Full fibre broadband services and plans for towns and parishes in Upper Tone are continuing to develop. In some areas, ultrafast fibre networks are already provided by Airband, Gigaclear, Openreach or Technological. Full fibre broadband gives the fastest connections of up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). Details for current networks in our area are given below, along with guidance on requesting a connection or registering your interest to be included as these networks expand. …
Some areas, including most of Halse, Milverton and Wiveliscombe currently have superfast broadband, which provides speeds up to 330 Mbps (Megabits per second). Superfast broadband has fibre from the local exchange to roadside cabinets, but then traditional copper wires from the cabinet to your property. Even faster speeds are given by a full fibre connection which adds a fibre connection from the cabinet to the property. However, some areas still have copper wires all the way from the exchange to the cabinet and on to the property, which only provides slow connections between 2-24 Mbps.
All rural areas with a slow wire service should receive full fibre broadband by the end of 2024, although more isolated properties may not be covered. Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) are responsible for providing full fibre broadband in rural areas and report to a board of local councillors.
CDS first awarded a government-funded contract to roll-out full fibre broadband to Gigaclear in 2016, but this failed to make sufficient progress and the contract was terminated in 2019. At the end of 2020, CDS awarded a new contract to Airband to install full-fibre broadband in phases from 2021 to 2024 in Somerset West and Taunton.
During the period from 2019 to early 2021, when there was no CDS contract in place, a government-funded rural voucher scheme could be used to support the installation of full fibre broadband networks. In addition, Openreach have been funded to provide networks in some isolated areas and provided their own funding for networks in a few other areas too.
As a result, the Upper Tone area now has a complicated patchwork of full-fibre cable networks, as well as large areas having (slower) superfast connections and some still only having slow wire connections. These networks are detailed below, along with Airband’s full-fibre roll-out plans under their CDS contract. Parish names are shown in bold. It is worth registering interest with all providers who may serve your area.
Airband – new contract for rural parishes
Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) have awarded an open access contract to Airband to increase full fibre broadband coverage in Somerset West and Taunton, with delivery in phases from 2021 to 2024. This should cover all rural areas in Upper Tone not yet provided with full fibre broadband.
There have been delays in Airband’s early rollout, which they say is due to “labour market challenges“. They have revised their original timetable and it is reported an effective core team has been established, who are now making good progress. Airband’s new completion dates are:
- Spring 2023 – Fitzhead.
- Winter 2023 – Parts of Bradford on Tone, Langford Budville, Nynehead, Oake, Sampford Arundel, Wellington Without and the outskirts of Milverton.
- Winter 2024 – Appley, Ashbrittle, Bathealton, parts of Brompton Ralph, parts of Chipstable, Greenham, Raddington, Stawley, Tracebridge, Waterrow and some areas south of Wiveliscombe (including Coles Terrace, Culverhead, Nordens Meadow and parts of West Road and West Street).
However, more isolated properties in these areas may not be within the CDS contract. Check availability for your address at Airband and register your interest. You should be in contract if listed as part of the CDS funded project, although this will be subject to survey and network design.
It is still worth registering interest if shown as being close to Airband’s main broadband network, although this means that you are not part of the CDS contract. For some in this situation, Airband may be able to use Gigabit vouchers to cover installation costs to you when rolling out their new networks.
As Technological already provide a publicly-funded network in Chipstable (including Raddington and Waterrow), Airband’s network in the parish may be more limited, but this is to be confirmed.
As the CDS contract with Airband is government funded, their network will be open access which means other internet service providers will be able to use it too.
Technological – connected in the Brendon Hills
Most local progress in recent years has been made by Technological. This local company have built a full fibre network from Shillingford to Skilgate, Upton, Huish Champflower, Clatworthy and Chipstable, including Raddington and Waterrow.
Technological’s network has been funded by the rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which is no longer available to properties in our areas covered by the Airband contract (see above); as government funding support is only provided to one scheme at a time (funding is not available to install competing rural networks serving the same properties). Technological can serve new households on their network who pay for a commercial connection without a Gigabit voucher (see towards the end of the page at this link).
There are small gaps in Technological’s network in parts of Chipstable parish, some of which they hope to cover with new Gigabit vouchers if given permission by Building Digital UK (who manage the vouchers) and Connecting Devon and Somerset (who manage the Airband contract). Requests to allow this are being pursued, with negotiations continuing.
Gigaclear – Croford network
As a legacy from their terminated CDS contract, Gigaclear completed a small full fibre network, serving a linear path from Langley Marsh through Croford to Spring Grove on the outskirts of Wiveliscombe. This went live at the end of 2021, so most of those on this network can now arrange a connection. To place an order or register your interest visit Gigaclear and start by checking availability using your postcode.
Openreach – Brompton Ralph and other clusters
CDS awarded a contract to Openreach for a small network to cover parts of Brompton Ralph, including Pitsford Hill, Tarr, Sticklepath and other areas north of Wiveliscombe. This network is currently being built and is expected to be completed by April 2023.
Openreach have provided their own small full-fibre networks in the Scotts Hill area of Huish Champflower and in the Holywell Lake area of Wellington Without. They have also installed their own network in parts of Skilgate and Chipstable, which had already been covered by Technological, so giving two cable networks in these areas.
Register interest with Openreach.
Openreach – maybe full fibre to more in time
Some areas are already served by fibre to their local cabinet in the road, although not yet with fibre then on to homes and businesses. This includes most of Halse, Milverton and Wiveliscombe.
Following a change in Ofcom price cap rules on connection costs, Openreach announced plans in May 2021 to upgrade telephone exchanges and extend full fibre broadband to 20 million premises, including hard to serve communities in the South West. Online information had said that the Wiveliscombe exchange area (shown in map) will be covered between April 2021 and December 2026. However, we will have to wait to see if and then when Openreach start to provide full-fibre broadband from the Wiveliscombe exchange. Some areas may be covered by Airband or other network providers first. Visit Openreach’s website to register interest and for information on their other broadband services.
Alternative broadband options available now
Mobile or wireless 4G broadband can be provided in some areas lacking a reasonable broadband service, with a number of providers, including Airband and EE. Some use this as an interim option until full fibre broadband is available.
A few households have signed up for the Starlink satellite broadband service, although this is expensive.
Project Gigabit is the government’s latest national programme to enable hard-to-reach communities to access full fibre broadband. It may be needed for any areas still not served when the CDS contract with Airband is completed by the end of 2024.
Universal Service Obligation
The universal service obligation is a safety net to allow requests for improved broadband by those with a slow connection. There is nothing to pay if the cost of building or upgrading your share of a network connection is £3,400 or less, but, if it’s more, you have to pay the excess cost above £3,400. The costs can be a lot more for connections in rural areas, so few follow up once the costs are confirmed. Guidance is provided by Ofgem – see: Your right to request a decent broadband service.
Mobile Boost Voucher Scheme
To improve the mobile phone service, Connecting Devon and Somerset offer a Mobile Boost Voucher Scheme, which can contribute to the cost of improving mobile coverage and connectivity in areas with a good outdoor but poor indoor mobile service. This scheme is coming to an end, with work needing to be completed by 31 March 2023.
* Brompton Ralph, Clatworthy, Huish Champflower, Skilgate and Upton are parishes in the Wiveliscombe and District ward I represent as district councillor until April 2023, but they are not in the Upper Tone division for which I am county and unitary councillor until 2027.
ORIGINAL POST: 18 Sept 2021 – UPDATED: 11 March 2022, 1 Sept 2022, 29 Jan 2023
4 thoughts on “Broadband progress and plans”
Won’t hold my breath Nordens Meadow does not have fibre but roads around do. When asked Open Reach they told me I was either too far out or it I should join their partnership and pay to have it put in if enough houses wanted it. And firms providing service like Plusnet are charging more for none fibre than what I used to pay for superfibre before we moved to Somerset.
Adrian, Nordens Meadow is included in the contract with Airband and scheduled for connection in Autumn 2024. Click on Airband link in report to check for your address and sign up to register your interest.
Very interested in the progress of a half decent speed of broadband arriving in Brompton Ralph and if an increase in payment is expected too.
Paul, This should be on the way, although full details are still to be confirmed. Airband look best bet for you, so ensure you register, although Openreach may also be a possibility. Both should offer open access, so you should have a choice of service providers. See provider websites for costs of full fibre broadband services.