Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Confirmation from Call Flow

Roger and I have received a confirmation from Call Flow that the update from Superfast Berkshire was a good assessment of their plans and commitment to our upgrade.  They added the following details:
  1. Openreach finally concluded the ‘CuRe’ part of the project after 12+ months on 25/11/16 i.e. after escalating to Ofcom.  [It should be noted that Roger and I were completely surprised to hear about this after the fact.  We feel that had we known this was an issue we could have helped bring it to a conclusion sooner.  We are also interested in gaining an understanding from Openreach as to their side of the issue as there are usually two sides to every technology issue between vendors.]
  2. We duly submitted an order for the next stage of the process (sub loop unbundling – SLU) on 26/11/16.
  3. OR completed their survey and planning of the SLU part of the process on 6/12/16.  Call Flow accepted the SLU charges on the 7/12/16 i.e. so that we could then officially connect our ducting into BT’s joint box.
  4. Our cabinet base and ducting as above has been completed as you indicate i.e. within days of being given the formal go-ahead from BT. This is far quicker than would normally be achieved and is an indication of the focus we have on this job.
  5. We plan to install the cabinet on the newly installed base in early to mid-January. This should, in no way, hold up the installation of BT’s fibre (some nearly 3km required cabling required which will take some time before they get to our cabinet).
  6. No wayleaves are required as our installation is on highways land.
  7. We are waiting for SSE to confirm an installation date for power and will chase this again later this week.  While this will not hold up the BT fibre installation, it will be required to launch the service.
  8. We are currently anticipating the service to be live around mid-February provided both SSE and BT deliver on time.
The critical path does seem to be in the hands of Openreach given that they have nearly 3km of fibre to run to the new Call Flow cabinet.  Call Flow is confident that this cable could be run now, with the necessary conduits installed to connect the Openreach Cabinet with the Call Flow foundation, and the end point and coil of fibre for final connection left in the Openreach Cabinet until the Call Flow cabinet is installed in early January.

This seems reasonable to me and given this I have asked our contact at Openreach if the laying of our fibre can be escalated to ensure the end project date.  We have also suggested to Call Flow that they get an approval of this from their local Openreach project manager.

The bottom line of all this should be that we could get connected in February if all goes well. 

There are still a lot of things that may not go well but this is the best date that I have seen in terms of having a good plan to support it to a good conclusion.  Roger and I will continue to stay on top of it!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Finally Some (largely unqualified) Good News!

Colin Batchelor, Project Manager for Superfast Berkshire, has given us a very complete update in regards to the activities that will result in us getting high speed broadband.  Below is a summary of Colin's update.  We have also asked Call Flow for their validation of this status and their response will be posted once we have it.

Call Flow has been working on a number of alternatives to meet the challenges posed by the location of our village.  We are about as far away from the nearest telecoms cabinet as one can be and this does make for a challenge.  Call Flow has been able to get an agreement from BT Openreach to create a node on their network for Temple.  This means that we will be able to have a direct fibre connection into the network and is the best possible alternative for the village.  A wireless option had been considered, and while this would have been a vast improvement over the current state, it would not have been as robust and future proof as a fibre connection.

As I write this it appears that construction work has started on the FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) cabinet that Call Flow is having installed next to the telecoms cabinet that BT Openreach placed on Bradenham Lane.  This cabinet will be the destination for the new fibre run that BT Openreach will be installing.  The broadband signal from Call Flow's new cabinet will be joined with our phone lines in the new BT Openreach cabinet and we will have blazingly fast broadband speeds.

Roger Thurston is reaching out to his contact at Call Flow to confirm their commitment to dates but our understanding from Colin is that we could have service in February.  BT Openreach have committed to having the new network node online and fibre run by the end of January (ahead of when this would normally be done given that the requests were just made).  Way-leaves across private land are not needed as the fibre route will be on the side of highways and our understanding is that these permissions are at hand.  There is some provisioning work that Call Flow will need to do once things are connected but Colin has indicated that these items should not be time consuming.

So.  Pretty good news and not a lot of qualifications (assuming everyone does their bit as promised).

So how fast could our connections be?  Here is a chart from the BT website that shows what we can hope for (best case).  I estimate that the furthest property in the village from the cabinet is still less than a half kilometer away.  This means that the homes on either tip of the island could get 50mbps of download speed!  I think this is probably optimistic but as these homes are probably getting around 1.5mbps now it will be a dramatic improvement regardless!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Summary of Update from Openreach

I just got off the phone with Andy Hudson, Director of Network Delivery at Openreach.   Our conversation can be summarised down to the following:  Openreach are committed to delivering their pieces of a solution for Temple and this could be by the end of January to mid-February – he would welcome the opportunity to keep us updated. They have opened a new node on their network for Call Flow to connect.  To complete this Call Flow will stand their equipment cabinet next to the Openreach one and the two will be connected together by Openreach.  This is typically a 90 working day process as it allows time for the Communications Provider to stand their equipment and for work to be programmed in. However, Openreach will move the order through and complete work as soon as Call Flow have stood their cabinet.

Andy stressed that the overall project is Call Flow's to manage.  They need to stand their new cabinet so that Openreach has a place to connect to the network and attach the new fibre for backhaul.   In the course of such construction there is always the possibility of issues around land ownership, planning permissions and wayleave access which are sometimes outside of Openreach’s and Call Flow Solutions control.  However the Openreach cabinet is now stood and any such issues have been resolved on the Openreach side.

The challenge now is to get the same kind of update and commitment from Call Flow!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Some Hopeful Correspondence

Having not heard anything back from Call Flow Solutions in regards to my request for information on our project schedule I decided to make some inquiries of my own into Openreach.  Working with Roger Thurston from the Island,  I wrote and sent the following message to Clive Selley the CEO of Openreach.  His response, and a couple of subsequent messages, follow:

Message from me to Clive Selley:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

More of the Same Update for November

As per usual for our upgrade project the status is "Waiting for Openreach".

Apparently there are two pieces of work that Openreach need to complete in order for Call Flow to proceed their work.
  1. The first piece is a fibre connection to the new cabinet that has been installed on Brandenham Lane just off Temple Lane.   My assumption is that this is for the link that will connect the village end of the RF feed of the high speed Internet connection that Call Flow is to install with the new cabinet.
  2. The second piece is for Openreach to complete a new footway junction box and cable replacement near the main cabinet (LG9).  A "footway junction box" is where a customer connection joins a larger cable run.  My assumption here is that this is needed for the top end of the new RF connection that I mention above.
I wish that I knew more but information seems to be guarded as tightly as access to the vestal virgins of ancient Rome.

Even more than my desire to understand the topology of what is being implemented is my desire to know what our schedule is likely to be for access to the new service.   I have asked Call Flow for an estimate of how long it will take for them to do their bits once Openreach has completed the above tasks.  I will post another update when I hear back from them.  We have been assured that they will do what work they can do in parallel with BT's efforts.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Possible Reason for a Wiring Upgrade

Got a note from a resident asking for a status update and since I had not heard from Superfast Berkshire in almost two weeks I pinged them with a reminder.  They said they had been away but would ask Call Flow for an update, hopefully by the end of the week.

While I had our situation on my mind I came up with a reason that an upgrade to some aluminum wires might be needed for our service.  My assumption has been that our new cabinet would be fed by fibre run from either the exchange (unlikely) or from our old cabinet or actually its new FTTC partner.  When the decision to have the last mile of our connection go over the radio I still assumed that the transmit side would be fed by fibre. 

I wonder now if this is the case.  In this picture  #1 is our exchange, #2 is our current cabinet, #3 is where our new cabinet has been placed, and #4 is about where our high speed connection will feed from (assuming an RF antenna), #5 is where the aluminum wiring is being upgraded, and #6 is one possible place where an RF antenna might feed us.  I am wondering now if our connection will be conventional circuits from the FTTC at our old cabinet, down to the golf course on newly upgraded copper, aggregated there and then transmitted to us.  In this case it is easy to see a justification for copper over aluminum.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Further Update on the Latest Delay by BT Openreach

The good news is that we have our very own cabinet and work has been done on it in preparation for us getting high speed internet.  There have been two teams of contractors working on it.  The first put conduits in to join the cabinet with the existing cable runs that serve the village.  The second brought our cables into the cabinet so they will be ready to be joined to the high speed connection that Call Flow will be installing.

In the meantime we continue to wait for BT to upgrade the aluminum cables that are, apparently, not up to their standards.   Here is the latest dialog on this situation:

From "Call Flow":

Openreach have identified an alternative solution that will enable them to comply with their planning rules.  This requires them to build a new footway box to be able to replace a section of cables (we believe aluminium) between their cabinet and this new footway box.  We are now waiting on Openreach to confirm when their contractors will both build the new footway box and replace the appropriate cables.

From Openreach to Call Flow in regards to the issue:

Following earlier correspondence our Survey Officer has been out and found that we are unable to renew the section of cable from the cabinet hole to the next manhole along which is situated on the roundabout. The roundabout has 3 manholes’s on it, two have been located by the survey officer, but our manhole is buried & unable to locate. As this then goes down the A404 & would require substantial traffic Management & Temporary lane closures with the further cost’s incurred, the survey officer has suggested putting in a new JMF106 40metres away from the cab in the grass verge & replacing the 3 D-side cables from the cabinet hole to this point.

What puzzles me about this required upgrade is that the cable being replaced is all the way up at the old cabinet that serves us (just off the Henley Roundabout).  I would have thought that aluminum cable capable of impacting our ability to get high speed internet would be at our new cabinet or between it and our homes.   Since the high speed connection will be coming into the new cabinet, two kilometers from where they are doing the upgrade, it is a bit confusing to me.  I have asked for clarification on the BT Support Forum but drawn a blank there (other than a suggestion that it would make sense if the upgrade was on the leg into our homes).

The illustration to the right is a summary.  #1 is our exchange, #2 is our current cabinet, #3 is where our new cabinet has been placed, and #4 is about where our high speed connection will feed from (assuming an RF antenna), and #5 is where the aluminum wiring is being replaced?

There are good reasons to be getting rid of old aluminum wiring but it just does not seem like it would be necessary as something that needs to be done prior to use getting high speed internet.  I have been contacting Superfast Berkshire on a monthly basis and will ask them if they can shed any light on this situation.  In the meantime, until Call Flow know when BT will have completed their upgrade, no progress will be made on our connectivity.

The good news is that we are getting closer.  The bad news is that we don't know how much closer!

Update of 18-October-2016:  Further responses on the BT Forum lend no credibility to this "required" upgrade having anything to do with getting superfast broadband to Temple.  The upgrade is clearly a good thing to do...if you are served DSL from Cabinet 9 or VDSL from the FTTC at Cabinet 9 but will have no impact to those of us waiting for VDSL from our new cabinet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Latest from Superfast Berkshire

Here is the latest update from the team at Superfast Berkshire:

I have spoken to Call Flow this afternoon with the latest position for the extension of coverage in Temple.

As you know, the PCP has been installed but Call Flow are still waiting for a date and plan of when the cabling will be completed. This involves moving people from Cabinet 9 to the nearly installed cabinet near Temple and requires some replacement of existing aluminium cables. All of this is good news as it will enable faster broadband speeds when in place but it is very disappointing that BT are still holding Temple back from getting faster broadband.

I understand that the MD at Call Flow is in discussion with his counterpart at BT Openreach and that we should have a plan shortly. It remains to be seen what the plan will say !! At this point, I suggest that writing letters to BT is unlikely to achieve any improvement on timescales as they are close to getting an answer. Keep your powder dry.

Call Flow have an agreement in principle for one wayleave and are still in discussion for the other. Until BT complete (or plan to complete) the cabling for the new cabinet, Call Flow will not commit both cost and resource to signing the wayleaves in case BT do not deliver. If this happens, then Call Flow will need to investigate other alternatives that may renders these wayleaves redundant and therefore potentially will be incurring a sunk cost. I believe that Call Flow are working as fast as they are able to do, escalating the issues to the top of the tree and identifying contingency plans where practical should they need to go another route.

I appreciate this is frustrating if you live in Temple but Call Flow are going more than the extra mile to bring you faster broadband and you can see why others (e.g. BT) have not delivered this to date.

Here is my response to Superfast Berkshire:

Thanks for the detailed response.  

Everything you say is pretty much as I suspected and/or feared...hence my frustration and impatience!  I am sure that Call Flow are doing their bit and am worried that we will be at the back of the queue for attention from BT, or even worse, that they will decide they have more profitable fish to fry elsewhere and leave us in the lurch.   Given this possibility it makes sense as to why Call Flow would not be proceeding in parallel to a path that might not exist.  

I will hope for the best and will keep our powder dry but if BT try to bail on us it seems like asking our councilor and MP for some help would be appropriate.  I know that our MP has her hands full but I suspect there is someone in her office that could write a letter for us!

On a positive note (or at least one that I think is positive)...there was a crew of subcontractors from Openreach working on putting in the physical conduit between the old lines and the new cabinet.   They did not have an answer when asked about next steps.   

Thanks again for your continued support and for your patience with this impatient representative of Temple.

So, we are now in the hands of one of the slowest moving of corporate bureaucracies in the United Kingdom.  I am not saying that we would have a different result if Openreach were an independent company but it could not be worse and I suspect they would be much faster to respond to their customer base.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another Update - Another Delay

I guess there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that a cabinet has been installed just off Temple Lane to serve the community.   The bad news is the content of the below communications received from Call Flow:

The latest update I have is that while Openreach have erected a new cabinet that will enable the works, they have also advised that they are struggling to get the cables connected into the cabinet, as some older ones need replacing to comply with their planning rules. We have this escalated to senior levels within Openreach, and are awaiting them to confirm when the required cabling works will be completed. Until Openreach have completed these works, we are unable to move the project forward.  We have opened discussions with all relevant landowners for preferred placement of our equipment, which are encouraging but not committed. Until Openreach have completed their side of the works, we are unable to commit to the preferred wayleaves.
Unfortunately we are still currently reliant on Openreach to confirm when these works, and the overall project will be concluded. At this point in time we would hope that it will still be before the end of the year.

So once again our upgrade is in the hands of Openreach who, as best I can tell, have been the primary reason behind delays from the original promise date of June, to September, then to December, and now to who know when.  I know that the above says that there is still a "hope" for December but I am finding that to be a little optimistic based on performance to date.

The other element of the update from Call Flow that bothers me is the reference to Call Flow not being able to complete the work on connecting out cabinet to the network until Openreach has done their work.  Why not do this in parallel to Openreach's work so we can be connected sooner than will otherwise be the case?

In any case, the bigger issue is Openreach and I feel as though it might be time to reach out to our counselor and to the office of our MP to ask for their support in putting some pressure on them.   My strategy would be to write a letter to the CEO of Openreach with copies to the offices of our elected representatives.  I would then forward their copies under a cover letter asking if they could support our request for priority from Openreach.  

I have no idea if the above will be effective or if I am being Don Quixote but at this point I feel that anything is worth an effort.   I am waiting to hear a status from Superfast Berkshire prior to writing these letters.  It would be nice to know where we stood in the queue with Openreach.

An editorial note.  It might also be nice if Openreach were its own corporate entity as opposed to part of the monstrosity that is BT.  A company that is supposed to be providing open service for the network that is shared by all network providers while being owned by the largest player does not seem to be in the public's interest for competitive fair play.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Another Update - Getting Closer?

Here is the text of the latest update from Superfast Berkshire:

I have now spoken with Call Flow’s PM to get an update for the Temple area.

The plan remains unchanged, with an additional cabinet (both BT telephone cabinet and Call Flow fibre cabinet being installed as an ‘extension’ to cabinet 9).

There have been some challenges in running the fibre connections between the two areas that has caused Call Flow to review the planned route and seek potential alternatives. There are some local discussions underway to review / evaluate the options (one involving the telegraph pole) and then once these have concluded they will be able to continue with the installation subject to any agreement with Highways at RBWM. Until Call Flow have completed this evaluation, I will not know the impact and any potential delay (if any).

Bringing superfast broadband to Temple is not at risk, its just needs to overcome a couple of challenges. Something that Call Flow have proved to be very good at handling.
I can update you further when we have a resolution with any impact on timescales.
Best Regards
Colin Batchelor
Superfast Berkshire - Project Manager

We have also been in contact with Call Flow Solutions and they are suggesting a go-live in December.  Obviously a delay is not what we wanted to hear but if they are putting a cabinet in Temple we will benefit with truly fast broadband.  Note that subsequent to the above message I received another one from Colin with a hope that Call Flow Solutions might be able to do better than December.   We will see.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

When, oh When, Will we Be Connected?

The answer is still not completely clear!  

In April we heard the following from Superfast Berkshire:
  • "Temple is a too far away (more than 2km) from cabinet 9 to provide a superfast solution to properties at Temple and so needs some extra infrastructure to complete the job. Call Flow have been investigating a number of options and are currently looking to install an additional cabinet on the island to feed your properties. This is a ‘new process’ that is being piloted (although the technology is proven), has to be carried out in conjunction with BT Openreach and involves considerable work in various copper re-arrangement. This will be more costly (to Call Flow) but a much better option than say a Fixed Wireless solution providing your residents with a better quality outcome.
  • Call Flow are currently saying that this will not be in place until the summer 2016 but I think you should manage local expectations with a target date of say September, anything earlier should be considered as a bonus."
We are fast approaching September and while some progress is being made I wonder when it will result in an offering to which we can subscribe.

Here is the latest from Call Flow Solutions:

"A joint survey with Openreach and Call Flow has been completed and Openreach have scheduled in the work to install their new cabinet at Temple. Call Flow and Call Flow's contractor have carried out survey work on possible routes to connect the Temple cabinet back to Call Flow's infrastructure.  The route is not straight forward and three alternatives are being considered."

This is obviously a change from the April status as we will now be requiring the laying of a connection to our new cabinet from the one on the Henley Roundabout instead of using existing copper and some new technology.  I guess there is good news and bad in what I am reading.  Good news in that speeds might be better with a new connection and that the technology might be more reliable.  The bad news seems to be in the need for a new connection and all that implies for access rights, digging, stringing, and the like.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Close enough to know some costing

We are close enough now to know what a high speed connection will cost but not yet how fast that connection might be.  Call Flow Solutions is looking to install a cabinet in Temple that will provide a potential for 30mbps download speeds.  This would be truly super fast but might not be available to everyone depending on where the copper runs from the exchange attached cabinet where the FTTC has been installed.

Here is the text of an email from Call Flow Solutions that discusses costs:

In regards to your questions I can offer little information due to not knowing the exact location of the cabinet... yet!

We hope to be to able to provide up to 30Mbps download and up to 2Mbps upload (again we cannot specify what addresses will get what speed due to not knowing the location of the cabinet)

We will be offering 2 packages for residential

Call Flow 40
·         Connection fee £78
·         BB rental PCM £27
·         40GB Usage PCM
·         Line only rental £16.99 (two calling packages available that can be added on e.g. unlimited weekend and evening and unlimited anytime)

Total cost of package per calendar month: £43.99 inc VAT

Call Flow XXL
·         Connection fee £78
·         BB rental PCM £32.40
·         200GB Usage PCM (20p per GB over)
·         Line only rental £16.99 (two calling packages available that can be added on)

Total cost of package per calendar month: £49.39 inc VAT

There will also be two standard business packages available

Call Flow 40
·         Up to 30/5
·         £99 + VAT connection fee
·         Monthly BB rental: £36.50 + VAT
·         40GB usage limit
·         Includes single fixed IP

Call Flow XXL
·         Up to 30/5
·         £99 + VAT connection fee
·         £41 + VAT
·         200 GB usage limit (17p + VAT per GB thereafter)
·         Includes single fixed IP

We can also offer bespoke business packages through our business development manager Taylor.

From their website it looks like they have two different price plans with Temple(/Berkshire) and Hampshire in the upper and East Sussex and Kent in the lower.  I have asked if this is because of a more expensive technology that we require or is it a factor of time and we can hope to see cost reductions in the future?  I ask the latter because I thought that I remembered checking their prices when they first got the contract and seeing Kent be higher but I could be mistaken.

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