Apr 02 2008

Higher Price Equals Longer Delays

Published by at 8:00 am under Guernsey News,Technology

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According to their website>, Cable & Wireless is working on a £2.5million upgrade of the broadband infrastructure in Guernsey that will allow customers within 2.5 kilometres of exchanges being able to get broadband at up to 8Mb – although this is still slow compared with other western countries.  News of an upgrade to 2Mb and the timescale for completion first emerged back on 31st October 2007 with a news item on their website:

A rolling programme of work will begin in December, and by March next year most local households should be able to get speeds of up to two megabits per second (2Mb).

This good news was then re-confirmed on 8th November with the same timescale:

Homes and businesses around the island will enjoy the new broadband speeds on a rolling basis from December 2007 onwards as Cable & Wireless completes engineering work on its local exchange. It is hoped that the whole island will have access to faster broadband by March 2008.

This would seem to indicate that everything has been planned and is on schedule.  Then, on 19th December the issued the follow update:

Work has already begun at the St Martin exchange, as well as in Alderney and Sark. Customers connected to these exchanges – those with phone numbers that begin with 23, 82 or 83 – will be the first to receive the improved broadband services. That work is scheduled for completion by the end of December.

In order to ensure the reliability of broadband services over the Christmas period, Cable & Wireless has decided that the switch over to the new higher speed services in the first areas will take place on January 9th 2008. All ISPs have been advised of the schedule.

They also included a roll out timescale for the whole of the island (by telephone number):

20xxxx St Sampson By 31/03/08
23xxxx St Martin 09/01/08
24xxxx St Sampson By 31/03/08
25xxxx Castel By 31/03/08
26xxxx St Peter By 31/03/08
7xxxxx Central By 31/03/08
82xxxx Alderney 09/01/08
83xxxx Sark 09/01/08

Excellent news!  I’m in the St Martin area and less than 1km from the exchange so I’m in the first area to get the upgrade.  However, it seems we weren’t being told the full picture.  The first signs of problems occurred on 9th January when I should have been upgraded to 2Mb…. but wasn’t.  On the day Cable & Wireless issued the following announcement:

Cable & Wireless engineers are currently working to resolve a small number of technical issues that have arisen during this major upgrade. This has meant a slight delay to start of the planned roll-out, however the full island-wide upgrade it is still expected to be complete by 31st March 2008.

“A small number of technical issues”?  Sounds like a but of an understatement to me but then what do I know about these things?  On the 2nd March after nearly two months with no updates on progress of the project I decided to email Cable & Wireless to find out how things were going and to inform them of my disappointment in the extortionate amount their customers have to pay for a measly 1Mb service (£25 + line rental!!!).  Their reply was:

The majority of the work involved in enabling the upgrade requires the
physical reconection of about 15,000 individual lines onto new network
equipment in all exchange areas, and it is this work which required the
longer project timescales extending into March.

Therefore, while we have postponed the bandwidth upgrade for St Martins,
the physical work migrating lines has continued in this and other areas.
We therefore anticipate that when we are in a position to roll out the
upgraded line speeds, these will now be made available in all exchange
areas within a relatively short timescale.

This would seem to indicate to me that the hardware in the exchanges has had to be replace as it simply wasn’t up to scratch as it hadn’t been touched since Cable & Wireless bought Guernsey Telecom from the States of Guernsey – I can’t remember exactly when that was as the Cable & Wireless website incorrectly states “We were here right from the start of telephone services in the Bailiwick in 1898.”

With the deadline looming, Cable & Wireless finally made another announcement on 20th March:

Equipment has been fully installed to enable the upgrade of Guernsey’s broadband network.

The initial work to upgrade equipment at the exchanges has been completed successfully. However the final activation of the upgraded service will only take place once we are certain that there will be no impact to our customers’ experience. We hope to reach this point in the next few weeks.

Well, the end of March has been and gone and still there is no sign of a speed increase or any news as to when it might happen.  I dare say it will be another month or so before we finally see increase in broadband speeds.  What is more important, I believe, is why Cable & Wireless are spending £2.5millon on a upgrade that will only allow broadband speeds of up to 8Mb?  Bulldog Broadband (C&W broadband in the UK) is offering 16Mb broadband (unlimited) at £25 – that’s the same price as I’m paying for 1Mb.  Sweden (top for broadband in Europe) offers 24Mb over copper and 100Mb or even 1000Mb over fibre.

Sometimes it feels like this island is being held to ransom by Cable & Wireless, and they wonder why they have been refused a 3G Mobile license.

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