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Broadband

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Network lead

Update: New cabinet at Longcross, July 2017

Broadband coverage in the village is patchy, with some areas having excellent speeds and others having virtually nothing.

The Parish Council is raising the situation with South Gloucestershire Council, and hopefully you've already helped them out by filling in a broadband speed survey either on paper or via the on-line form.

It appears there's lot of confusion about what's available, where it's available, and the factors that affect the speed you're likely to get. Here's Cromhall.com's unofficial guide:

Broadband - what you need to know

There are two main 'flavours' of broadband

The original flavour of broadband was ADSL - this runs a digital signal down your phone line all the way from the telephone exchange. Physics being physics, the longer your phone line, the weaker the signal is by the time you get it. A weaker signal means a lower speed.

There's no telephone exchange in Cromhall, so everyone's phone lines run all the way from Falfield or Wickwar (more on that later). Speeds will be between 0.5 and 4Mbps - not great.

Because the limiting factor is always the length of the line, the newer flavour of broadband runs from roadside cabinets rather than the exchange, meaning the distance is much less. The technology is also capable of much higher speeds than ADSL.

The newer version goes by a variety of names: the connection into the roadside cabinet is via fibre-optic cable, so it gets called fibre broadband, fibre-to-the-cabinet or FTTC; the connection between the cabinet and your house uses a system called VDSL, and then the various internet providers have marketing names such as BT Infinity etc. We'll call it FTTC.

Where you live determines what's available

The village is split between two different telephone exchanges, and is fed via three different roadside cabinets. The split is:

  • Leyhill and Park End are fed from the Falfield exchange, via cabinet number 4 (on the B4509 opposite Tortworth school).
  • Bibstone (except Drews Orchard) is also fed from the Falfield exchange, via cabinet 8 (by the roundabout at Charfield hill).
  • The rest of the village is fed from the Wickwar exchange, via cabinet 2 (on Cowship Lane).

Falfield numbers usually start 01454 26; Wickwar numbers usually start 01454 29.

All the existing cabinets have now been upgraded for FTTC, but because they're fairly far-flung, that doesn't necessarily mean you can get FTTC; read on.

How can I check which cabinet I'm on?

Go to www.dslchecker.bt.com and enter your phone number.

So, can I get FTTC?

Best way to check is to go to www.dslchecker.bt.com and enter your phone number. If you see lines that mention FTTC, then yes, you're probably in luck. The webpage will also give estimates of the sort of speed you could expect - it'll be somewhere between the first number on the 'FTTC Range A' line and the second number on the 'FTTC Range B' line.

The shorter your telephone line back to the cabinet, the more chance there is you'll be able to get it, and the higher the speed is likely to be.

I'm on a FTTC-enabled cabinet; do I automatically get faster speeds?

No.

Firstly, there's no automatic upgrade. You'll need to ask your internet service provider (ISP) to change. If you're on slow ADSL and don't do anything, you'll remain on slow ADSL.

Secondly, distance is still a factor. If you're too far from the cabinet, you're out of luck.

Will it cost much more?

You'll need to change which service you're on, so your bill is likely to change. However, it depends what you paid before and which company you're with - in some case the faster service is cheaper.

But I've asked before and been told ADSL is all I can get

Cabinet 8 was upgraded autumn 2014; cabinet 2 on Cowship Lane only went live at the start of January 2015. If you've not checked since then, check again.

How come BT say I can get fibre broadband but can't get BT Infinity?

It appears that if your predicted speed is below 15Mbps, BT won't let you have BT Infinity. Don't let that put you off though, as they'll sell you 'Faster Broadband' instead, which seems to be the same thing but fractionally cheaper.

What sort of speeds can I get?

Again, use the www.dslchecker.bt.com website, but generally speaking Bibstone (except Drews Orchard) gets around 8-20Mbps, then for those on the Cowship Lane cabinet, it depends on the distance: 80Mbps by the cabinet, 30-80Mbps along Cowship Lane, 30-50Mbps for Jubilee Lane, 20-40Mbps for Heathend, perhaps 10-20Mbps by the time it gets to Longcross. 10Mbps at the Burltons.

Beyond that, things get tricker. Read on...

Longer lines

Most people beyond Longcross should theoretically be able to get FTTC - perhaps 5-8Mbps in Townwell, for example, but in practice it appears that Openreach have now declared FTTC is not available on the longer lines. This leads to the odd situation where some people who ordered in January have FTTC lines at, say, 7Mbps, but their neighbours now trying to order are being told that it's not available on their lines, and are stuck with 1-2Mbps ADSL.

On the www.dslchecker.bt.com website, if there's no mention of FTTC, you'll have no luck trying to order it. If you've already got FTTC and your predicted speed shows 0.1-1Mbps, that appears to mean that you snuck in before the changes and got it, but you wouldn't be able to order it now.

For the longest lines in the village - Abbotside, Drews Orchard, the far end of Talbots End and Rectory Lane, FTTC is unlikely to work at all for now.

Where do the phone lines run?

As distance from the cabinet is the critical factor in determining speed and availability, knowing how the phone lines are fed around the village is useful.

Generally speaking, all the lines in the village follow the road network:

Lines from cabinet 4 run along Tortworth Road to Leyhill and a few outlying properties.

The route from cabinet 8 runs down the main road from the Charfield Hill roundabout, and follows the Bibstone loop past the pub and back down again, with a spur off for the properties at the bottom of Tortworth Road. For some reason Drews Orchard is missed out - instead it is fed from the (further away) Cowship Lane cabinet via the main road.

Cabinet 2 is on Cowship Lane, with the route being to and then along the main road, spurring off for Jubilee Lane and The Green. Once the route gets to Longcross it heads off in several directions, again following the road network along Church Lane, Talbots End Lane and further up the main road for Townwell and Drews Orchard. Abbotside is fed via Church Lane and Butcroft Lane. Rectory Lane is fed the long way round via Church Lane, except for a few lucky properties fed from Jubilee Lane.

I'm fed from Cowship Lane and can't get FTTC

As of July 2017 a new cabinet appears to be being installed at Longcross; hopefully this will be used for existing lines, not just the new houses. If that is the case, we could see speeds of 50-80Mbps for Townwell, Talbots End and Church Lane, 40-60Mbps for Drews Orchard, and 20-50Mbps for Rectory Lane and Abbotside.

How can I improve the speed I get?

The main factor in broadband speed is simply the length (and quality) of the telephone line to your house.

However, other factors such as the state of your internal wiring can also affect the speed; if you're keen to eke out every little bit of speed from your line, have your router or modem plugged into the master socket to keep the length of the internal wiring to a minimum. There's plenty of advice available if you google for it.

One other factor that gets less publicity is simply what equipment you use. Most people use whatever their ISP provides them with, but it's not always the best. Experimenting with other brands of routers can yield good results - as a personal example, here at Cromhall.com HQ we're on one of the longest lines in the village. The BT-supplied HomeHub 5 would not sync at all and neither would the Openreach engineer's test equipment. A Draytek Vigor router managed better with 1Mbps, but not reliably. But a Huawei HG612-3B box bought for £15 off eBay gives us a solid 2Mbps. Let us know if you've found a box that's significantly better than the others, and we'll start a list here.

Are there alternatives to ADSL and FTTC?

Yes, plenty, but they all have some sort of drawback. There's satellite broadband, but it suffers from latency (high ping times) making it unsuitable for VoIP telephony and on-line gaming; there's 3G, but if you're a heavy internet user you won't be able to find a plan that offers you enough data monthly; there's private fibre (fibre to the premises, or FTTP), but it can cost a fortune to install.

Anything to add?

Got any information to add? Drop us a note to let us know.

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