

Some parts of Devon and Somerset are EO fed and will see 2 new cabinets appear. The first cabinet is installed for Openreach to create a new copper cabinet and requires additional work before the new Superfast Broadband cabinet can be installed.

I am thinking of buying a house within the CDS programme area, what sort of things should I look out for to ensure that I get a decent broadband supply?

As a first step, you will need to establish the existing speed of supply to the properties you are considering. If there is currently a live broadband connection to the property, we suggest making contact with the estate agent who will decide if you are able to run a check using one of the numerous broadband speed test websites. If this is not possible, you can use BT’s broadband availability checker website to check the potential speed of connection currently available to the property, using the existing telephone number.

If broadband is indicated to not be currently available using one of the methods above, check the CDS website to see if it is within the CDS programme area, and whether there is an expected timetable for connection.

If you are thinking of buying a new build, talk to the developer and ask what they are doing to provide Superfast Broadband to the site. Unfortunately it is unlikely that CDS will be able to provide Superfast Broadband to this development until the next phase of delivery and the responsibility for connection rests with the developer.

What is an EO Line?

EO fed is a term used to describe a premise which is supplied using an Exchange Only line, one which is attached directly to the exchange, i.e. not via a cabinet.  This has an impact on the provision of Superfast Broadband in a number of ways since, to provide service, we need to insert a cabinet, using copper re-arrangement, or provide a Fibre To The Premises solution.

 

My provider has told me that commercial plans already exist for Devon and Somerset. Why doesn’t Connecting Devon and Somerset just leave private companies to rollout the infrastructure?

Various commercial providers have made announcements about locations where they intend to roll out next generation access (primarily fibre broadband).

In areas where commercial rollouts are planned to provide services that meet the aims of Connecting Devon and Somerset we won’t be required to spend any public money. However, commercial plans stand to exclude around 360,000 premises and 26,000 businesses within the 6 local authority areas making up the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme. These premises have no long term commercial plans for upgrade to next generation access and the Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme has been set up to address this.

You can find information about both the Connecting Devon and Somerset and commercial roll out plans on our Where and When map page.

How are you prioritising areas for roll-out? / Can we influence the roll-out schedule?

Given finite funds and resources, as well as the sheer size and complexity of the programme (the largest of its kind in England by some considerable margin with two national parks and large areas of rurality); it is not practical to adjust plans based on anything other than engineering, logistical and technical factors found after detailed surveying.

We have to base the roll-out on the most efficient delivery pathways we can take – such pathways determined by each new run of Openreach’s model, itself informed by the latest survey and in-the-field information.

Inevitably of large consideration will be engineering and planning requirements and constraints. For example, before we can reach the hardest areas we have to ensure the necessary foundations are in place to support the new network. This will involve building out from current infrastructure in order to reach such areas in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

Such a process also means that projections of coverage and delivery timescales can stand to change on the back of survey work and in-the-field factors. Ultimately however, by ensuring the planning process remains dynamic to survey and in-the-field information, we should ensure we remain on time, to budget and to target.

Where there are numerous potential delivery pathways we can take, we may refer to the inputs from our former demand registration survey as evidence of demand to help prioritise areas.

How much will it cost me if I chose to switch to a superfast service available in my area?

The cost of a fibre service will ultimately depend on which internet service provider (ISP) you choose to go with, as well as the tariff/buddle you choose to purchase. To gain an idea of how much a fibre service will cost we would suggest you enquire with a range of ISPs.

How will I know when fibre broadband is available for my house/business?

In terms of infrastructure availability, the status of each postcode in the programme can be checked using our Where and When map. We also use social media and inform local press and parishioners, as well as sending leaflets and list of postcodes to parishes.

In terms of service availability our delivery partners will notify all internet service providers (ISPs) of infrastructure availability before a cabinet becomes customer ready for service (CRFS). If an ISP subsequently takes up this infrastructure they may send their own marketing material to the area in question.

Ultimately the service and speeds available at a premises will depend on the copper line distance between a cabinet and a premises (unless the connection is fibre to the premises); whether the ISP of choice has taken up the infrastructure; and what packages and tariffs you choose to go with if available in your area. All such factors may be determined by contacting an ISP.

We would suggest investigating a range of ISPs to get a broad idea of the range and price of services available.

I have been told I can get high speed fibre broadband, do I need to do anything?

You will not automatically be connected to the new service. You will need to purchase a new fibre package from an internet service provider (ISP) of choice. Please note that the cost of a superfast service may differ from your current broadband/internet service.

Once your order has gone through, an engineer will install the necessary equipment at your premises.

Is there a chance that despite the rollout of superfast broadband I may not get access to it?

Some locations are so geographically remote that superfast broadband will not be achievable due to technical reasons and/or prohibitive costs. However, we aim to ensure that every part of the programme that currently receives less that 2Mbps gains uplift to speeds between 2-23Mbps.

Is this programme really going to help rural areas?

The Connecting Devon and Somerset programme specifically aims to deliver improved broadband for rural Devon and Somerset. Funding has been awarded on the basis that it must be spent in areas that will not benefit from commercial investment. These areas are predominantly rural.

However, in order to reach the most rural areas in the quickest and most efficient way possible, we have to ensure the necessary backhaul infrastructure (foundations) are in place to support the new network. This will involve building out from current infrastructure in order to reach the most rural areas, whilst at the same time ensuring value for money and the greatest potential overall coverage for the programme as a whole from current funds.

My area has been upgraded by a commercial provider but I cannot receive superfast broadband – will I still benefit from this project?

When commercial providers announce that they are upgrading an area to fibre they do not necessarily upgrade all premises in the locality – usually only those that will provide a return on investment (typically 50-85% of cabinets).

There is also an issue of premises served by direct lines (exchange only lines) that do not pass through a green cabinet at all, and so can miss out on receiving the new superfast service.

Where an area is not receiving a superfast broadband service and there were no commercial plans for next generation access back in 2012 (the areas shown as white on this map) then the area is “in scope” for the Connecting Devon and Somerset project.

What did you do with the results of the survey filled in by residents and businesses?

The survey itself has been influential in building evidence of demand as well as informing the generation of baseline speed data. Where there are multiple potential delivery pathways we can take, we may refer to this survey as evidence of demand, in turn helping to plan our rollout progress. The information within the survey may also help our communications, informing any resident on the list within a newly upgraded area of infrastructure availability.

What improvements can I expect to see?

Faster broadband means more people can work from home, access online services and stay in touch with friends and family across the world (saving them time and money). It also means our businesses can communicate fully with overseas partners and customers, whilst at the same time providing our young people access to essential information for their research projects and homework.

Except in our big population centres (eg Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Torbay), access to broadband is very limited. Our project aims to extend the reach of faster broadband to market towns and rural communities, boosting superfast (24Mbps+) coverage to premises within the programme’s footprint.

When you roll out Superfast Broadband can I choose my superfast supplier or will I have to sign up with whoever you appoint?

Our supplier is only responsible for installing infrastructure capable of delivering a high-speed broadband service. Any Internet Service Provider (ISP) can choose to lease this infrastructure on a wholesale basis from Openreach, in order to provide customers with a better broadband service. You will be able to purchase a broadband service from any ISP that has taken up the new infrastructure in your area.

Why do your roll-out maps include details of the commercial roll-out?

We think that it is helpful for our residents and businesses to be able to see plans for the whole area and not just the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme. As such we have worked with infrastructure providers to provide maps that include both CDS and commercial roll-out plans. We hope that you will find this useful.

Will I have to use a new, high speed, broadband service or can I stick with my current broadband package and internet service provider?

If you have been made aware that a high speed broadband service is available in your area it will be up to you whether you wish to purchase this new service or just stick with your current broadband package and internet service provider (ISP).

If you do wish to upgrade, you may be able to keep your existing ISP but you will need to check with them about the options available to you.

Will there be disruption during the rollout?

The nature and size of this project means that there will inevitably be some disruption across the region during installation and rollout. However, we will work closely with BT and the relevant Local Authorities to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum. Where there is a need for road works and/or other intrusive works these will be publicised locally nearer the time through the various planning processes and procedures we have to follow. BT will be required to work closely with the Highways Agency and Local Authorities and give local residents, landowners and businesses notice of any disruption or local impact.

Phase 2 (National Parks)

I’ve heard a bit about Airband, what is it?

Airband Community Internet are our National Parks supplier and are working with us to bring superfast broadband to Dartmoor and Exmoor via fixed wireless technology. Those who live in the national park areas many will be able to benefit from this coverage by the end of March 2017. For more information on the National Parks Programme and coverage see the National Parks page.

How does Airband deliver broadband?

A small device (smaller than a satellite dish) attached to the outside of your property picks up the broadband from a transmitter on our local network. A discreet cable is run into your house in a similar way as from a satellite dish. You can then connect your computer directly or connect a router as you would do from broadband via your telephone.

Do I need a phone line?

No, you don’t need a phone line to connect to Airband. Airband is brought to your home via a small receiver on the outside of your house that picks up a wireless signal.

Can I use more than one device on the Internet at the same time?

Yes, you can connect many devices at a time via a wireless router. You can buy one online or from suitable high street shops.

Can I use Sky TV?

We can’t provide Sky TV but you should be able to use it via our broadband connection – we would advise checking with Sky directly first to see if it is compatible with cable broadband technology.

Can I use my Playstation or Xbox on Airband?

You can use gaming consoles as with any broadband connection. It might be worth bearing in mind that gaming uses high levels of data so you will need to check the data allowance you have purchased.

Can Airband connect two of my buildings?

Airband can provide a wireless link to connect two buildings together. This is a much cheaper option than running cables.

Isn’t Airband just the same as satellite?

A satellite system bounces the internet signal up to space and then back down to a dish on the side of your house. Fixed wireless broadband, however, gets its signal from a transmitter site within sight of the property, meaning there is no latency on the connection. Fixed wireless therefore benefits from fast speeds and can be used for both telephone services and gaming.

How big is the radio on the outside of the house?

It is about the size of a 1 litre milk carton so is much smaller than a satellite dish.

How long will the installation take?

Once an service provider receives your order they will contact you to arrange a date for one of their engineers to visit you and carry out a survey to install.

The time between ordering and survey to install can be up to six weeks depending on how busy engineers are when you place your order. However, during quieter periods an engineer can usually be booked to visit you within a week or two of you placing your order.

Will the engineers need to come inside the house?

Yes, the engineer will need to have access to the inside of your property in order to carry out your installation.

Can I decide where the radio will be put up?

The radio will need to be put up in line of sight to the transmitter in order to get a signal to your property but the installer will discuss this with you before any work is carried out.

Do I need to be home when the installation takes place?

Someone needs to be present when the installation takes place. The engineer will also take a signature (from someone over 18) to ensure that you are happy with the service you’ve received.

Will the engineer set up the router and internal network?

No, suppliers are solely responsible for the internet connection to your property, they are not responsible for your internal network.

Are the waves through which we will receive the internet a health hazard?

There has been considerable research done into this question and all the evidence has shown that there are no links between the radio waves and problems with health. In fact in a study by WHO they found that the body absorbs up to 5 times more of the signal from FM radio and television than from fixed wireless base stations such as Airband will be using. To find out more visit their report.

Why is my postcode not covered by your data when I can get Airband Community at my property?

In these cases your postcode is an unintended consequence of the network roll out and you can receive Airband Community’s fixed wireless broadband, though you will have to wait until there is engineering capacity to get connected. This may come after contracted engineering obligations are met.

When delivered, fixed wireless networks can also differ slightly in coverage from plans. It may be that the network was not designed to see you initially but when built you are able to get a service. In other cases your property may be listed as able to receive a service but in reality this is not possible and other options will need to be considered.

How do I know if my house will be covered by Airband Community?

Check your address on Airband Community Wholesale site. Some premises are in programme to be built as part of the contract, others will be unintended consequences of the network deployment. Those who are unintended may still be able to get connected, though the time frame for an installation will be dependent on engineering capacity.

Why can’t Airband Community connect the whole postcode?

As a result of surveying, some areas within a postcode were unable to get connected through the fixed wireless technology.

How long will it take to get an upgrade?

You will need to speak to Airband Community Ltd to see when they can fit you into their engineering scheduling. For those properties that are an unintended consequence of the roll out there may be a delay until all the contracted areas have been covered.

Phase 2 (Additional 6 Lots)

What areas have been included in phase two?

Any premises which lie outside of the national parks and do not currently receive, or are planned to receive, a 24Mbps+ service under Phase 1 are within scope for phase 2 investment. This includes the postcodes and premises that were out of programme (grey) in phase 1 , or connected to fibre enabled cabinets but unable to receive 24Mbps+ (provided they are outside of the national parks). To check the status of your address please see our Where and When checker.

Where are these 6 lots?

A map of all 6 lots is shown below (click for the full sized image). Note the national parks are covered by our separate Phase 2 contract with Airband Community Internet Ltd.

What happens if a home or business isn’t covered under the new contract when detailed plans are announced in the new year (March/April 2017)? When will they get better broadband?

If your premises is not included within phase 2 plans when they are announced in the coming few months, there are several potential solutions which we will be pursuing to increase coverage, as outlined below:

  • Additional public investment and efficiencies: There will be further funds invested into phase 2, in order to increase 30Mbps+ coverage. These include ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) monies,  further public funding, and reinvestment from any efficiencies found during the rollout of the new phase 2 contracts.
  • Gainshare funding: As part of our Phase 1 contract, our supplier BT has had to provide us with additional funding, given that they have benefited from the revenue our public investment has generated. This funding is called Gainshare, and we are able to re-invest this to extend superfast coverage across the programme area. Once we have finalised the plans for Phase 2, we will be planning how best to re-invest this Gainshare money extend coverage to additional premises.
  • Community hubs – Communities could get together to self-fund a faster broadband solution for their area.
  • Our Broadband Voucher Scheme – Connecting Devon and Somerset will consider re-launching its voucher scheme in the autumn of 2017, when the deployment plan for phase 2 becomes more clear.
Why has it taken so long to re-tender this contract?

New broadband contracts were held until the end of May because they had to receive fresh approval from the EU through BDUK; this was not granted until May 2016. Over the past 12 months the CDS team has worked closely with BDUK to support their work to agree a new National Broadband Scheme with the EU. During this period the CDS team has also worked very hard to engage with the market and develop an ITT that is both attractive to suppliers, meets the need of our rural communities and ensures value for money to the taxpayer. We have pushed infrastructure providers such as BT and Virgin and new entrants Truespeed, Airband, Wessex Internet and Gigaclear to provide us with the necessary information to identify areas where the market will not be investing. It was important to make sure the ITT was right to enable competition and choice to the end consumer and all of this has taken time.

Why have you chosen to divide the region into six areas?

CDS has identified six lots to incentivise smaller and bespoke providers to come forward and to ensure there is a good level of competition in the market. Lots have been developed based on feedback from suppliers and forms part of our drive to support broadband competition and consumer choice.

Which communities will benefit from Phase 2 and what speeds will they receive?

This won’t be known until CDS have concluded the procurement and we know which supplier(s) we’ll be working with and what they have agreed to deliver. Our contract does incentivise uplift delivery, which aims to push upgrades for rural communities ensuring that they are brought a service where the free market will not naturally go. We will be pushing for as much to be completed in 2017 as possible.

How are superfast speeds now defined?

The threshold for superfast services, as used to define our Phase 1 target, has now been updated for Phase 2 of our programme (from 24Mbps+ to 30Mbps+). This is in line with the new European definition, allowing the programme to meet new State Aid requirements for subsidy of next generation access (NGA) broadband infrastructure.

The government’s superfast definition still remains at 24Mbps+. However, any future investment related to Phase 2 of our programme must deliver 30Mbps+ for any premises that public subsidy is claimed for by a supplier.

These definitions apply to download speeds only.

 

What do you mean by Ultrafast broadband?

Ultrafast broadband is another category of broadband speed, defined by the Government as anything above 100Mbps download speed.

For our Phase 2 programme we have received £4 million in funding, specifically for ultrafast infrastructure, from the Government’s South West Ultrafast Fund.

There are a number of premises in the tender intervention area which are under review, what does this mean?

Where commercial providers have indicated they intend to build new networks, we are required to consider how firm their plans are. Where there are definite and funded plans, these areas are considered to not require tax-payer support. Where commercial providers show a strong commitment, but not yet signed off investment or we need a little more information, we consider these areas to be under review but not in the scope of the CDS programme at the moment. These areas will be kept under review with providers and if plans change then we can bring these areas into the programme at a later date, where funding is available.

Why are some postcodes partially covered by Virgin networks not included?

Virgin Media produced no OMR response to CDS concerning future deployment plans using their Project Lightning funding.  BDUK have directed that as part of the state aid compliance we need to allow the economic growth of Virgin Media’s network, hence a buffer zone has been provided. These are areas CDS do not currently plan to invest in and residents here should contact Virgin for information on future connections. Under the National Broadband Scheme CDS is required to monitor progress of Virgin Media’s network development and if it becomes clear that in certain areas NGA speeds will not be provided CDS has the right, provided that funding is available, to bring these premises into the intervention area.

How are you going to prevent suppliers from cherry picking the areas they want to go to?

CDS are keen to ensure cherry picking is discouraged and areas are connected as a whole to, where possible, prevent communities from being divided. Our main way of achieving that is through our evaluation strategy where we will incentivise suppliers to go to areas that experience low broadband speeds. An important consideration for us is to balance making our offer as attractive as possible to suppliers with the need for rural communities to be connected.

Will there be a range of internet service providers (ISPs) to choose from?

All winning suppliers have had to commit to ensuring their network is ‘Open Access’ under European State Aid regulation. This means that all bidders have platforms in place to make any of their existing and future infrastructure available to other internet service providers (ISPs) on a wholesale basis.

How many ISPs are available on any supplier’s network will depend on how many ISPs wish to take up the infrastructure.

 

 

How can communities get involved and support the delivery?

CDS welcome working with communities to help with delivery and take-up. Communities can get involved by assisting in wayleave access for ducting and pole siting, offering information about broadband speeds and demand in an area, and driving take up by promoting the programme across villages and parishes.

Are new builds counted differently?

New build properties should have had a broadband connection installed by the developer. Some sites will have been included in the intervention area for phase two, others will be covered in commercial programmes. For the remainder CDS encourage suppliers to bring connections to these areas where there is commercial viability, and push developers to meet the needs of their residents in bringing them broadband.

Will CDS carry on as normal given the result of the EU referendum?

Yes.

Technical Questions

I am located over 1.2km away from the exchange – will this affect my FTTP speed?

No, as FTTP is not distance dependant.

What is Fibre on Demand?

Fibre to the Premise on Demand or FTTPoD will allow wholesale Internet Service Providers to create a connection to a fibre enabled cabinet to a premise, in order to create a fibre to the premises (FTTP) connection. This is a premium service that will come with a significant connection charge and is likely to require a 3 year contract.

Go to www.dslchecker.bt.com, enter your landline number to see if FTTPoD is available to order at your premise or business. You will then need to contact a service provider that offers the FTTPoD product and ask for a quote.

Would I need a phone line if I am on an FTTP contract?

Fibre broadband is delivered separately to a phone line so in engineering terms no, but some contracts from ISPs state you need a phone line. Please speak top your ISP to determine your options.

I have placed an order for FTTP, what next?

An engineer will need to visit to install a fibre tail into your premises together with a box to power the fibre.

I have an existing contract with an ISP and wish to upgrade to FTTP, what should I do?

You may be able to upgrade with your existing Internet Service Provider (ISPs), in some cases ISPs who offer FTTP contracts will write off existing contracts if you take up a new FTTP contract.

If you are switching providers to sign with an ISP who is able to provide a FTTP connection there may be contract implications. Another option is to wait for the existing contract to expire and then move ISPs, which  would involve no contract implications.

I am a Service Provider, what do I do?

We are keen to ensure that broadband service providers are aware of the location of the newly built infrastructure and how to get access to it. Service providers can register with either BT Openreach, in phase one areas, to get this information and Gigaclear & Airband for phase 2 and the National Parks.

What is an EO Line?

EO fed is a term used to describe a premise which is supplied using an Exchange Only line, one which is attached directly to the exchange, i.e. not via a cabinet.  This has an impact on the provision of Superfast Broadband in a number of ways since, to provide service, we need to insert a cabinet, using copper re-arrangement, or provide a Fibre To The Premises solution.

 

How do I find out my current speed?

Do a speed test! We have one here on our website but this is by no means the only one available, or indeed the best speed checker. There is no such thing as the ‘best’ speed checker and it is wise to take the average result from multiple speed checkers at various times of the day. Do a search for broadband speed check and you will find many to choose from.

It is also wise (if possible) to carry out the tests on a wired, rather than wireless connected computer and to ensure that you are the only user accessing the internet on your premises when conducting the test. This is because the number of users on a network, as well as the use of wireless networks can cause large variations in the results which may not reflect your true internet speed.

How do I manage cookies on your website?

We sometimes place small data files on your computer. These are known as cookies and make your overall experience of our website better.

On your first visit to connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk, you’ll be greeted by an introduction message which will ask if you wish to accept cookies.

Our cookies aren’t used to identify you personally. Instead they’re there to make the site work better for you by:

  • Remembering settings (where provided), so you don’t have to keep re-entering them whenever you visit a new page. For example, we set a cookie when you accept the pop up on our map page. This tells us that you have already accepted the pop up and won’t display it the next time you visit the map from the same computer.
  • Measuring how all users are using the website so we can make sure it meets everyone’s needs – again all information collected is anonymous and can’t be used to identify specific individuals.

You can, if you wish, manage/delete these small files manually. To learn more about what cookies are and how to manage them visit AboutCookies.org

I currently pay for a service that says I should get up to 10Mbps but I only get 2Mbps, why is that?

One of the problems with purchasing broadband, especially ADSL broadband delivered over copper, is that your supplier cannot guarantee that you will get a particular speed. There are a number of different factors that affect the speed of your broadband connection. For example, the speed will be reduced by your distance from the telephone exchange, the quality of the line, the number of joints in the wire, and the wiring inside your house. Also, the connection will be made at the Maximum Stable Rate (MSR), which is the highest speed achievable without the line being disconnected or dropped occasionally.

The broadband router can also make a difference, as can your laptop, computer or some of the software you use.

The distance from the telephone exchange is the length of the wiring involved, not the direct distance. A user could be within a stone’s throw of the exchange but too far away for ADSL ( for example, if the exchange is on the other side of a river or railway line). The quality of the line includes what it’s made from – aluminium for example is notoriously slower than copper wiring for ADSL.

In addition to the above factors, your connection may be limited by something called ‘contention’. Broadband and telephone services are supplied on the same basis as other utilities such as water, mains electricity, and roads; all of which assume that not everybody will want to use them at once. If everybody in your town decided to run a bath at the same time, your water supply would soon reduce to a trickle. The same thing will happen if everybody wants to use the internet at the same time.

I’ve heard that the new superfast service will be fibre optic. What does that mean?

The answer to ‘What is Broadband?’ listed in our FAQs explains the different technologies available to deliver superfast broadband. Some involve laying fibre optic cable, but not all.

Connecting Devon and Somerset will predominantly be using Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology to deliver it’s Phase one superfast target. However, some areas will also receive Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connections – once again, refer to the ‘‘What is Broadband’ FAQ below for further information. For Phase two the majority of delivery under Gigaclear will be Fibre to the Home, bringing ultrafast speeds to properties across the intervention area.

What does download and upload mean?

When you connect to the internet, the download speed is the pace at which data (websites, programmes, music etc) is transferred from another computer to your own. Currently, when it comes to home broadband, advertised download speeds range from 8 Mbps to 100 Mbps, but this is rising at a pretty quick rate and you can expect broadband download speeds to become much faster across the UK over the next few years.

Upload speed on the other hand is the speed at which data (such as your new holiday pictures and videos) is uploaded to the internet – perhaps to put onto a social networking site such as Facebook, or onto a file-sharing site such as Flickr; or even to upload photos to a photo print ordering company’s website. Essentially, the upload is going in the opposite direction to the download – from your computer to someone else’s.

Broadband upload speeds are generally much slower than download speeds. The reason for this is that people generally do far more downloading than uploading, and as such downloading is given priority by internet service providers (ISPs).

ISPs regulate how their networks deal with the various traffic flows competing to be sent across the ether. Upload speeds become more important to someone who needs to transfer large files from their own computer to another computer in a different geographic area. For example, someone who works from home and wants to exchange files with a remote network, or people who play a lot of online games.

What does Megabits per second mean/what do broadband speeds mean?

Alongside price, speed is one of the key factors people talk about when it comes to choosing broadband. Broadband speed is measured in Megabits per second, commonly written as Mb or Mbps (as in 24Mb or 24Mbps). It essentially means the rate at which data is transferred either from (download) or to (upload) a website. Note that a Megabyte (the unit that most file sizes are measured in), for the reasons described below, is different from a Megabit, and unlike Megabits a Megabyte is commonly written in capital notation (i.e. MB or MBps).

The fundamental unit of digital data is the byte. All digital data is constructed from numerous bytes (much like the fundamental building block of a house may be a brick, but 1000′s of bricks are required to build a house). There are 8 bits in a byte, and as such, 1 Megabit per second (the unit internet speeds are measured in) is 8 times slower than 1 Megabyte per second!

It is therefore important to bare this difference in mind when working out how long a file of a size measured in Megabytes will take to download over an internet connection with a speed measured in Megabits per second.

To put this difference between bits and bytes into context, some key unit terms are defined by their number of bits and bytes in the table below:

Terminology Number of bits Number of bytes
Kilo-bit ~1000 ~125
Kilo-byte ~8,000 ~1,000
Mega-bit ~1,000,000 ~125,000
Mega-byte ~8,000,000 ~1,000,000
Giga-bit ~1,000,000,000 ~125,000,000
Giga-byte ~8,000,000,000 ~1,000,000,000

To put all of the above into the context of how long it would take to download some common file types on a 2 Megabits per second internet connection – if the maximum available speed was applied consistently throughout the download (in reality, for a variety of reasons, your internet speed will vary) then you could expect the files listed below to be downloaded within the following time frames:

File Type Time Taken
Word document (around 50 Kilobytes in size) ~1/5th of a second
Average website, photo or music track (around 2.5 Megabytes in size) ~10 Seconds
Video (around 3 Gigabytes in size) ~3 hours, 20 minutes

In terms of data consumption:

 

  • Streaming 60 minutes of standard definition video over the internet can consume between 50 and 255 Megabytes

Streaming 60 minutes of radio over the internet can consume over 60 Megabytes

What do you mean by superfast broadband?

Across the country there are different interpretations of superfast broadband. For the purposes of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme, we are defining superfast broadband as anything with speeds in excess of 24Mbps for phase one and 30Mbps for phase two, in line with Central Government’s definition.

What is broadband?

Broadband is a term normally considered to be synonymous with a high-speed connection to the internet.

 

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband is available across most of the UK, provided through a standard copper telephone line. ADSL has had several improvements over the years, although not all exchanges have access to such upgrades. ADSL Max gives access to download speeds of up to 8Mbps (most Openreach exchanges now being ADSL Max enabled). ADSL2+ more than doubles the speed of an ADSL Max connection, providing up to 20Mbps through changing the transmission frequency. However, not all exchanges have this technology UK wide.

 

The next step up from ADSL2+ is VDSL (very high bit-rate digital subscriber line). This can deliver speeds of up to 80Mbps over very short distances – far too short to reach the exchange. As such it only works in areas where fibre optic cables have been laid to new cabinets from the exchange, copper then running from the old cabinet to the premises. This type of technology is known as Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and is the predominant technology that our programme will be delivering to achieve its superfast target.

 

Fibre to the Home/Premises (FTTH/FTTP) is another fibre technology that can offer speeds of up to 100Mbps+ – in fact BT and Virgin have both run successful trials of 1Gbps (1 gigabit or 1000 megabit) services. The speeds available with such connections are far higher as there is no copper cable between the exchange and the premises to restrict data transmission through the laws of Physics. However, whilst a lot faster, they are also a lot more expensive to install, primarily due to greater amounts of ducting being required and requirements for wayleaves as well as  further planning issues. For this reason Connecting Devon and Somerset, whilst using FTTP in certain areas, will not be using this extensively to achieve its 90% superfast target.

 

Both FTTH/FTTP have the capacity to receive and send phone calls over the internet using the Voice Over IP (VOIP) protocol. However, in reality, in so far as your telephone service is concerned, you will still require your copper telephone line for your telephone service unless you actively switch to a VOIP service.

What will be the range of technologies used by the programme?

The main technology will be fibre optic broadband, with the majority of premises under phase one served by Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). Some premises in phase one will get Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), while in Gigaclear phase two areas Fibre to the Home will be deployed, and in the National Parks under Airband fixed wireless technologies are being rolled out. See our “What is broadband?” FAQ for further information.

Why is the internet always slow in the evenings?

Speeds are generally slower in the evening because there tends to be more people using the service in the evening than during the day. It’s the equivalent of rush hour first thing in the morning and in the evening that adds a lot of traffic to the roads and this has to be managed by internet service providers to ensure the equivalent of gridlock does not ensue.

Phase 1 Mapping

My property is shown as being out of the programme (grey). What does this mean?

If your postcode is shown as out of programme, it means it will not be part of the current or previous programmes from either commercial providers or CDS. Unfortunately we do not have the funding available to connect all properties in Devon and Somerset at once, though we are exploring funding options to expand our current rollout beyond the preliminary planned coverage.

We will update the map whenever we get new information so it will show the latest known position and more properties may move into the scope over the length of the programme.

Why are some premises covered by both Airband & BT?

The nature of the fixed wireless network means that some premises will be able to access both a BT fibre service and Airband Community Ltd coverage. These areas of overlap are unavoidable and deemed to be unintended consequences, offering those premises a choice of technologies.

My property is shown as live (green). Will I be automatically updated to faster speeds on fibre and fixed wireless?

No, you will need to upgrade your service as fibre infrastructure and fixed wireless networks use a different network to copper broadband requiring a separate installation and new service to be purchased from an internet service provider.

For fixed wireless you can do away with your old copper broadband service but you will require line rental if you want to keep your telephone service which still uses the copper network. Alternatively you can get voice-over-internet-protocol phone (Voip) which enables you to make telephone calls without a fixed landline. Fibre to the Cabinet services still use the copper lines to deliver broadband and so line rental charges will still apply.

Upgrading to a fibre service is usually slightly more expensive per month than copper. However, the speeds can be many times faster than on copper and ISPs offer regular deals so for some people it may well be cheaper.

My property is shown as live (green) yet my internet service provider tells me service isn’t available. Which is correct?

There could be several reasons for this. Postcodes can be served by numerous cabinets and sometimes the information we hold shows a property connected to a live cabinet when it is not. The only way to check which cabinet you are connected to is to enquire with your internet service provider.

Please also note that sometimes cabinets can be built without being made live immediately. The network has to be commissioned and added to the databases and often this process takes a month or more. Some ISPs get the updated database information quicker than others and it may be that neighbours can order from their ISP before you. In some instances ISPs do not offer fibre services or will not in a particular area; some residents might like to consider changing suppliers if their existing ISP cannot provide them a service.

My property is shown as under review (blue). What does this mean?

If your property is shown as blue and under review, this means that our partner suppliers are considering you for inclusion within the programme. However, they need to carry out further surveys to decide whether you will be able to be brought a service on the new network. This is the first stage before build scheduling is organised.

Please note that some properties may remain under review for some time before either proceeding to build or being withdrawn from plans. Unfortunately circumstances on the ground can affect how the rollout proceeds and it may be that it is not possible to connect some properties.

My postcode is shown as commercially covered (black) yet I cannot receive faster broadband. Why is this and how do I find out more about the plans for my area?

There could be two reasons for this. The first is that the black areas shown represent areas that are either currently enabled, or planned to be enabled through a commercial programme by the end of 2019. It may be that your area has yet to be enabled under commercial plans.

The second reason may be that commercial providers no longer intend to deliver services to this area; however we are bound by State Aid from intervening in this area.

In June 2016 CDS carried out an Open Market Review (OMR) as part of the application to get State Aid clearance. This OMR asked all commercial infrastructure providers for their plans to deliver Next Generation Access broadband (primarily fibre broadband) for the length of the programme. This data was used to show the European Commission the non-commercial areas where there would be market failure in providing faster broadband so intervention of the public sector would be needed.

The black areas represent those areas which were planned to be commercially covered back in Summer 2016. As such we are not allowed to invest in these areas under European Commission State Aid regulations.

It may be the case that commercial providers have retrospectively changed their plans, leaving the area uncovered yet marked as commercially covered on our map. In such cases (in the eyes of State Aid) the area is still commercially covered until we submit a new application for State Aid based on refreshed commercial plans (carry out another OMR).

To find out more about the commercial plans for your postcode you will need to enquire with your internet service provider (ISP).

I keep reading that the data and mapping is subject to change. Why is this the case?

The Where and When mapping represents the most up to date information currently available on the expected Next Generation  Access broadband deployment for the end of 2019. However, over the next two years Connecting Devon and Somerset will undertake further surveys, seek future funding and deploy new technologies. This means that some areas may find they have better access to high speed fibre broadband than currently predicted, or timescales for deliver change as the programme progresses. It may also be the case that some properties might fall outside of a particular area if there are unexpected technical issues. Because of this we advise that the map should not be relied upon as a guarantee of provision but instead the best guide to the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme rollout.

How regularly will the data be updated?

The database should be updated roughly every 3-4 months. However, not all of the map may change on each update – updates only focus on those areas of the map where work is being carried out at the time in question.

Beyond Phase 2

What happens if your home or business is not covered?

If your home or business is not covered by our new contracts with Gigaclear or Airband what happens next? There may be other potential options:

Additional investment by CDS

The good news is that there will be more money in the future that CDS will invest to increase superfast broadband coverage.

This includes public subsidy returned by BT as a “gainshare” or dividend from increased customer take-up of internet services. The sums involved are likely to be millions of pounds which will buy a lot of additional coverage for communities currently without a service.

We are currently in discussion with BT about the final amount our communities and businesses can expect to benefit from.

To get the best use out of this extra money there are things we need to know.

Firstly, where and when the private sector is planning to spend more money on new broadband connections, such as fibre and wireless, in our region — we can’t spend your tax pounds subsidising broadband coverage if the private sector are going provide it – and secondly the detailed map and timetable for the new Gigaclear and Airband networks under our contracts with them.

Both companies are hard at work right now to complete their detailed mapping. We hope to have a much clearer picture by the autumn and we will keep you informed of developments.

Our Broadband Voucher Scheme

The popular voucher scheme is currently paused although CDS will honour any existing vouchers up to the end of September, 2017. Once we know what’s happening with future private sector plans for broadband coverage, what detailed coverage Gigaclear and Airband will deliver under their new contracts with us and what additional coverage the dividend from BT will buy, we will have a good look at whether we need to re-open the voucher scheme to help plug any remaining gaps in broadband coverage.  Again, we will keep you informed of developments.

Local Full Fibre Networks – £200m national fund

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has issued a call for expressions of interest in accessing funding for local full fibre networks. The deadline is 23 August. A full application process will open in the Autumn, though DCMS is looking to test a small number of projects starting in 2017. CDS will be registering an interest.

DCMS says it will be inviting bids from a broad range of local bodies for projects in their area that will stimulate commercial deployment of full fibre networks.          Local authorities are encouraged to partner with other public authorities and across the widest possible geography to develop a bid using levers such as co-ordinating public sector demand, stimulating business demand, reducing cost of deployment.

Commercial offers

It is interesting that there is increased competition from the commercial market to provide broadband solutions even in areas which up until now the market hasn’t shown much interest.

Suppliers may be willing to offer you access to fibre or a wireless network but at an additional price to you. But if you need a connection now and you don’t feel waiting to see what CDS may be able to provide in the future is right for you then talking to suppliers about a wholly commercial solution may be worth exploring.

In certain cases suppliers may be able to offer a commercial solution for your local community if there are sufficient people interested in paying for it. Make sure to shop around to see what the best deals are.

Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund – £400m national fund

This Government intervention is designed to improve access to finance for small full-fibre network builders, which find it harder to attract capital than Openreach or Virgin Media.

Traditionally in Britain, full fibre has been difficult to finance because the industry is relatively young and a lack of certainty around future demand makes investment hard to secure.

Government’s £400 million investment will be matched by private capital. The fund will be managed and invested on a commercial basis by private sector partners, generating a commercial return for the Government.

For more information:

https://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/government-announcement-billion-pound-connectivity-boost-make-buffering-thing-past/

Universal Services Obligation (USO)

The Government’s stated intention is that by 2020 every household and business will have “the right to request an affordable broadband connection, at a minimum speed, from a designated provider, up to a reasonable cost threshold”

The Digital Economy Act 2017 established the power for the Government to introduce a USO for broadband of 10mbps. But the Government hasn’t outlined how exactly a USO would operate or who will pay for the estimated £1 billion cost. The Government has said that it is keen for the industry to pay, but it hasn’t put forward any serious proposals at this stage. These details will need to be set out in secondary legislation.

Critically, the USO isn’t actually universal, as it will be subject to a reasonable cost cap. This exists currently for the USO for phone lines (phone lines costing more than £3,400 don’t need to be installed). Ofcom says that a reasonable cost threshold of £5,000 per broadband connection would leave around 30,000 UK premises left unserved.

According to reports in the BBC and The Guardian, BT Openreach has offered to invest £600 million to ensure 1.4 million rural homes have access to a minimum speed of 10Mb by 2020.

BT’s proposal does not, apparently, including any public funding. The Guardian says BT is proposing to recover its costs through higher charges to rivals such as Sky and TalkTalk, as well as BT’s own broadband unit, to use Openreach’s national network. The BBC says the costs would be recovered through customers’ bills.

Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is quoted as saying: “We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses.”

“Whichever of the two approaches we go with in the end, the driving force behind our decision-making will be making sure we get the best deal for consumers.”

get-up-to-speed Get Up Speed