The situation in October 2017

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Demystifying broadband packages in Penallt!

Those connected to cabinet 20 in Lone Lane now have a potentially bewildering array of broadband possibilities to choose from. Until recently, residents were either connected to Spectrum Internet and benefited from the enhanced speeds which their microwave link to Monmouth offered, or they had the much lower speeds which all other providers offered via the BT cabinet.

Now that BT Openreach have finally connected cabinet 20 to Monmouth via fibre, those not subscribing to Spectrum also have the possibility to enhance their internet speeds. The options now seem to be:-

 

Existing Spectrum customers can

  • do nothing and stay on the Basic Home Broadband package
  • upgrade to their Superfast Home Broadband package
  • both are offered via the microwave link to Monmouth

New Spectrum customers can

  • opt for their Superfast Home Broadband package
  • this is offered via the new Openreach fibre link to cabinet 20 (as for non-Spectrum services below)

Non-Spectrum customers can

  • do nothing and remain without any boost to internet speeds
  • upgrade to their current ISP's superfast package (ISP = Internet Service Provider)
  • switch to a different ISP's superfast package.
  • the last two are offered via the new Openreach fibre link to cabinet 20

 

Why the different packages?

It's all to do with the technology involved. The Spectrum microwave link has two delivery systems, ADSL2+ and VDSL, the second of which provides much faster speeds than the former. Spectrum's Basic package uses ADSL2+ whereas VDSL is used for its Superfast package.

The upgraded cabinet 20 uses VDSL (or nothing).

 

Are there any speed differences between the various "superfast" offerings?

In principle, no! All of them use the same VDSL technology whether via a microwave link or via a fibre link from Monmouth. The only limiting factor is how much copper telephone wire there is between the cabinet and your property.

In practice, ISPs operate widely different "contention ratios" (the number of people sharing the same data capacity) and this can have a dramatic effect on the speed you get. In general, you get what you pay for in that ISPs offering cut-price packages cut costs by operating a poor contention ratio (e.g. 50 sharing the same data), whereas a low (i.e. good) contention ratio (e.g. 20) is available via the more costly packages.

 

An example of Spectrum's two packages:-

                     Spectrum Basic package                                              Spectrum Superfast package

These two speedtest results were taken at the same property in the middle of Penallt, between The Inn and the crossroads. The one on the left used the Basic package (ADSL2+) whilst that on the right was made after an upgrade to the Superfast package (VDSL), both being served via the microwave link.

Just to confirm, similar results should be obtained at the same location had a different ISP's superfast package been used - assuming a similarly low contention ratio.

NB A few of those connected to cabinet 20 are so distant from it that much of the above does not apply.


The Birches and Tregagle

Residents in both these areas have been provided with a "fibre to the premises" (FTTP) solution by BT Openreach, a much better solution than the FTTC enjoyed by the majority of residents served by cabinet 20 as the latter suffer from the attenuation associated with the copper wire which carries the last leg of the signal from the cabinet.

At the time of writing, many are already connected directly to fibre and enjoy download speeds of up to 300 Mbps (depending on which package they opt for) whilst others are in the process of being connected.

Also, it appears that Spectrum plan to install their equipment into the Trellech exchange meaning that they will then be able to provide FTTP to Tregagle residents, i.e. there will be extra choice of ISP available.