The Great Asby Case Study
Two gentlemen, Miles Mandleson and John Bevan, members of the Gt.Asby Community Interest Company (CIC) gave presentations at Rory Stewart’s November 6th Broadband Champions meeting and described the Gt.Asby broadband internet context past, present and future.
Miles Mandleson of Great Asby Broadband Group explains what they’re doing (above) and John Bevan explains how to manage a project as a Community Interest Company (below) Videos Courtesy of John Popham
Great Asby was set up with a very good optical fibre telephone system some time ago, but unfortunately its type couldn’t handle broadband or ADSL signals. So far from being in an advanced state as they had hoped, they instead found themselves left behind in terms of internet connectivity. Major providers like BT didn’t want to help, because they thought it wasn’t very profitable to fix the problem.
So the Community established a CIC (a type of company that is an Non-profit organisation often used to manage village halls) and set up their own wireless based system with the assistance of CLEO through Lancaster University. CLEO helps community facilities like schools and libraries with connection to the net on favourable terms (this is a very useful Cumbria County Council backed initiative).
They already had a 100 MBps fibre-optic connection fixed up to the school. They set up a feed from this to the Village Hall (Set up by LUNS ) offering up to 2 Mbps speed, and used a ‘Mesh system’ transmitting 2.4GHz wireless signals from there to seven routing nodes within the village. Full rate subscribers pay £20 per month, they also have separate rates for holiday homes and for short stay visitors (caravaners who pay as they go). Users have subscriber units attached to their houses that point to the nearest node. The nodes make a “cat’s cradle” of connections that lead back to the hall and so to the internet. As some people lived out of range, they put an 8th node on Goodlie Hill – this one powered by a battery that’s charged by a small wind turbine and solar array.
They now have over 60 subscribers. They are very keen to increase their subscriber base. They make about £12,000 and it costs about £3300 to run. The single major expense is paying for “Backhaul” (the potential to upload and download to and from the internet). It was not totally reliable, there’s regular loss of connection, but subscribers are tolerant, making allowance for difficulties of remote location, range is 2 Km at best. Limit to bandwidth of this mesh was 3 Mbps and not expandable.
They wanted to raise their ‘Backhaul’ to 8 or 10 Mbps, extend bandwidth signal to 5 GHz which would extend their range to 5 Kms, find a popular internet service provider and improve service reliability. (This is still a far cry from the 50Mbps that the govt. would like to see (in order to get closer to Next Generation Access targets – the Govt. are actually hoping for 100Mbps backhaul nationwide to facilitate business and telemedicine in their NGA criteria.)
The Asby CIC broadband development path has scope for further development later that will deliver NGA to households when either: it is cheaper or the CIC has enough saved up to expand its provision.
Anyway they are using their accumulated profits to start improving their service with additional help from a grant from RDPE. NextGenUs is fixing them up with a faster (Next Generation Access) system with the ultimate goal being Fibre To The Home (FTTH). In the future they hope to run an optical fibre network to connect more homes in their community.