Something is coming….

As most of you are probably all too painfully aware, I was more than a little miffed when BT decided to pass us by a couple of years back in the roll out of Fibre to the Cabinet (FTCC). I even wrote about it here.

Since then, despite letters to the council, BT themselves, and numerous phone calls to anyone I thought may be able to help, the situation has remained the same. Watching others hurtle past in the fast lane with all their flashy sports cars, while I dawdled along in the slow lane in the equivalent of a Morris Minor. And before you start, I happen to quite like Morris Minors. There was no sign of any positive news, other than the government statement that it had asked BT to improve their efforts to bring the nation up to speed, and that it should all more or less happen by the end of 2015. That was until now.

A few days ago, a trusted colleague, who is aware of my plight, called me while I was abroad with work. He told me he’d seen a couple of BT OpenReach vans down his road, and more importantly, they had a large roll of fibre with them. Being of inquisitive nature, he asked what they were up to, and in short, got told there was a “push” on to get the remainder of the area cabled up for fibre. Needless to say, at this point I got rather excited. I asked if he could enquire about my now famous cabinet 39, and if that was on the list, but their job sheet for the day didn’t have it on. Either way, it was a very positive sign. A couple of days later, another sighting at a different location, but still in the (local) area.

The cabinets in our area that thus far have not been enabled, don’t have (not surprisingly) the extra fibre cabinet located next to or close to the existing one. My thoughts were that if the fibre was being laid to the existing cabinets and “capped off”, and there genuinely was a push on to get FTTC deployed in full, I should soon start to see the fitters deploying the new cabinets sooner rather than later.

Fast forward, to my run this morning. What do I see as I turn the corner and run past “PCP 39”?

PCP39

Joy! A few meters from the existing cabinet, markings as to where a new cabinet is to be installed. As to when? I’ve no idea, but it’s clear to me something is now very much happening. Flushed with this news, I decided to have a look around at some of the other cabinets in the area in need of fibre.

People of Roe Lane / Hesketh Drive (P12), you’re in luck.

P12

And for those in Bankfield Lane (P4) you too.

P4

Not forgetting the souls of Ferryside Lane and surrounding areas (P36)

P40

And the happy people of Moss Lane (P37)

P37

I’m afraid I didn’t have time to travel up to Banks and near the Riverside, so if your line hangs off P34, P38 or P43, I can’t tell you the latest.

But the bad news, P33 (Elswick Rd) and P40 (Merepark Drive) don’t (as yet) show any signs of progress.

M.

 

 

 

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A few thoughts on the UK’s mobile operators

Some weeks ago, a report was published that at the time, attracted quite a lot of attention. It was headlined the “UK’s most comprehensive tests of mobile networks”, so given my interests, I decided to give it a good read through.

The BBC reported it here, while the original direct from RootMetrics can be seen here.

I’ve always (probably incorrectly), thought I have a fairly decent knowledge of the pros and cons of the mobile networks, so was interested to see how my view compared to this survey. Sure, everyone has their view, but for me the decision as to which operator you choose has to be a balance of cost versus performance, and that the definition of “performance” for one user can be different to another.

In years gone by, the big two, O2 (Cellnet as was) and Vodafone always had the better coverage, they had more frequencies to go at, more masts and had been building their networks for many years before the other operators even got started. Then along came Orange and OneToOne (soon to be T-Mobile) who built networks from scratch primarily on 1800MHz. Finally, “3” launched after all the operators had paid an absolute fortune for their 3G licences.

Once all the operators were in place, I’d still argue, that the best choice was still likely to be O2 or Vodafone, since at the time they continued to have the better coverage. And by that I mean in remote or rural areas, you’d probably be able to pick up a signal from the big two, whereas there was little chance from one of the “new” players.

Now, that’s all changed. What I’ve experienced is that Vodafone (as the report finds), has indeed the worst performance of the UK networks, and by some distance. For example, where I live, a mast has been promised for the last three years, but still nothing. In my house I can’t even get a 2G signal, let alone 3G or god forbid 4G/LTE. Driving around it’s a similar story. Sure, in the big cities they just about put up a fight, but outside of that you’ll find many areas where if you’re wanting to use your phone for data, the best you’ll get is a 2G signal.

My wife, and the rest of the family are on O2. While this is a little better, at least in and around where I live, it’s still not great. Coverage can be patchy, but at least they’ve more masts than Vodafone so you at least get a chance of a connection. So, I’d agree with the survey, the worst two are indeed now the old big two providers.

What has surprised me is how well the networks of the other operators have improved. Sure, there’s been a lot of network sharing to the point you may not even know who’s bit of the network you’re actually on (Three share their 3G network with what was T-Mobile), and T-Mobile were taken over my Orange to form “EE” who are all talking about how to share each other’s networks, but the net result is that if you’re with EE, Orange, T-Mobile or Three, there’s a pretty good chance you’re likely to be better off.

So, let’s lump Orange and T-Mobile together into EE (which is what they are now), how do you decide between them and Three? Tough one. But I think the survey has it right. For out and out coverage, EE is the answer. Simply because at least for now, Three only have a 3G network (with 4G rolling out), but no 2G network. They used to have a fall back roaming arrangement initially with O2, then with Orange, but that no longer exists. The result, is that if you were out in the sticks somewhere, due to 2100MHz not handling distance well, you could end up out of coverage.

If you’re basing your choice on data speed, then it’s still EE, simply because they have more 4G today than anyone else. If you’re looking for the quality and speed of the network, then, in my view it’s Three. While a lot of it is only 3G, it’s damned good 3G with consistently high throughput.

So, in summary, there’s nothing I disagree with in the survey. I think it’s an excellent piece of work that reflects the current situation. Operators continue to change, so what’s right today, could be totally different within a few months. But if I were signing up for a new contract today, it’d be a tough choice between Three and EE. I like the unlimited data tariffs of Three, their network quality I believe is better than EE’s but EE do have better coverage. Your choice 🙂

M.