Ultrafast Fibre-optic Broadband update

Gigaclear ultrafast fibre-to-the-home coming to Helpston

 

Residents of Helpston and surrounding villages are excited about about the area becoming one of only a handful in the country to have state-of-the-art fibre-to-the-premises internet. Instead of the slow and patchy ADSL currently available over the regular BT phone lines, an Oxford-based company called Gigaclear is going to install a brand new, state-of-the-art, all-fibre broadband system that is scheduled to go live around the middle of 2015.

The fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections Gigaclear is promising will deliver symmetric, uncapped broadband at speeds from 50Mbps up to 1000 Mbps, depending on subscribers needs. It means everyone in the household will be able to use virtually any amount of bandwidth simultaneously, without lag or contention, and still have spare capacity to do things only now becoming available, such as ultra-high-definition streaming via Netflix. It means no more buffering, no peak timesand no more slow, slow, downloading.

The campaign to sign up subscribers began in July 2014; having achieved the 30% sign-up target across the area in record time, Gigaclear are scheduled to start construction in January.

Construction details

The project to deliver fibre optic broadband to the villages of Peterborough Vale has been divided into four phases. The 1st phase, which includes Ufford, Southorpe, and the southern area of Barnack, will commence mid January 2015. Gigaclear’s civils contractors John Henry Group will start the installation of the Ufford cabinet in January with works complete at the end of March (weather permitting). Customers in this initial area are expected to go live during April/May 2015, subject to other work schedules in the area.

The second phase includes the second half of Barnack and Pilsgate; the plan is to start this work as soon as phase 1 is done, with works to be completed in April 2015 and customers live in May/June 2015.

Phase 3 is the installation of the cabinet to provide service to Bainton, Ashton and Tallington, and is dependent upon the successful delivery of the first two phases, but can be initiated in line with these phases. It is Gigaclear’s aim to start this build in March 2015.

Phase 4 will be connecting Helpston to network, this again is dependent upon the successful delivery of phases 1 to 3. We envisage this phase to be delivered in parallel to phase 3.

As with any project of this size, there will be some disruption to normal life as contractors bury the fibres in the ground. Pavements, verges and roads will be fully reinstated afterwards.

What will Gigaclear do?
The entire network is installed underground. The only items visible once the works are completed will be the green cabinets installed somewhere relatively central to the network, and the lids of the underground connection points installed at the boundary of every property. Gigaclear will install an underground fibre connection point at every property they pass, not just those that sign up as customers, as they do not want to have to come back and dig again in the future.  The fibres installed are designed to be in the ground for 50 years, and so provide a future-proofed investment for the community. The connection point itself looks exactly the same as a water meter/stop-cock pot. There is no cost to have the connection point installed, so those that have not signed up for the service will have one installed at the boundary of their property at no cost.

You will see a small blue cane appear outside your property. This is the marker for the location of the Gigaclear connection point — if they cannot install the cane as the ground is too hard they will mark the location with a blue paint spot so the contractors know where to install. If there is a problem with this location, please notify Gigaclear by emailing them at info@gigaclear.com or calling the office directly on 01865 591100. The location for the connection point (pot) is determined based on the route of the cables.

How will the works progress?
There will be a number of trenches dug along some pavements, verges and roads, together with a number of road crossings. The contractors perform this job for other utilities and are familiar with this type of work and how to avoid other services such as water and gas etc. The network cables are not buried as deeply as the other services so there should be no reason that existing services are disturbed. There will be some cases where the trench has to be temporarily filled whilst waiting for other work to complete; in this case you will see that the finish is not to normal standards. During the works there will be areas where the contractors have to temporarily store the ‘spoil’ removed from the works, these spoil heaps will look unsightly temporarily, but will be removed on a regular basis and the area used will be reinstated when the works are nearing completion. Once the other works are complete then the grounds will be reinstated to Highways Agency standards.

There are a number of stages to this project that involve some areas having to be worked on for longer than others. These will include several ‘pits’ that will need to be left open for several weeks as the fibres all meet in these pits to then be connected together. Once the connections are complete, the pits are closed and should not need reopening under normal circumstances. Whilst the pits are open, they will of course be protected with appropriate barriers for personal safety as well as equipment safety.

When will they take any money from me?

Gigaclear will not and has not taken any money from anyone so far. You will not be charged anything until your service is installed and working in your property. At that point they will collect the connection fee, the remainder of the current month’s service rental and the next month’s rental in advance. For customers who are self-installing, they will need to collect your connection fee before your kit is shipped to you. You will be contacted beforehand to confirm this. Please note that for self-installation your service subscription starts automatically 2 weeks after your kit has been delivered.

What about my installation?
If you have selected ‘Gigaclear Approved Installer’ as your installation choice, Gigaclear’s installer Boxcom will contact you before the build is complete to arrange your installation. You can find details of their services here. You will pay Boxcom directly for the installation and any other work performed. If you have selected ‘self installation’ your self installation kit will be couriered to you once the network is tested and live. You will receive an SMS text to confirm delivery of your kit. If you change your mind about your installation choice, please call the Gigaclear customer care team on 01865 591100 to let them know.

How do I make best use of the service?
If you have not done so already, please download your customer welcome pack from here as this will give you useful and important information about what to do and where to have your router installed.

What happens about my free upgrade?
For customers that signed up before the network construction started Gigaclear promised a free upgrade to the next speed tier for 12 months. This upgrade will take place the day your service goes live and will remain in place for 12 months.

Gigaclear price increase
As with almost all ISPs Gigaclear have had to raise their prices, effective 1st January 2015 but in fact from your service live date your monthly charge will have increased by approximately 4.8%, a smaller increase than many ISPs. So for anyone on the Home 50 service your monthly subscription will be £38.80 incl VAT. All pricing information can be found at www.gigaclear.com/pricing .

Phones

As Gigaclears fibre network will be entirely independent of BTs legacy copper wire phone network, subscribers will no longer need to pay a monthly line rental to BT. Home phone services can be routed over the more reliable fibre network with the addition of a Voice Over IP (VoIP) package. A typical package is offered by global VoIP specialists Vonagea flat monthly fee of £7 covers all calls and a host of extras such as caller ID, conference calling, auto-attendant the list is exhaustive. A simple transfer process enables you to keep your existing home number once the VoIP connection has been set up.

Alternatively subscribers with mobile phones could leave their landlines (and crank callers) behind altogether most mobile service providers can boost mobile performance indoors via any domestic broadband connection of sufficient capacity, either using femtocellsthat set up a low-power mobile network signal within the home or smartphone apps that route calls over a WiFi network.

Vonage telephone services
For more information about Vonage telephone services please visit www.vonage.co.uk/gigaclear or call them free of charge on 0808 178 9620. If you tell them you are a Gigaclear customer they will waive the connection fee saving you £10. Please note, you do not need to order Vonage until your service is being installed, as you will be charged for the service before you can use it. Vonage delivery usually takes 2-3 days.

Why would I want switch to Vonage?

  • You can still use your normal land line telephone and in most cases keep your existing number*
  • No monthly line rental
  • Unlimited, anytime UK land line calls for just £7.00/month
  • Excellent value call packages for other destinations and lower cost calls to mobiles
  • 20 free call features including call waiting, voice mail, voice mail plus, caller display, ring back and do not disturb, click here for more information
  • No charge for retaining and porting your existing land line telephone number*
  • Ability to choose your own geographically independent number (e.g. London or International)
  • Call flexibility and portability – take your number with you when you travel, have multiple devices ring simultaneously
  • Unlimited Vonage to Vonage calling
  • 30 day return guarantee if you are not happy with the service

*Some TalkTalk and most Sky numbers CANNOT be ported to Vonage currently, please check with Vonage on 0808 178 9620 for more information

BT and other providers

The owner of the principal network currently delivering broadband to our area is BT Openreach. Like Gigaclear, they are obliged by law to open their network to competitors such as TalkTalk and Virgin, but ultimately it is BT that determines the schedule for upgrades to their network. If or when Gigaclear finish building their fibre-to-the-home network, it doesnt mean BT will cease to exist – the BT network will still be in place and villagers will still be able to subscribe to their services if they want to.

Other alternatives available: mobile internet connections (expensive, affected by weather, and, since Helpstons mobile mast was shut down, unreliable); satellite links (expensive and subject to vagaries of the weather, the technology also suffers from inherent lag); private WiMax solutions (expensive and again affected by weather); BTs own FTTH offering, Fibre On Demand (massively expensiveconnections start at £750 with £1188/yr line rental, plus a distance charge ranging from £1£2.50/m)

Connecting Cambridgeshires latest update still claims Helpston can expect superfast fibre broadbandby the end of 2015  but be aware that this refers to BT Infinity, which is not a true fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service but a kind of hybrid known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), in which broadband is brought by fibre to a distribution cabinet in a community, from where it then travels over the existing legacy phone wires to subscribersproperties. It suffers from a number of drawbacks, chief among which is that the broadband signal degrades with distance from the fibre distribution point more than 800m from the cabinet and the speed is markedly affected. Hence services are sold as up to24Mb, meaning that if you are adjacent to the cabinet you may get those speeds but any further away and you wont. Since BTs existing cabinet for Helpston is near the level crossing at Arborfield Close, most subscribers will end up paying more to get only get slightly better speeds. FTTC is essentially a means to extract the last drops of use from the UKs legacy copper/aluminium phone network, and will not be adequate for the vast increase in domestic internet use that is already occurring.

Further information

More details, updates and answers to questions can be found on the local community website UltrafastPeterboroughVale.info. This website is run by local volunteers with no affiliation to Gigaclear who are simply working on behalf of the local community to improve the dismally poor broadband speeds in this area. The volunteers live in Tallington, Helpston, Barnack, Ufford and Marholm. We are also on Twitter (@PboroVale) and Facebook (facebook.com/pborovale).

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Clive Mountain February 12, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Yippee! BT Infinity is here. We subscribed on a BT Infinity1 package on a 12 month deal for UPTO 52 Mb. We’re getting 51Mb over WiFi repeated tests. Marvellous and consistent speeds over BT line. Latest Smart Hub6 with fantastic WiFi range and speed performance. BT are offering 12 month deals so hub costs £20 and reduced cost 12 month broadband and phone including line rental. Well done BT.

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Roy Hinchliff February 12, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Yes, well done BT, after much huffing and puffing you’ve finally done it. I wonder if BT would have made the effort if Gigaclear had not already shown them the way. I seem to recall that their original plan was to just run fibre to the cabinet at Arborfield, then they decided to put in a new cabinet at Arborfield, then a new cabinet near the crossroads. These look like the actions of a company which keeps trying to do as little as possible and keeps finding its not enough. Still, at least Gigaclear will have a bit of competition in Helpston instead of a monopoly, which can’t be a bad thing.
I wish you joy of your connection, Clive. Incidentally, what’s your upload speed?

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Hugh Hughes February 13, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Yes, dunno why BT has finally spent so much on this when other more needy rural areas are still barely at 2Mb/s – embarrassment perhaps? Or are they such dyed-in-the-wool monopolists they have a reflex reaction to stamp on any competition?

A quick check on their website reveals the “up to” 52 Mb/s (Infinity 1) offer is £34.99/month for the first year, rising to (at the moment) £47.49/month incl. line rental and weekend calls (but price rises just announced take effect on 2 April). To their credit it is at least unlimited, so you would expect no sneaky excess charges. Upload speed? “Up to” 10Mb/s… cloud users can take a tea break while their systems sync!

Interested to see what real-world speeds are like after a year or so when everyone who’s going to has signed up and contention starts to play a part.

Meanwhile my 200Mb/s (up and down) Gigaclear connection is currently £46.85/month and works brilliantly – the internet is just there on tap and no matter how many streaming services we have running concurrently it never drops or stutters. Should capacity ever become a problem for me I know I can upgrade with a click to 1Gb/s, and I hear Gigaclear is even offering 10Gb/s for those that want it!
No doubt in a few years’ time when 100Mb/s is the minimum requirement for the average household we’ll have to endure BT’s crews all over again…

In the end though it means Helpston has become one of the best-connected villages in the UK – let’s hope that doesn’t mean we become a town all of a sudden…

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