Superfast Broadband and Rural 4G Broadband

If you’re frustrated with slow broadband in Minstead then this page describes the status of BT’s superfast rollout and also the village trials of 4G, which is delivering superfast already for an increasing number of residents today.

LATEST: Minstead Parish Superfast Broadband Status – 6th July 2015

SUPERFAST BROADBAND

Minstead’s Superfast Broadband Cabinet is now powered, connected, commissioned, tested and ready for service.

Its status is now shown as “Accepting Orders”

You should contact your provider of choice if you wish to arrange for your connection to be upgraded.

We would caution you to check whether this advance will actually benefit you in terms of speed and/or bandwidth

To check what speeds you can expect from ADSL vs the new Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) service those with BT land lines can enter their number into http://www.dslchecker.bt.com/adsl/ADSLChecker.TelephoneNumberOutput. See a screenshot below for this check for a typical Newtown phone number which shows FTTC  is actually likely to be the same speed as the older ADSL service. Use the row marked “FTTC Range B (Impacted)” as this reflects the effect of copper cables between the Cabinet and your premises. Note as of July 2015 some Minstead residents have reported FTTC is slower than ADSL (or does not work at all) so we recommend you check with your service provider before ordering.

BT Broadband Speed Check Results FTTC

Using 4G for Superfast Broadband

by Shaun B ( Newtown/Woodside area )

Before reading it please be aware that while I have had to select and mention particular vendors  the Disclaimer for this site applies – see Disclaimer – in that references to providers or products is in no way endorsing them.

As of August 2015  Vodafone, EE and O2 have decent 4G signal coverage in most parts of Minstead.  As an illustration of 4G, comparative speeds of 4G vs ADSL for residents in Feb 2015 below:

  • Woodside resident – 2 Mb/s via ADSL, 25 to 40 Mb/s via 4G
  • New Town resident – 0.5 Mb/s via ADSL, 15 to 20 Mb/s via 4G
  • Village centre resident – 1 Mb/s via ADSL, 15 to 20 Mb/s via 4G

The BBC recommends circa 3Mb/s for HD iPlayer streaming. Netflix requires 5Mb/s for HD, and 25Mb/s for Ultra HD.

It’s worth noting that 4G so far seems a good option for those 1 km or more from the BT cabinet on the A31 as we’re unlikely to benefit from the VDSL upgrade which is already overdue. Those closer to the cabinet should be able to achieve 10 Mb/s or more via BT when its lit up depending on distance.

Minstead 4G Trial: January through March 2015

After checking 4G speeds throughout the village, and using 4G myself for 3 months for our home usage, we have  extended the trial to include multiple residents using hardware kindly loaned to the village by DLink, Billion, TP Link and Draytek.

The objective of the trial is to determine if 4G is good viable broadband option in terms of speed, reliability, cost and simplicity. Those in the trial will be asked to complete a very short survey on their experiences.

Note the 4G trial has now completed.

What kit do I need to use 4G for Home Broadband?

The hardware you need depends on how you want to use it. For those who just want to use a single laptop, then a 4G dongle may be sufficient. This takes a SIM card and can plug directly into your laptop.

Most people will want to share your 4G connection with multiple devices in the home, often via Wifi, and so you’ll typically need:

  • a 4G enabled Data SIM card (standard size – not micro or nano sized). These are not setup in the same way as normal phone SIMs so many SIMs won’t work in a dongle. The phone operator will send you this. This SIM must be associated with a 4G data plan.
  • a 4G dongle like the Vodafone K5150 or Huawei E3272. There are many others on the market.
  • a router which is compatible with your 4G dongle. See list of routers below.

Note this article is focused on home broadband so we won’t discuss mobile  4G hot-spot devices designed for use when travelling.

4G Routers

The following table provides a basic summary of the routers tested in the Minstead trial:

Make and Model
Dongle Support
Wifi Speed
Features
Cost
TP-Link TL-MR3420 v2K5150 and E3272 testedSupports N standard upto 300Mb/sCan fallback to another WAN connection via ethernet.
It has no ADSL support therefore you need to retain your old ADSL router.
£27 from Amazon
DLink DWR-116K5150 tested. Download speed through the router was slower than using the dongle standalone which DLink were looking to fix.Supports N standard upto 300Mb/sCan fallback to ADSL if 4G fails but testing showed this wasn't seamless.
Supports 50/50 load balancing of 4G and ADSL (which isn't really that useful)
Not officially released in the UK but £39 from Amazon
TP-Link TD-W8970K5150 and E3272 testedSupports N standard upto 300Mb/sNo load balancing or failover features.£36 from BroadbandBuyer
DLink DWR-921N/A it takes a SIMSupports N standard 150 Mb/sAccepts the SIM directly, no dongle required but max is 100Mb/s. 4G speeds comparable with using a dongle. Fallback feature only works where 4G is the backup not where 4G is the primary backed up by ADSL.£140 from BroadbandBuyer
Billion 7800DXK5150 failed - reported to Billion. E3272 tested.Dual band N standard upto 600Mb/sRich failover support from 4G to ADSL (not tested)£159 from BroadbandBuyer
Draytek 2925K5150 and E3272 tested. Not fully compatible with the K5150.This model has no Wifi but the 2925n or 2925n+ models have good Wifi. See comparison of Draytek routers.Can failback to ADSL if 4G down.
User defined 4G and ADSL load balancing to control data usage
£177 from BroadbandBuyer. Significant discount available to Minstead residents - email admin@minstead.org.uk for details.
Draytek 2860Vn+K5150 and E3272 tested. Not fully compatible with the K5150.Dual band N standard
See comparison of Draytek routers.
Can failback to ADSL if 4G down. User defined 4G and ADSL load balancing to control data usage.£263 from BroadbandBuyer. Significant discount available to Minstead residents - email admin@minstead.org.uk for details.

There are many 4G routers on the market so the above is not intended to be exhaustive.

4G FAQs

So how much does it cost for a complete 4G home broadband setup?

The data plan and dongle costs will depend on the phone operator but can/should be comparable with normal BT Broadband at around £20 per month (which includes a dongle). Routers vary hugely depending on features from £35 to £230. See router comparison. We’re working to get some discounts for village residents which will minimise those costs – see contract offer below.

How much is a 4G contract, and how much data do I get?

This depends on the operator and plan you select. Minstead residents have been offered a discounted deal with Vodafone that includes 20GB of monthly data for £17.50+VAT.  EE also offer a competitive Data SIM deal including 25GB for £30 per month (see http://shop.ee.co.uk/mobile-tariffs/sim-only-data-plans).

I’ve heard 4G is not good for downloading large files or movies?

It is true that most ADSL broadband packages have a 50GB data limit per month. Those limits are lower with 4G (see contract offer above) but there are options to make the best use of that – see answer below on how to combine 4G with ADSL. Real usage has shown 4G is great for iPlayer, Netflix etc as long as your mindful of the data cap.

How can I boost the 4G signal if it’s not very strong?

Most dongles can plug into an external aerial like the one shown below. These are available for as little as £15.

4G Aerial

How can I make most efficient use of my 4G data?

Normal broadband usage involves web browsing, sending email, watching movies etc. Not all of those things need to happen ‘superfast’ – for example sending email doesn’t need 4G speeds, downloading apps for your phone doesn’t really need 4G speeds. Some of the higher end routers allow you combine your slow ADSL connection with your 4G connection to control what types of usage goes over each. For some that may mean 50% of usage is over 4G and  50% over ADSL. See the Router comparison table for the “User Defined Load Balancing” feature.

Can I combine my slow ADSL line with my fast 4G connection?

Yes with some routers, see the answer to the above question.

Can I put my phone SIM in my 4G dongle?

Probably not. During the trial we discovered the SIMs have been setup specifically for use with dongles otherwise things don’t work.

How can I check if I get 4G signal in my area?

Vodafone and O2 provide pretty accurate coverage checkers but if you send a request to be part of the 4G Trial as described above then we can come and do a 4G signal test with you.

How can I see the signal strength of my 4G dongle?

If you have the K5150 goto http://192.168.9.1. If you have the E3272 goto http://192.168.1.1. This will give you access to the connection status and signal strength etc.

Minstead Broadband Survey Results

If you’re interested in a summary of the Broadband history or the results of the recent Broadband survey the following PDF presentation may be useful titled “Minstead Broadband Status – Achieving Superfast Slowly – v1.1“.

Minstead Broadband Achieving Superfast...Slowly PDF Thumbnail

The Broadband Survey is now closed and was used to create the above presentation. We may reopen the survey when BT have enabled VDSL Superfast Broadband at our local cabinet.

Minstead Broadband Options

Minstead, as with many rural locations, is not particularly well served for Broadband today due to its distance from the (Cadnam) exchange. The broadband speeds achieved in Minstead village are generally relative to the premises distance from the BT cabinet which is located near the A31 exit e.g. those at the top end of the village achieve near 10 Mb/s where as those further afield at Newtown or Woodside are getting <  2 Mb. Clearly well below the speeds needed to enjoy many of the modern services like iPlayer, Netflix et al.

So as of November 2014 the common options for residents wanting access to the internet in Minstead are:

Method
Description
Typical Cost
Typical Limitations
Typical Speeds Achieved in Minstead
BroadbandProvided over the copper wire phone line by BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Zen etc.Low compared to other options < £20 per monthMost have some limit on GB used per month e.g. 50 GB per month and sometimes a capped maximum speed0.5 Mb/s to 10 Mb/s
4GProvided over the air by telecom operators such as Vodafone, EE, and O2 to nearby phone masts. See more info below on a 4G trial in Minstead by the author.Medium - more than Broadband but typically less than SateliteSpeed is not generally capped but monthly GB usages are lower than Broadband limits e.g. 8GB. The limit varies across providers.up to 50 Mb/s with 30 Mb/s a reasonable average
SatelliteProvided by a new satellite dish (different and larger than a Sky dish) which connects to a satellite generally using the Tooway service from Avonline or Bentley Walker.High - often between £40 and £75 per monthCapped speed and monthly GB usage. Quoted as 20 Mb/s but the author's experience over 18 months of usage was that contention meant the service was < 1Mb/s at peak times. The higher latency means web browsing also feels slower than other solutions.
Lease LineA dedicated fibre optic cable is connected from your property to the nearest fibre connection point which could be 100ms aware. Lots of companies will provide this including BT, Virgin, Managed Comms etc.Very High - typically £1,000s to install and £100s per monthTypically speeds are up to 100 Mb/s without a GB limitAs fast as you want - typically 100 Mb/s

The above list is not intended to be exhaustive in terms of options or vendors. As per the disclaimer we make no recommendations as to the best option or vendor.

 

Minstead Broadband Status History

30th January 2015

It was confirmed at the Brand New Forest Development Group Event on 28th January at Minstead Village Hall that the Cadnam cabinet would be enabled by Friday Feb 6th. We’ll see. To see the full set of presentations from that event click the links below.

Presentation from Glenn Peacey – Hampshire County Council
Presentation from Nicki Smith – New Forest Hotels
Presentation from Ray Scott – Brand New Forest Broadband Development Group
Presentation from Alistair Banks – Brand New Forest Broadband Development Group>

19th January 2015

The following explanation of the further delay regarding the supply of 240v to the cabinet (approx. 250m from SSE main distribution point for Southern England) has been received from SSE’s Faults Manager . . .

“The cable that Carillion, (the contractor who is responsible for the cabinets) had exposed, that was expected to be connected to for the cabinet supply, was a redundant cable, cut away from the network. This was reported to Carillion, who are now in the process of investigating new routes to enable their cables to be connected to the main supply.

Carillion are responsible for all works. Meaning all road excavations, cable laying then reinstatement and making good on completion. So, to that end, we cannot progress until Carillion have been in contact with us.

I understand this isn’t the answer you were hoping for. As soon as I have any further updates I will let you know.”

1st December 2014

At the 1st December 2014 Parish Council meeting BT confirmed that the cabinet had now been connected a) to BT’s fibre back bone and b) to a 240v power supply via SSE. However, SSE have reported a fault with the power supply. This has to be resolved before the cabinet will be ‘lit up’ and consumers will be able to apply for the new faster ‘VDSL’ Broadband service.  This is dependent now on SSE and the repair work required (potential road closures etc). VDSL is faster than ADSL – read more on VDSL here if you’re keen.

6th October 2014

We have heard recently from the Marketing Executive of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme with regard to Cabinet 1 at the A31/Lyndhurst Road junction that they

are experiencing a slight delay in the delivery of our cabinet but that it is still due to be completed within our programme.  This is due to difficult access to the cabinet – in close proximity to a busy road. Due to problems with road closure Openreach are now going to utilise an alternative solution. This cabinet is scheduled to be delivered by the end of November.”

We are sure that you are already aware (but repeat it here just in case) that connecting your router directly to the “First Entry, Master, BT socket” will give you the best result possible for your existing line.

4th August 2014

We expect the Cadnam Exchange FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) to be RFS (Ready For Service) on 30.09.2014.

The availability date for FTTC at Minstead’s Cabinet 1 is not given but should also be 30.09.2014.

We’ll keep you posted.

9TH JULY 2014

Earlier advice from HCC’S Broadband guru, Glenn Peacey, was wrong he says, and our expected activation period should have been between April and September 2014. Matters are proceeding according to this plan now though there are still some technical issues to be resolved – including completion of the “spine” between Southampton and Romsey (our feed will be from this) and actually “cabling” up the A31 to Cabinet 1 (this may involve closing the A31 W for periods of time with associated problems). Additional funds have been allocated to provide Superfast to more of our properties (ie those outside the initial 1.5-2km from Cabinet 1), probably by 2017, and we are looking at some form of matchfunding or “grant” from HCC towards individuals’ cost of achieving connection outside even this initiative.

We shall keep you updated with any further information as and when this becomes available.

APRIL 2014

There has been considerable interest in announcements that superfast broadband will be available in the village by the end of June this year. Here is the coverage map showing that the whole of Minstead parish should be included.

The aim of the first Government Grant for superfast Broadband was to achieve 90% superfast coverage. The basis for choosing the dwellings to be connected is a financial one. BT OpenReach work out the number of dwellings connected to each main cabinet, calculate the cost to equip the cabinet with Superfast fibre, and thus establish a cost per dwelling. They then decide which properties it is viable to connect.

There is now additional funding for Hampshire from DCMS (£7.69m), and HCC (£9.2m) as well as £1m from DEFRA for Test Valley and New Forest, to increase the superfast coverage to 95% by end 2017.

For those of us who still may not benefit from this FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) upgrade (ie more than 1.5-2km wire-length from the enabled cabinet[s]) there are a number of self funded options available (see this for just one example), but for the time being we suggest waiting until the end of June to see what is actually available then. At a recent meeting an undertaking (BT & HCC) was made that those outside the range to benefit from FTTC will be provided a minimum download speed of 2Mb/s.

Superfast Broadband will not just happen – you will have to sign up for the service, once it becomes available, from one of the many providers and it will probably cost slightly more than your present arrangement. Once the cabinet[s] are “lit up” (their term not mine) we shall be able to use one of the broadband checkers (such as http://dslchecker.bt.com ) to see just what is actually available to each of us.