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Rural Broadband Good News!

Whilst areas of Hodnet and Wollerton have benefited from the roll-out of fibre-optic broadband in recent months, other residents are still struggling with low speeds and poor connectivity. Marchamley is apparently too far from the exchange, whilst Peplow suffers from being on the fringes of three different exchanges! (See our previous post here, here and here.) Well, now there may be light at the end of the tunnel – though not of the fibre-optic type!

On Monday (10 July 17) Shropshire Council and Connecting Shropshire announced that Airband Community Internet Ltd is the selected delivery partner for the next phase of Shropshire Council’s superfast broadband programme.

Airband has been providing high-speed wireless broadband access to rural areas since 2002. The technology which to be employed is radio broadband, which works by sending a signal from a transmitter on a mast to a receiver attached to the property. Airband is a Worcester-based company and has accepted a three year contract to deliver superfast broadband to over 14,000 homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area in the next three years. It is intended that 7,000 of these will be able to access the new service by the end of winter 2017.

AirbandMore technical information is available on Connecting Shropshire’s Contract 3 – Airband page. Radio broadband technology relies on ‘line of sight’, which means that the receiver needs to have a clear view of one of Airband’s transmitters. Wherever possible existing commercial masts and buildings will be used. Some new masts will need to be built and in many cases, new masts will resemble telegraph poles. In the design and planning phase of the project, Airband will employ advanced software to map each property and establish where a connection can be achieved, without the need to complete an on-site survey for each property.

Unlike existing local radio broadband services, Airband’s infrastructure will be available to a number of different internet service providers. Details will no doubt be available in the future.

Airband MapLocal residents and businesses are being asked to register their interest in the Airband roll-out in order to be kept up to date on progress of the scheme. You can do so here on the Airband website. Connecting Shropshire has an interactive map which includes information of the intended coverage in the Shropshire Council area up to 2020. Two layers need to be selected: Airband Coverage and No Planned NGA Coverage. Now enter your post code in the search box and wait for the map to zoom in. (In this author’s experience the data does not always load, so if you don’t see magenta and/or yellow dots – see image on right – please try reloading the map. It should offer you the opportunity to go back to your previous setting.) Magenta dots indicate properties which will be covered by the scheme, whilst yellow dots are meant to signify those which are not. However, given the nature of the technology and that in some places yellow dots are adjacent to magenta ones, it seems that most of the “no planned coverage” dots in this area are due to operator failure rather than telling the truth. If your property is marked in yellow and you live in the Hodnet area, I suggest you register with Airband and discuss the reality of the situation with them. Checking your post code on the Airband Coverage page will provide more accurate information.

Airband will offer different packages (speeds and data usage) but it is not clear yet what the costs will be to customers in Shropshire. See their Packages page for details. They also offer Airband for Business packages. It is also unclear which parts of this area will be included in the first wave of installations, but we suggest that everyone looking for a better rural broadband service register their interest with Airband straight away.

The following video is a promotional one from the Airband website, which explains in very simple terms how the system works.

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