"Not in my life-time" - a term often heard in the rural backwaters of England since the beginning of the 21st century.
What we are referring to is, of course, broadband.
But in middle-England there are those who would not take this state sitting down. The village of Abthorpe, a 120-house ”Royalist” Stronghold in the upper Tove valley in Northamptonshire, did just that to change the face of broadband delivery in the area for ever.
Dial-up connection to the internet at 0.024Mbps was improved dramatically in 2003 with a community supported satellite data connection to Belgium and provided "always on" broadband at 1.0down/0.25upMbps to 50 houses distributed across the roof-tops by 2.4Ghz WiFi. Cantennea (had to be Scotch cans), Fish-fryers (3-foot mesh reflectors) and commercial antennae were used in an effort to maximise radio connection and reduce interference. Lots of fun with RG-142 co-ax and SMA connectors!
In 2007 BT enabled the local exchange for ADSL so we changed from satellite to 4 land-line business connections which allowed us to distribute the service to other members. Each line provided about 2/0.5Mbps.
In 2013 we expanded the community group to include 5 more villages, even co-operating with ”Parlimentarians”, and fed the main point of presence with a 100/100Mbps fibre backhaul courtesy of 6degrees and BT wholesale. We upgraded our equipment at premises to integrated 5Ghz antenna-radio-ethernet Ubiquity units, utilised radio pipes at 100/100Mbps between the villages and increased our membership base to over 200. This model worked very well but within a year, the radio pipes were beginning to be overloaded, and with increasing membership, the service was only going to get worse.
In 2014-2015, with the aid of £108K from government and £170K loans raised in the communities, we laid more than 12km of 24-core fibres over farmland, under streams, across roads and into radio access points in each village. These APs are hosted on churches, a school, farm buildings and homes - even a grain silo. Our backhaul was changed to a direct Telehouse connection with a 1,000/1,000Mbps service. To keep our principle of DIY wherever possible, we chose GPON architecture which allows us to extend our fibre network with in-house expertise.
By April, 2015 we had a very fast high-bandwidth supply to each village with some low-volume radio extensions to other neighbouring villages who wanted to join our enterprise. We now deliver between 30 and 100Mbps symmetrical broadband service to the majority of 460 members. For those insisting upon the bees-knees, we can deliver fibre to the premises and provide the full 1,000/1,000Mbps connection.
We are way above average in the world rankings for average and peak speeds experienced.
There is plenty of real evidence that this service has greatly helped the economy of the area with increased employment and expanding population. With our superfast broadband, streaming TV and films and VOIP telephone services replacing landlines, the average spend on all communication services, excluding mobile phones, is less than £20/month – previously the cost of just a line rental.
Abthorpe Broadband Association Limited (ABbA) is a not-for-profit limited by guarantee community company approved for State Aid. Membership of the Association costs £100, and broadband service costs £90 (£120 in Blakesley) installation with a £120/year subscription.
ABbA has outgoings of £35,000/year and an income of £56,000/year and expects to pay back all loans by 2018.
This Superfast project is supported by the Rural Development Programme for England, for which Defra is the Managing Authority, part financed by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.
If you have any questions or would like further detail not found in these pages,
please use the Contact Us form.
Directors: Eric Malcomson (chairman); Philip Berry (communications); Keith Fenwick (coordinators); Peter Watkins (technical); Richard Tomalin (webmaster); David Toman (Helmdon).
Other VIPs: David Symers (treasurer); Paul Smith (coordinator, Lois Weedon and Weston); Dave Long
(coordinator, Wappenham); Justin Fletcher (coordinator, Astwell); Steve
Crowcroft (coordinator, Bradden); John