Rural Gigabit Wireless Broadband Trial in Wales Delivers Just 30Mbps+

broadway partners 60ghz mesh wireless

Homes connecting to a supposedly 1Gbps wireless broadband trial in the tiny rural Monmouthshire (Wales) village of Llanddewi Rhydderch, which is supported by the UK Government, have yet to experience “anything near” to those speeds. A recent council meeting also suggests that the service becomes “patchy when the weather is poor.”

The trial (original story) forms part of the Government’s wider £2.1m 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT) project, which was announced last March 2018 (here) and in this specific case is being supported by Broadway Partners (they also run UK ISP Broadway Broadband) and Cambridge Communication Systems (CCS).

The new 5G style network uses a 60GHzmesh” radio technology developed by CCS to reach hard-to-connect properties, each of which had one of the company’s Metnet 60G Mesh radios attached. The kit operates in the unlicensed mmWave spectrum band from 57GHz to 71GHz and they also appear to be compatible with the 802.11ad WiFi (Wi-Gig) standard (normally used for short range indoor networking).

At the time of our first report (February 2019) we remarked that exact details of the trial setup were unclear, although the use of mmW spectrum pointed to a very short-range network. Such signals don’t travel very far so the homes would have to be fairly close together, most likely fed by a longer range wireless relay positioned nearby and higher up. But initial feedback suggests that the promoted speeds of 1Gbps have not materialised.

Llanover Community Council Meeting

“With regard to the issue of fast broadband, the Clerk reported that he had heard from Lucy Hywel [Local champion for the project] that the trial of the Broadway system will come to an end shortly.

At the present time users are not experiencing anything near the 1 gigabyte [clearly they meant ‘gigabit’ here!], as promised, on the basis that they have been marketing the project. Also, the service appears to be patchy when the weather is poor.

Lucy will be meeting Broadway representatives … to establish how many houses the system will reach and what the proposed plans are to meet the needs of properties outside the inner boundary of the village.”

We understand from other sources that the issues with poor weather (perhaps not surprising given the use of such high frequencies for wireless comms, which are easily disrupted) have now been overcome. A plan also exists to potentially extend the network to properties further away.

At present we understand that 6 properties are testing the technology and all are now said to be achieving consistent and reliable speeds of up to 30Mbps (we think some local properties might be able to get similar using 4G mobile), which is obviously a big improvement over the previous sub-1Mbps fixed lines on Openreach’s (BT) old copper network. Nevertheless this is many times slower than the heavily promoted 1Gbps (1000Mbps+).

According to the council, Lucy was assured by Broadway Partners that 1Gbps is “obtainable“, although the operator appears to be quoted as telling her that “as nobody really needs these levels there serves no purpose in providing it” (except perhaps for the fact that the promoted purpose of the trial was to try and deliver 1Gbps to a rural community, wasn’t it?).

Interestingly Broadway Partners recently won the Most Viable 5G Use Case award at the 5G Realised event in London for their deployment of 60GHz mesh radio in Llanndewi Rhydderch, which they merely said is “delivering Gigabit-capable service to a rural community.” Hopefully they can show such performance via tests at local homes in order to confirm that it’s possible, even if not yet needed.

Despite these issues it’s understood that the community is still happy with the current improvement and Lucy is preparing to recommend that the entire village switch to the new network. In the meantime we’ve shot off an email to Broadway in the hope of getting some clarity on the live tested network capability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: