Broadband and mobile phone connections in Brentor Parish
At the moment many homes and business premises in Brentor Parish have inadequate internet access and poor or non-existent mobile phone coverage. Despite much effort and repeated appeals to the companies that are supposed to provide such services the situation is not improving. One of the problems facing the Parish Council, and anyone else trying to get a decent connection, is that there are numerous organisations, companies, local authorities and other groups involved which complicates things greatly.
One of the parish councillors recently contacted the local MP to highlight how it was impossible to get a decent connection in Brentor and the detrimental impact it was having on their business. There are a surprising number of businesses in the parish who are being held back by the lack of fibre as well as residential customers that have no access to affordable and reliable connections. A meeting is now being arranged with the Parish Council and Sir Geoffrey Cox to see if he can help resolve the situation. The Parish Council needs to present evidence of the problem to prove that there is a need. The Parish Council has some information that we gathered by surveying each property in the Parish some time ago but this is incomplete and in some cases out of date.
As a coincidence Dartmoor National Park are also trying to improve the mobile coverage in the park area and have contacted the Parish Council to gather evidence of poor mobile coverage. One issue that affects both causes is that the "official" coverage map on the OfComm site shows many areas of the parish as having good mobile coverage and access to fast broadband. This data is frequently referred to by companies as justification for not improving services. It would be of great use if we could gather parishioners personal experiences to highlight the challenges in getting online.
As a result we are asking those who live and work in the parish to access the coverage map on the OfComm site and then complete a short survey about their actual experience of using the Internet or mobile signal. The map can be found here https://checker.ofcom.org.uk. You will just need your postcode to check the coverage that you are supposed to have. Once you have checked if you can then complete the short form below and submit the information we can collate the results and use them in our meetings.
Like many rural areas across the country Brentor Parish is poorly served by the telecommunications companies. Despite the efforts of both the Parish Council, residents and local businesses there is still a patchwork of technologies across the area providing levels of service that often fall far short of what is provided elsewhere. Nothing illustrates this more than the roll out of fibre broadband. While some residents in the centre of Brentor have been fortunate enough to be connected to the fibre network OpenReach, the company responsible for connecting premises to the fibre network, have not provided a connection to the great majority of premises in the parish. As far as the Parish Council is aware (and if you know different then please let us know) the fibre provision runs from Blackdown, up through the village centre and then up towards the playing field. Darke Lane and the west side of Brentor village has no connection at all. As poor as this provision is it is still a marked improvement on the rest of the parish where there appears to be no working fibre infrastructure installed at all.
As a result the rest of the parish relies on a patchwork of technologies many of which have significant drawbacks. For example there is meant to be a reliable 4G signal available for most of the parish but the reality is somewhat different. The map below is centred on Christ Church in Brentor and shows a highly optimistic "Good" outdoor signal across the village centre. The reality is somewhat different, there is no Vodafone, O2, EE or Three coverage in this area. Personal experience is that there is no signal until halfway across Gibbet Hill, or in the other direction until the Tavistock to Lydford Road. Even when there is a signal it is often weak or patchy and struggles to maintain a connection for both voice and data. This does not prevent OpenReach using this coverage in many areas to justify not rolling out fibre as there is already a "fast" broadband available through 4G. This is also touted as the reason for not rolling out fibre into areas served by Airband, as there is already a connection available there is no justification for putting in fibre.
For many Airband is the only option, although again there is variable availability across the area. Airband offers relative fast connection speeds through a wireless network. A small unit beams data to a receiver which then sends the data onwards for routing to the Internet. It can be a fast, reliable and cost effective option for some, but many people have experienced problems with the service. First of all it relies on a line of sight to the receiver which is invariably in a high position (Brentor village connections use a mast on top of Christ Church). If you do not have line of sight to a mast then you will not be able to use Airband. The service can be disrupted by weather, particularly rain and snow, and often slows significantly when there are numbers of simultaneous users competing for bandwidth. This means that the service often fails to deliver the 30 to 40 mbps that it typically offers.
Airband are in the process of rolling out their own fibre network to compete with the large telecommunications companies. This may be the only option for some areas that Openreach refuse to connect, as a smaller provider that specialises in rural connections Airband can often provide connections. Again though there is a caveat, and that is that Airband still rely on the BT/Openreach connection being upgraded from the local exchange. In some areas Airband have installed the fibre optic cables but can not connect them to premises as there is no suitable connection from the exchange available. Some Liddaton residents have experienced this issue.
There are some alternative technologies that are available that might be viable depending on your situation (and budget). First of all there is ADSL broadband. ADSL was the first widespread connection available in the UK and has been around for some years now. It uses the copper phone lines to "piggyback" a data signal through the phone network. It is seriously affected by many factors, principally the condition of the wires and the distance to the telephone exchange. It offers low speeds (up to 10 mbps) but is sometimes the only reliable option and is often the cheapest.
Some other providers can connect a customer to the Internet using microwave links. This works in a similar way to Airband but uses microwaves to transmit to the mast rather than radio. This means that faster, more reliable connections are possible (up to 65mbps in some cases). Monthly costs are higher than other connections and installation costs can also be expensive. You will also need an unbroken line of sight to the receiver mast. Some premises in South Brentor use this connection and have been very pleased with the service.
Satellite Broadband is another alternative connection and is available to everyone regardless of location. As a result it is often the only option available to isolated premises or those a long distance from the exchange. To use this connection a satellite dish is installed by the provider (you cannot use a Sky dish). The dish is orientated towards the satellite and beams the data into space. There are a number of providers of this technology, one of the most prominent is StarLink which has been launching small satellites into space at a phenomenal rate. Satellite broadband is often the most expensive option but costs can be reduced by waiting for special offers, StarLink reduced the initial cost to £99 recently in a bid to sign up more customers. Monthly costs though tend to be higher than other connections and there can be problems with latency (the time it takes for your signal to reach the website you are accessing) making them unsuitable for online gaming.
You can access the survey by clicking below:
Information collected by the Brentor Parish Council with this form will only be used for researching the digital connections in Brentor Village. Personal information will not be shared with any third party.
There has been much work undertaken over the years on getting fibre rolled out in the parish and as a result many articles were published on the website. These articles have been retained from the old website and are available to read here: Brentor Broadband Archive.
If there is something you are looking for that is not in the archive please get in touch and we will do what we can to help.