Why might I be interested in the new broadband service?
Firstly, you might be one of the 14% of people who responded to our survey who simply cannot receive a broadband service at all today. If you do have a broadband service already then the “Ultra fast” speeds will bring a much faster connection, better reliability, and possibly, lower costs. Our survey showed that many people were very frustrated by web pages taking ages to display, e-mails taking minutes (or hours!) to download, and video on YouTube or the BBC iPlayer stuttering and pausing just when you get to the exciting bit. The new service can provide speeds that are hundreds of times faster than the existing technology, with a range of speeds and prices to match your needs. A faster connection would also let you use the internet for new things such as watching films on demand or video calling.
Is the scheme the same as in Stanton Harcourt and Appleton?
Not quite. In the other local communities where Gigaclear have built networks, they are doing this on a purely commercial basis, offering only superfast speeds. In our community, we have secured financial help from the Rural Community Broadband Fund which is being match funded by Gigaclear. This has allowed us to get the network built even though Northmoor, Bablockhythe and Moreton are very spread out with relatively few people, making it more expensive to build here.
The government grant has also enabled the scheme to offer a low cost option (the “Home DUO” product) which is priced to be competitive with entry-level basic broadband in the rest of the country. This is in line with the scheme’s objective that absolutely everyone in the community should have access to the internet. If you do want superfast speeds then you will need to choose one of the faster services that will also be offered.
Tell me more about the “DUO” product.
The project team were determined not to end up with a scheme that only provided a very high-speed service if it meant that it was not affordable for everyone. The DUO product provides a good basic internet service (2 Mbit/s) at an affordable price (£23 a month, including line rental). This will be suitable for e-mail, web browsing, and basic video services such as YouTube and the BBC iPlayer (assuming one video stream at a time).
However, If you have several people running multiple devices at once in your home, want to stream HD movies or upload and download large files then the regular Gigaclear Home50 product will be be more suitable for your needs. It is really important to understand though that the actual fibre and the equipment in your home is identical, whichever service level you choose. At any time a DUO customer can upgrade to Home50 or any of the faster services by simply contacting Gigaclear. See below for more information about speeds.
So, what are the benefits of faster download speeds?
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) are the government body responsible for getting the UK’s broadband infrastructure updated to meet the needs of the 21st century. They define “superfast broadband” as a service that delivers a download speed of at least 24 Mbit/s. The standard Gigaclear product (Home50) provides 50 Mbit/s, so it comfortably qualifies as superfast. Compared to the 4 to 6 Mbit/s that is typically available in the centre of Northmoor today, this is ten times faster, and even faster speeds are also available.
This means that a file download when working from home that currently takes five minutes would take about 30 seconds, and downloading a high definition movie which would take hours on your current connection would only take minutes on the Gigaclear network. New services such as streaming films on demand and smart TVs already require these higher speeds, especially if there is more than one video device in your home (including the smartphones and tablets!).
So what about upload speed?
Most broadband providers only talk about download speed – moving data from the internet to your computer, smartphone or tablet. With the existing service over BT’s copper wires, the upload speed is much slower than the download speed. This is because the existing services were designed around web browsing, where most of the data was moving from the internet to your home. Today, many services need just as much bandwidth in the other direction. Examples include uploading pictures to share on Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, uploading videos to YouTube, and video calling with Skype. People working from home need to download e-mails with PowerPoint or Excel files attached – but of course they also need to upload them when they have finished working on them. All the Gigaclear services (including the DUO) are symmetrical services, where the upload speed is the same as the download speed.
My kids keep talking about “ping times”. What are they on about?
The ping time measures how long a single packet of data takes to get to the internet and back again. This is important if you are playing on-line multi-player games (for example on Playstation or Xbox Live consoles) because it limits your reaction times. Basically, if you have a long ping time you’ll have been shot in the game before you have time to move… It is also really important for realistic video conferencing without annoying delays, if you are a financial trader, or when you are competing in a scramble for that last-minute e-Bay bargain or must-have concert ticket. The Gigaclear network will typically provide ping times below 10ms, compared with typical figures in Northmoor today of 50-100ms. Unlike upload and download speeds where bigger numbers are better, you want the ping time to be as small as possible.
How do the speeds on offer compare with my present service?
The best way to asses this (assuming that you are able to receive a service today) is to use an on-line speed checker – we recommend that you go to:
and click on the “BEGIN TEST” button. This will tell you your ping time, download speed and upload speed. You can then compare this with the 2 Mbit/s symmetrical DUO service or the 50 Mbit/s Home50 service.
Why do I get a different speed than other people in the village? Will this be the same with Gigaclear?
The current service is delivered over the BT telephone wires using a technology called ADSL. These wires were never originally intended for data use, and the speed that can be achieved depends on how far you are from the telephone exchange, how many joins there are in the cable, and what condition the cable is in. This is why for many people the performance is different when it rains a lot – the cable gets damp and the performance gets worse. With the Gigaclear network every home will get exactly the same speed – irrespective of distance.
I live in the middle of the village. My current service gives me a faster download speed than the “DUO” product – should I stay with my current provider?
Possibly. If you are completely happy with your existing service then you may indeed wish to stay as you are. The DUO service exists to ensure that everyone can get connected, but is not in itself a superfast service. If you want all the benefits of a superfast connection then you should consider the Home50 service rather than the DUO. Another possible reason to move to the DUO is the potential for saving money – see the later section on costs. However, if you move from a faster service to the DUO just to save money then you may be disappointed by the download speed, so again you should really be looking at the Home50 product.
Does the Gigaclear service replace my phone line completely?
You can choose whether you want to keep your BT line for your phone or you can move to a “Voice Over IP” service, which will be the cheaper option in almost all cases. If you choose to move to VOIP then there are a large number of providers available, and Gigaclear recommend one called Vonage. The basic Vonage service includes free unlimited calls to UK landlines and costs £7 a month in addition to the Gigaclear service. If you are a Gigaclear customer there is no setup fee for Vonage. Vonage provide a small box that you connect between your Gigaclear router and your existing phones, so it is easy to set up. More details on call packages are available at Vonage’s web site here:
If I transfer my phone, will my phone number change?
In most cases you can transfer your existing phone number to your Vonage phone, although there are some exceptions for recently-allocated numbers with some providers. In general if you have a 300xxx or 301xxx number then it should be possible to transfer it.
How does e-mail work with Gigaclear? Will I have to change my e-mail address if I sign up?
This will depend on how your present e-mail service is set up.
If you use a web-based or cloud-based e-mail service then you don’t need to do anything – it will just work. Examples of this kind of e-mail are e-mail addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You generally access this kind of e-mail using your web browser.
If you use an e-mail service hosted by your current internet service provider (ISP) then you will probably have to make new arrangements and change your e-mail address. Examples of this kind of e-mail are e-mail addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org etc. You generally access this kind of e-mail with a mail program on your computer such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, or Mozilla Thunderbird, and they are usually referred to as “POP3” or “IMAP” mail services. You may be able to pay your existing ISP to continue to provide a mail-only service for a monthly fee, but in most cases it will make more sense to move to a web-based service such as Gmail or Hotmail.
The third option is to register a domain so that you are in more control of how this works in the future, and then use that domain name to direct your mail to a web-based or other mail service. Examples of this kind of e-mail address would be my_name@family_name.co.uk. Setting this up is beyond the scope of this article, but if you want more advice on this (or any other aspect of e-mail options) then feel free to contact the broadband team via the “Contact Us” page of this website.
How much will it cost?
IMPORTANT NOTE: The following information about costs was correct at the time that the project launched, and set out to illustrate the comparisons with existing provision at that time. It is NOT regularly updated, so you will need to check the Gigaclear website as well as your existing provider(s) for up-to-date figures.
The Home DUO service (2 Mbit/s symmetrical) costs £23 a month and the Home50 (50 Mbit/s symmetrical) costs £37 a month. If you add a Vonage phone service this will cost an additional £7 a month including unlimited calls to landlines (calls to mobiles are extra, and alternative packages are available from Vonage if you make lots of calls to mobiles or international numbers).
How does the cost compare with my present service?
To compare the cost of the Gigaclear + Vonage service to your existing package, you need to add up the various elements of your existing service. Be careful to include everything – especially if you buy your internet service from a different company from your phone line. A typical calculation will include the following elements:
- Line rental
- Calling package and any extra features
- Call charges not included in your call package
- Broadband service
Note that BT billing is usually done quarterly, not monthly, so you will need to divide your bill by three… Some people will have a “bundled” approach which also includes mobile phones or TV services, in which case you will need to work out what you plan to do with the various different parts. Just by way of an example, here is the actual calculation for one of the broadband team:
Line rental (BT) £15.99 / month
Calling features (BT) £7.00 / month
Calls to mobiles (BT) £5.40 / month average
Broadband service (Plusnet) £17.24 / month
Total £45.63 / month
This compares to Gigaclear + Vonage (Home DUO, 2 Mbit/s) as follows:
Gigaclear £23 / month
Vonage £7 / month
Calls to mobiles £0.30 / month
Total £30.30 / month
For superfast speeds with Gigaclear, the Home50 package would cost:
Gigaclear £37 / month
Vonage £7 / month
Calls to mobiles £0.30 / month
Total £44.30 / month
So in this particular real case, even the Home50 superfast service will cost less than the existing service, which provides just 4 Mbit/s download and 0.3 Mbit/s upload speeds. It’s really not a hard decision… Of course this is just an example – you need to check your own figures!
Is there an installation fee or any other extra costs?
Yes. There is a connection fee of £100, which covers the router for your house and the fibre to run from the connection point on the boundary of your property to your house. This assumes that you are able to do a DIY installation of the fibre yourself, which is pretty straightforward in most cases. If you prefer to have a professional installation by Gigaclear’s partner company Boxcom, then prices start at £95 for a typical job with up to 25 metres distance from the property boundary to the house, in addition to the £100 connection fee.
Your boundary is the boundary between your property and the public highway. So if you have a long drive from the public road (more than 25 metres) extra fibre will have to be laid. The costs for Boxcom to do this or DIY prices for the cable are on the Gigaclear website. In situations where there is no direct boundary from your property to the public highway you will need to discuss your installation with Gigaclear directly.
If you have a large house you may also need to spend some money on cable, switches and access points for your Wi-Fi to maximise access to the superfast speeds (see below) This cost will vary from property to property. The present set up in your home may be fine.
What happens inside my house? What about my wires and my Wi-Fi?
Gigaclear will provide you with a new router box as part of the connection fee. This replaces your existing router box if you already have a broadband connection using your BT phone line. The router box connects to the fibre itself and provides four sockets on the other side for wired network connections. It also provides an internal Wi-Fi “access point” for your wireless devices like smart phones and tablets.
You will need to connect all your devices to the new router box. If you have wired connections, it is simply a matter of moving the wires across to the new box and plugging them in. For the Wi-Fi devices you will need to configure each device to tell it about the new router and to log in with a password. Note that all Wi-Fi access points operate on one of a small number of available “radio channels”. It is possible that your old router and the new router might coincidentally be on the same channel which could cause them to interfere with each other. If you are not sure how to check this then simply switch your old router off completely and then you know it definitely isn’t on the same channel as the new one!
Think carefully about the best place to site the new router. This will typically be on an outside wall, and Boxcom will of course tend to put it close to where the fibre arrives at your house. However, you should consider how easy it will be to get wires to it inside the house and also where the best position is for Wi-Fi coverage. In general a central position is best, with as few walls as possible between the router and the places where you want the Wi-Fi to work best.
Because of the much higher speeds available through the fibre connection, you may want to consider changing some things about how your devices are connected. With the existing broadband in Northmoor over the BT wires, the broadband connection is much slower than Wi-Fi. So, it doesn’t make much difference whether a computer is connected by a wire or wirelessly. With the superfast speed of the fibre, the Wi-Fi is now quite a bit slower than the fibre connection, and the more devices using the Wi-Fi, the slower it will be. So, to take full advantage of the fast fibre connection, you should try to connect things with wires wherever possible, leaving the Wi-Fi for mobile things like phones and tablets. So desktop computers, smart TVs, and other fixed devices should be connected by wires where possible. You can buy small network switches quite cheaply to extend the wires and create additional sockets if necessary. Similarly games consoles will provide a better experience if you use a wired connection (you’ll get shot less often!).
The range and performance of Wi-Fi is very hard to predict. The exact shape and position of the antennas inside the router box, the positioning of the box, the design of your mobile devices, and the construction of the walls and floors in your house will all affect the range. As a result it is almost impossible to predict whether the Wi-Fi performance of your new router will be better, worse or much the same as your old one. Also, if you are taking advantage of the higher speeds available from the fibre, you will notice the performance drop as you move away from the router in a way that would not have been detected with a slow broadband connection. If you do have problems with achieving high-speed Wi-Fi coverage through the whole of your house then you can easily add more access points to cover areas of poor signal strength. These access points plug into one of the wired sockets on the router, and can be positioned at the other end of the house, upstairs etc. as necessary. It is obviously a bit of work to feed the cable tidily between the Gigaclear router and the extra access point(s), but well worth it to get perfect coverage of high-speed Wi-Fi all through your house. If you want any advice about the best way to connect everything up in your house, then please get in touch with the broadband team via the Contact Us page on this website.
When will the network be finished and working?
The network is live and functional – you can order services now!
The Bablockhythe caravan park is not yet complete but should be done and lit before the end of September 2014.
How do I sign up?
You can sign up for the Home50 and faster services on the Gigaclear website. Because the Home DUO service is only available to subscribers in Northmoor, Bablockhythe and Moreton it does not appear on the standard price lists on the Gigaclear website. So, to sign up for this you need to fill in a paper form which is available from your local Gigaclear representative, Max Poole (see contact details below), or from Sue Harrison or Terri Allison. You can contact Sue or Terri via the “Contact Us” page on this website.
What will happen next?
Gigaclear have organised a number of events to give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and understand all the options. In addition, our local Gigaclear representative, Max Poole, will be visiting every property individually to discuss the service with everyone in the community.
First thing to do is to sign up. Then you will receive a welcome pack explaining what to do next.
If you are DIY then you will be given the fibre and router to install yourself. If you have signed up with Boxcom they will be in touch to ask you where on your property you want the fibre to run and where the router should go. Blue paint marks the point where the connection to your house will start. Once the installation is finished your connection to the network will be made (usually on the same day) and you will then be able to access one of the fastest broadband connections in the world.
The sign-up process includes a direct debit form. When will Gigaclear start to take money from my account?
No money will be taken from your account until you have a confirmed date for your service to go live. Typically the installation and connection costs will be charged at the same time as the first month’s service fee. Note that as with most other broadband providers Gigaclear charge monthly in advance.
Contact info for Max Poole – your local Gigaclear representative
For more information about the Gigaclear service, feel free to contact your local representative, Max Poole, on 07436 108327.
The Gigaclear website is at http://www.gigaclear.com/
Alternatively contact the volunteer broadband team via the “Contact Us” page on this website.