Following the success of the Whitchurch Faster Broadband campaign about a year ago, the town is to become a leading example to other towns in the UK as 100% of people on the town’s telephone exchange will have the opportunity to increase their broadband speeds from early in the new year.

Ian Yellan, Peter Cowen and Kevin McNulty discuss Faster Broadband progress with the Whitchurch campaigners

The core members of the campaign team met last night with senior executives of BT and OpenReach in the ‘campaign headquarters’ – otherwise known as The White Hart – to be updated with progress towards Faster Broadband speeds to access the Internet.

Andrew Reeves-Hall, John Buckley and Mike Stead heard from the senior executives that 100% of town and the nearby rural areas will be able to receive Faster Broadband within the next few months. The phased roll out will begin in late January, after the first part of the infrastructure becomes live.

Everyone can benefit
The best news given to the campaign team was that every line within the ‘01256 89? exchange area will have the opportunity to receive a Faster Broadband service, including the outlying hamlets and the town centre.

Other suppliers
It must be remembered that ‘Infinity’ is simply the brand name for the Faster Broadband service offered by BT. Experience gained at other locations by BT and OpenReach has been that other providers become available within three months and will be using different names for their products. There are likely to be around a dozen of these.

It will be up to individuals whether or not they wish to subscribe to the faster services and they will be able to shop around as more service providers publish costs and packages.

Faster Internet benefits everyone

Speed increases
All 2460 connections into the exchange will be able to see a speed increase, generally of 3 times current broadband download speeds, typically to at least 15Mbps (or 15 mega bits per second, sometimes written as 15Mb/s). The upload speeds will also increase substantially, rising from about 0.3Mbps to 3Mbps. Different providers will offer a range of speeds, some much more, some less, at different prices.

Cabinets and Fibre
About 157 km (98 miles) of fibre cable in total is being laid. The infrastructure equipment for Faster Broadband could not be fitted into the Whitchurch Exchange itself for technical reasons.

The 5 ‘cabinets’ in town will act as hubs, or distribution points, to premises. These local cabinets then effectively become mini-exchanges because a single fibre can carry several connections and are connected by fibre to the Andover Exchange 10.5km (6.5 miles) away, where racking has already been completed.

When will it be available?
Four of the local cabinets are being enabled over the next month and orders for the service will start to taken around the end of January. These provide Fibre To The Cabinet or ‘FTTC’, from where the existing copper wires are used to link to the premises. It is envisaged that 90% of premises will have access to order at least 15Mbps broadband from the end of January (the BT Infinity service offers a minimum of 15Mbps and a maximum of 40Mbps). The actual speeds offered will depend upon the supplier, but can be much higher.

There had been concerns that premises not attached to ‘cabinets’ and presently served off the Exchange, and those in the rural areas may have missed out, but the team was now assured that that is not to be the case.

The fifth cabinet is to be used primarily for these direct connections, providing FTTP, or Fibre To The Premises. The installation process is slightly different as a separate survey has to be undertaken for each line to ensure there is a duct for the fibre but the expectation is that the plan is “wholly deliverable” and if a few problems are encountered then there are other options available.

Rural areas will benefit

Rural areas
For rural areas, a number of options are being considered to ensure speed increases are available to 100% of the premises. These may include direct fibre links to Andover and installation of new cabinets. For example, Hurstbourne Priors is to have a new cabinet installed, enabling much faster speeds for its residents.

The Future
The whole system is being future-proofed and the actual speeds possible are indeed far higher. In time these will become available as technology advances – the fibre remains the same.

The benefits are enormous: Whitchurch is being seen as a demonstration area and a leading example to other towns across the UK.

There is already a digital divide developing with businesses favouring locations with the faster broadband services. The team were told that 38% of urban businesses have said they would migrate back to rural areas if they had faster broadband. This has significant benefits for our business parks, local jobs, and congestion reductions.

Whitchurch has a real opportunity here to take advantage of leading the country!

The original campaign information from last year (remember knocking on doors in the snow collecting signatures?) is HERE.
You can check when your area has been enabled for faster broadband by entering your phone number at the Broadband Checker website HERE. The checker website will be updated as the infrastructure is enabled around town, and in the rural areas.
You can see the five existing cabinets using Google maps: Cabinet 1, Cabinet 2, Cabinet 3, Cabinet 4, Cabinet 5. Our thanks to ‘isar’ for this information.
Planning approval has already been obtained for the two cabinets in our Conservation Area – see HERE and HERE.

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