Earlier today, Shropshire Council announced that it is to take a different approach to getting decent broadband to rural premises. It will be using the high-speed wireless technology provided by Airband, a Worcester based company that is already delivering to many areas in Wales and the Marches. The £11.2 million contract is long overdue and very welcome. We need high speed broadband across all rural areas for our work, education, health and social needs.
The great advantage of this system is that it does not rely on expensive broadband cabinets or the lumbering telecoms giant, BT to get broadband to your home or business. For once we have the promise of getting decent broadband to our rural villages, farms and hamlets.
For the last few years, the council has been reliant on the monolithic BT Openzone to deliver fibre optics to local cabinets. From there, the same old copper wires links homes and businesses to the cabinet. That contract has been slow to roll out and has barely reached anywhere outside towns and village centres.
Airband has been contracted to provide high-speed wireless broadband access to over 14,000 homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area over the next three years. It will deploy wireless broadband. This works by sending a signal from a transmitter on a mast to a small receiver attached to the property. A cable is then run into the building allowing the end-user to access the internet in the same way as any other broadband connection.
Superfast speeds are promised but the press release issued by Shropshire Council cautiously does not give a typical speed. The technology can achieve 1Gb download speeds but we all know that maximum speeds area rarely achieved. Many people living in the farms and cottages around Ludlow are lucky to get 2Mb at present, so I guess they will grateful for any improvement.
Airband prices look fair – from £25 a month for enough bandwidth for the average household. That’s about the same as fibre-based broadband. Many people living and working in our extensive mobile not-spots will still need a landline. This doesn’t come bundled with Airband.
Airband plans to use existing masts where possible. New masts will resemble a traditional wooden telephone pole. (Image of an Airband mast at Brentor, Dartmoor.) That’s a good move as we have far too many masts cluttering up the countryside.
The company will begin work immediately. You can register an interest on the Airband website.
The total cost of this contract is £11.2 million. Of this, £2.2 million will come from Shropshire Council. Broadband Delivery UK will put in £5.3 million and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership £2.3 million. The final £1.4 million will be provided by Airband.
The council intends that 98% of Shropshire households and premises will receive superfast broadband by 2020. That will leave around 2,000 premises without superfast access. Shropshire Council says:
“We have a balance of funding and will look at seeking a solution to provide superfast broadband for the remaining gap areas now this procurement is complete. We remain confident that we can provide a superfast solution to all our premises by 2020.”