I have given a fair amount of coverage to Matthew Hare and his company, Gigaclear, on this Website. This is due to the effort put in by Matthew Hare and this company to put fibre-to-the-premises broadband in to a significant part of rural England like East Anglia, the Home Counties and now Devon.
As I have highlighted before, rural areas do have a real need for urban-grade broadband Internet service. This is due to the many small businesses that serve these areas, including people who run these businesses from home along with people who live a significant distance from friends and family who are based in city areas. In some cases
It has also encouraged other independent fibre-to-the-premises networks to exist like the Hyperoptic urban network and the B4RN communitiy-driven rural networks.With these networks, the provision of current-expectation Internet service has been about working independently of BT Opennreach who look after the main telecoms infrastructure of the UK.
As I have covered before, Gigaclear have invested GBP£1000 / property to provide a standard of broadband not normally associated with a rural-broadband deployment. It is to provide a symmetrical Gigabit service using fibre-to-the-premises technology rather than a fibre-copper technology which can introduce many variables like decrepit infrastructure.
Just recently, Matthew Hare and Gigaclear received FTTH awards from the FTTH Council Europe who represent European fibre-to-the-premises network providers. This was because of his successful use of that technology in British rural areas.
Now Matthew Hare has received an Order of the British Empire as part of the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours thanks to his groundbreaking effort in providing broadband Internet service that is beyond ordinary for rural areas. This Honour, fully referred to as “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” was cited as for “Services to Broadband Provision in the UK”.
There have been some other Royal honours issued in relationship to providing independent Internet service using independent high-grade infrastructure within the UK. One of these is Dana Tobak CBE, whose Honour was granted as part of the New Year’s Honours list in 2017-2018 for her work with Hyperoptic and two granted in 2015 in relationship to the B4RN effort – Christine Conder OBE and Barry Forde MBE.
What these awards are showing is that someone has gone out of their way to provide a high standard of Internet service to Britain’s rural community and has broken the ground to offer it independently of an established incumbent telco or ISP.
I have given a fair amount of coverage to the effort that Matthew Hare and Gigaclear have undertaken to get the ball rolling for establishing fibre-to-the-premises in a significant area of rural England. Here, the standard for the service was up to a Gigabit per second symmetrical (upload and download) which was above average for consumer-grade broadband and they were even working with Fluidata to open up these networks for competitive service access.
I was regularly identifying issues like people in the rural communities working from home or running a home-based business or practice as a user group that would benefit from the high standards of coverage. It also included the reality that most of the business activity in rural areas was driven by small businesses who would benefit from cloud computing and other similar technologies that also benefit frim this same coverage standard.
As well, I was also calling out the so-called “tree-changers” who a class of residents who have moved from the cities to rural communities in search of that tranquillity associated with country living. Here, these users want to be able to benefit from the same or better standard of Internet connectivity to maintain contact with their family or, perhaps, to run a business of some sort.
Now the FTTH Council Europe have awarded Matthew Hare with an FTTH Individual Award for his effort in using fibre-to-the-premises as a way to bring real broadband to rural areas. As Matthew said:
“It is an honour to be recognised by such an influential industry body. Since 2010, we have been delivering on our quest to connect some of the UK’s hardest to reach communities to reliable, ultrafast broadband. Every day, we see the difference having a reliable internet connection can make to people’s lives and we remain committed to closing the digital divide, ensuring we put an end to rural isolation. This is just the beginning. There is a lot more we aim to achieve with our fibre networks ”
he was underscoring the realities with working with rural areas along with the benefits that these rollout efforts would bring to the communities. He was also highlighting the feasibility of rolling out full-fibre broadband in to relatively-sparse rural areas including hamlets and villages. There is also the fact that if the established operators won’t answer a need, independent operators could end up satisfying that need.
What has happened today for Matthew Hare and Gigaclear could be a ray of encouragement for anyone wanting to provide fibre-to-the-premises broadband in a rural area.
While the NBN are taking things slowly to roll out next-generation broadband Internet in to Australian communities and providing most with a fibre-copper service, the UK are facing a similar problem.
Most of urban Britain are being provisioned with similar fibre-copper next-generation broadband service, typically “fibre-to-the-cabinet” with a copper VDSL2 link between the street cabinet and the customer’s door. This is while a handful of ISPs and infrastructure providers like Gigaclear, Cityfibre and Hyperoptic are running fibre-to-the-premises next-generation broadband infrastructure, whether to country properties or large urban developments.
But a lot of telcos and ISPs are using the word “fibre” as part of hawking their next-generation broadband Internet product, while it is seen as a keyword by the marketers to say that the service will provide higher bandwidth to the customer than what was normally expected. This is although they are running a fibre-copper Internet service in most of their territories.
What is being raised is how should a broadband service be qualified in relationship to its infrastructure when the service is advertised to the public. It isn’t just about whether a service implements fibre to the premises or not, but how much of the run between the exchange or head-end and the customer’s premises is being covered by a fibre link.
There has to be distinct keywords to say that a service is being provided “fibre-to-the-premises”, a “majority-fibre” service like fibre-to-the-building or fibre-to-the-distribution-point, or a “minority-fibre” service like fibre-to-the-cabinet. Other issues that need to be raised is whether a service is being delivered with symmetrical (upload / download) bandwidth or is an “exclusive bandwidth” service like active fibre where each customer gets the full contracted bandwidth rather than facing bandwidth contention.
What Gigaclear and co are raising is that customers need to know what they are able to get when they sign up for a next-generation broadband Internet service or other advanced telecommunications service.
Questions are now raised regarding independent operators providing real broadband to the countryside
The article I read in ISPReview has highlighted some problems that affect the existence of competitive next-generation broadband Internet service in the UK. These same problems can also affect other countries like those in the North American, South East Asian and Australasian areas to varying degrees.
It is based on interviews with Matthew Hare from Gigaclear, Dana Tobak from Hyperoptic and Scott Coats from the Wireless Infrastructure Group, all whom are running up against an incumbent telecommunications company who effectively owns the infrastructure in most of the country and is effectively given a fair bit of blessing from a national or regional government. This can be through state aid as part of a broadband-improvement scheme or through a legal “right of way” that proscribes competitors from operating in the area of concern. In the case of the UK, it is Openreach who is a BT spin-off that manages the telecommunications infrastructure in that country and they have been dominating the state-assisted “Broadband Delivery UK” projects that provide next-generation broadband to most of rural UK.
.. and apartment blocks in big cities
Issues that were raised were:
The dominance of a particular entity when it comes to delivering infrastructure for next-generation broadband in the UK
The costs associated with deploying new infrastructure
Business-hostile local-government property rates that affect the provision of service infrastructure by a private company, especially fibre-optic cable used for next-generation telecommunications
The difficulty of gaining access to the “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure that BT Openreach owns or has exclusive access to; and
Whether BT and Openreach be fully and legally separated such as to make Openreach an entity controlled by the national government or local governments; or have it as a separate company.
Gigaclear are providing a 5Gbps fibre-to-the-premises service in to rural areas and commmuter towns in East Anglia and some of the Home Counties while Hyperoptic are providing a 1Gbps fibre-to-the-premises service to large multi-dwelling units in most of the UK’s main cities.
Gigaclear has effectively invested GBP£1000 / property and has found that the operating costs for pure-fibre setups are less than the costs for fibre-copper because there is no need to run electricity down the line and it is a modern robust technology. But they have paid many times the projected cost for some deployments like in Kent due to shodddy workmanship.
Matthew Hare from Gigaclear was highlighting BT swallowing up most of the BDUK contracts but he has picked up a few smaller Phase 2 contracts like projects in Gloucestershire, Essex and Berkshire. He had noticed a few of the local authorities being helpful about these rollouts like in Kent where Kent county council de-scoped (provided exclusive access) for Gigaclear projects compared to Rutlant where the Rutland county council and BT overbuilt Gigaclear with FTTC service.
This comes to the big question about whether an overbuild by one or more competing operators permit real infrastructure-level service competition. Some countries, most notably France have found that an overbuild by a competing infrastructure provider can achieve this level of competition.
Dana Tobak from Hyperoptic highlighted that fibre-copper technology like fibre-to-the-cabinet is a short-lived asset. She also highlighted the issue of access to the “pits, poles and pipes” owned by Openreach being a burdensome process for competing operators. This ranged from costs to onerous procedures and restrictions sucn as not being able to provide business broadband services.
There was also the issue of business-level property rates and taxes levied on the infrastructure where the workflow associated with these costs was onerous thanks to the Valuations Office Agency. This made it difficult for an operator to factor in the property rates due on the infrastructure when they are costing a rollout. To the same extent, the property taxes levied by a local government could be seen as a bargaining chip especially where the local government is behind the rollout in order to see effective increase in their local land value and tax base.
The question associated with an independent Openreach managing the infrastructure was whether this would breed real service competition. An issue that was highlighted was that Openreach could focus on the premium pure-fibre-based service and make life hard for small-time operators like regional-focused operators or startups who want ot serve the British market. But Matthew Hare reckons that it is better for the UK, especially rural areas to see Openreach as an independent operator.
Here, ISPReview have raised the issue of competitive next-generation broadband provision with independent “own-infrastructure” operators and covered some of the main hurdles facing these operators. This includes proper management of costs including infrastructure-based property taxes and rates; the creation of sustainable competition including build-over rights; incumbent operators’ behaviour including preferential treatment by governments; and access to the same “pits, pipes and poles” by competing operators.
Previously I have written an article about Gigaclear working with Superfast Essex Rural Challenge Project to put a foot in the door to provide next-generation broadband in to parts of Esssex, especially Epping Forest.
This is what is to come for some Essex villages
Now they have stared to turn the soil on this project to cover the first tranche of communities in that area with the fibre-optic infrastructure passing at least 4,500 premises. This project is seen as a pilot project to identify whether an alternative path can exist for providing next-generation broadband in to Essex rather than relying on BT Openreach to fulfill this task using their fibre-to-the-cabinet technology. It will underscore whether infrastructure-level competition can achieve better results and value for money when it comes to covering rural areas in the UK with real broadband.
Part of the rollout will include Gigaclear and Superfast Essex running public-relations events at local community events to put the fibre-to-the-premises network “on the map” as far as the locals are concerned. This is with the first phase of this project being complete by May 2016 and the possibility for subscribers to go live within the next couple of months.
Gigaclear are stepping out of the norm when it comes to providing Internet service in the UK.
Here, they are offering 5Gbps as a bandwidth option for all of their fibre-to-the-premises area as well as their regular Gigabit or lower-bandwidth options. This is due to them implementing a point-to-point fibre network as their data infrastructure which they fully own.
At the moment, a home user could sign up for this bandwidth at GBP£399 including VAT or a small business could sign up for a business-grade service for GBP£1500 excluding VAT. The bandwidth could theoretically allow 100 4K UHDTV channels to be concurrently streamed or allow a 1.5Gb file like a film to be downloaded in 5 seconds.
At the moment, most current download and cloud-computing services can’t provide the throughput necessary to allow these high-performance services to run to their advantage. Similarly, there aren’t any routers on the market affordable to most home or small-businesses that would take advantage of these high-performance services.
The cost was considered to be too rich for most residential consumers except for a few wealthy early-adopters but could appeal to some small businesses like busy food/beverage/hospitality places such as cafes and bars running well-used wireless hotspots. These places can benefit because many users can concurrently transfer data including “high-demand” data like high-grade multimedia. videocalls and large file transfers.
What Gigaclear is showing is that 5Gbps could be ne next step for a high-performing Internet that can satisfy householders’ and small business users’ needs in the future.
10,000 of these connection pots for the fibre-optic broadband installed
Now Gigaclear has covered 50 small villages around the Oxfordshire and other areas of the UK with their service passing 10,000 properties. From this interview, Matthew had mentioned that 4000 households and businesses had bitten the bullet and taken up the next-generation broadband service that Gigaclear offers.
When this is happening in your village, the broadband service quality becomes better
There have been some benefits across the board with the arrival of these next-generation fibre-based broadband services.
For businesses and other income-generating activities, the next-generation broadband services have been valued as an enabler. One of the benefits that has been noticed was a reduction in traffic levels because of a reduced need to travel to work which has become important for the villages that exist within commuting distance of the large towns. Knowledge workers like accountants, consultants and lawyers also benefited because of their increased bandwidth that is available to them at home so they can run their practice or business more effectively.
Fibre-optic cable laid alongside a lane to a premises in a village
The food, beverage and accommodation industries have valued these rollouts in a few different ways. Initially they saw the increased bandwidth as a way to improve the Wi-Fi-based public Internet service they provide as an amenity and having a consistently-good experience with this service attracts customers. In the interview, Matthew highlighted Oxford Country Cottages who sell this as a significant amenity for their self-catering holiday cottages. I sent a follow-up email to Oxford Country Cottages regarding their experience with this service and what they identified as a core benefit was the business guests who were returning to these cottages because of the guest-access Wi-Fi that was served by Gigaclear’s fibre-to-the-premises service. This was something that the business guests were finding that was “beyond the norm” for guest-access Wi-Fi networks.
This leads on to the feasibility to use cloud-based business systems which avoids the need to maintain servers on the premises and is considered an essential business tool.
The local communities have benefited from the broadband deployments due to increased cohesion. This was even evident in the initial stages of each project because of the initial curiosity surrounding the projects and that the visibility of the works taking place meant that something good is happening for their village. Some of the townsfolk in each community may want to preserve the status quo but more of them wanted an Internet service better than what the were being provided with.
There have been anecdotal reports of local property values increasing due to the arival of fibre broadband as I have covered before but Gigaclear haven’t seen this as evidence for themselves with any of their rollouts.
But where Gigaclear stands when it comes to providing Internet service is that they will exist as a pureplay broadband provider. That is where their business is about providing an Internet service alone rather than offering a voice telephony or pay-TV service.
Gigaclear are also operating this infrastructure as an infrastructure provider to serve these communities. This is to allow competing retail-level Internet service providers to include the villages in their footprint if they wish to do so.
BT are saying that they are doing the right thing when they are covering Britain’s rural areas but there needs to be a lot more work done to provide a proper level of service for these communities. A lot of these issues aren’t just about adding the necessary equipment but more about making sure that the wiring to the customer’s door is working properly.
What is showing up from the interview is that Gigaclear are putting the pedal to the metal when it comes to deploying infrastructure in to rural communities in order to provide a broadband service that would be considered the norm for big business in the city.
I have been following Gigaclear’s efforts in making sure that rural areas in Britain have access to real broadband. Think of places like Epping Forest, the Cotswolds, Underriver in Kent along with a few Oxfordshire villages gaining real broadband that attracts city dwellers wanting to “get away from it all”.
This effort started off in 2010 when Gigaclear was founded by Matthew Hare in 2010 with a focus towards real broadband in rural areas. The first effort was in Lyddington, Rutland where there was a VDSL2-based fibre-to-the-cabinet setup serving that village, then there was a fibre-to-the-premises setup in Hambledon shortly after that.
I did a Skype interview with Matthew Hare regarding the impact these broadband developments had on these towns in the early days of Gigaclear’s existence. Through the interview, I had found that there was real interest in rural broadband with at least a third of Lyddington subscribing to the fibre-to-the-cabinet rollout and two-thirds of Hambledon pre-contracted to the fibre-to-the-premises rollout at the time of the interview.
As well, these deployments were satisfying business reality by allowing a “country-house” hotel in Hambledon to put forward a fully-functional public-access Wi-Fi Internet service as a drawcard feature; along with allowing small businesses to think of cloud-based software as a way of feeling “grown up”. It also encompassed the fact that an increasing number of villagers were using their computers for some form of income-generating work, whether to telecommute or to run a business or practise a profession from home. This underscored the need for reliable Internet service.
The interview also underscored Gigaclear’s rural-broadband effort as being a real commercial effort in a competitive market rather than philanthropic effort. This is because Gigaclear were coming through as an infrastructure competitor to BT Openreach for these rural areas.
Gigaclear found that the symmetrical FTTP technology was found to be more scalable than other technologies and this led to future-proof setups which can come about as a village or town grows. I would see this underscored more when the same village or town or one nearby acquires a larger employer and more people move in to these communities to work for the employer or work for new shops, schools and other employers that come on the scene to support a larger community.
There has been 40% takeup across the 36 communities in 5 different counties where this service has been deployed with a focus on the slower underserved communities. For that matter, construction activity surrounding a fibre-to-the-premises rollout piques interest because of the impending arrival of an Internet service that realistically serves local needs.
Keep up the good work with covering more villages, hamlets and small towns with real broadband Internet service, Gigaclear!
Gigaclear has put their foot in Essex’s door to offer fibre-to-the-premises broadband Internet.
Here, they were selected by the Superfast Essex project team initiated by the Essex County Council as a break from BT deploying most next-generation Internet projects in the county. It is part of the new “Rural Challenge” effort covering the Epping Forest area and receives funding from public and private sources with public money coming from the UK Government and from local government in the form of the Epping Forest District Council and the Essex County Council. The private source of funding comes primarily from Gigaclear.
They will deploy fibre-to-the-premises next-generation broadband to 4,500 properties in the Epping Forest area which will encompass Fyfield, Stapleford, Tawney, Bobbingworth and closely-located communities. The project will get off the ground in November 2015 and be complete by December 2016 if things go to plan and Gigaclear were awarded GBP£7.5m to have it running. As regular readers will know, Gigaclear’s fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure supports the same bandwidth for both uploading and downloading and they are capable of offering Gigabit transfer speeds for the Internet services.
If this project is deemed successful, the Essex County Council could consider covering more of that county with the fibre-to-the-home technology courtesy of Gigaclear. The wider Superfast Essex project is still based on FTTC fiber-copper technology provided by BT Openreach and this covers 87% of the county.
A good question that is worth raising is whether these rollouts could technically and legally support infrastructure-level competition including allowing one provider to provide infrastructure for FTTP broadband while another can provide infrastructure for fibre-copper broadband services. It also encompasses whether a retail provider would be able to have access to one network or all of the networks and I would find it worth looking at how the French have been rolling out fibre broadband on an infrastructure-competition basis and is something that Ofcom could investigate when it comes to assuring a sustainably-competitive best-value Internet service for urban-living and rural-living Britons.
The Cotswolds is an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty located south of the centre of England. Because of this characteristic underscored by the rolling hills and the villages that have their buildings built out of the local stonework, it is another of those country areas that attract people who want to move out of the city to the country. It also attracts an artisan culture with a fair bit of local arts and crafts going on.
But what about making sure that these people who live and work in the Cotswolds have access to real Internet service? This problem is being rectified by a partnership between Gigaclear and the FasterShire public-private Internet-service partnership to bring full fibre broadband to the villages of Guiting Power, Chedworth, Whelford, Bilbury and Icomb.
This was initially a British Telecom project which covered Phase 1 of the rollout but the Gigaclear partnership has underscored that BT can’t have a clear run of the Phase 2 contracts. It is based on Gigaclear’s track record with supplying some of the small villages around the Home Counties with a future-proof fibre-to-the-premises broadband service, something regular readers of HomeNetworking01.info will be familiar with. It will still complement British Telecom’s efforts in this locale and the goal will be to have the Internet service pass 6,450 premises in the Cotswolds area and will break FasterShire’s goal of 90% broadband coverage.
Geoffrey Clifton Brown, who is the local MP for Cotswolds established an election promise to cover his electorate with real broadband at the door for all of his constituents.
As well, the Gigaclear solution isn’t just about fibre to the premises but also about Internet services with a subscriber-level bandwidth of a Gigabit/second symmetrically this achieving a service that is effectively future-proof for these areas. This also caters for the increasing trend towards video-conferencing and cloud-based computing in both the home and business computing applications.
What I would like to see for Gigaclear to achieve is to provide FTTH not just to new areas but as a competing service for areas that have an FTTC setup provided by BT Openreach so that they can be able to benefit from the higher throughput.
Keep up the good work in providing city-business-grade broadband to rural communities, Gigaclear and FasterShire!
Send to Kindle
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.