B4RN goes Forth, JFDI FTTH

Matters are moving apace at B4RN. Digging of the phase one ducting has reached the outskirts of Quernmore and is heading over to Abbeystead. Houses en route are being connected with ducting of similar thickness to TV cable, ready for the fibre optic to be blown to carry 1000Mbps connectivity. The hub of this activity lies in Quernmore where one of the two nerve centres is sited. This links all B4RN users to the internet via the Geo fibre which runs through this picturesque valley. The green coloured cabinet, which houses all the necessary electronics for this wizardry, sits unobtrusively in the village and has recently been powered and populated ready to revolutionise internet connectivity for the residents of the core route between the parishes.

The Narr Lodge group of four barn conversions lies just east of The Hub at Quernmore, and the main ducting has been dug into the fields behind the houses earlier this year. The B4RN team were out a couple of weeks later with a digger siting an access chamber so the houses could take a duct off to each property. Tim Dawson, one of the Narr Lodge residents, was there to see the team at work.
“Installing the chamber is not rocket science.  The digger bit into the ground near where the main trunking lay and after a couple of minutes battling through the stones, soon carved a clean square ready for the 3 oblong bases and concrete top bearing the “B4RN” logo”.

 


D-Day for Narr Lodge
With the access chamber sited, the residents joined together on a Saturday to lay ducting to the houses. The sun shone for Dig-Day, which must be a good omen given this summer’s weather. Tim recounts, “We had put a lot of thought into the best way to get the ducting through to the houses with minimum disruption. We always knew the last 20m into the house was probably going to be one of the most difficult bits particularly since most developers don’t have the foresight to lay spare ducting for future services. We thought we might be able to re-use the ducting for the Sky cables to feed the houses on the North side but unfortunately this had collapsed in places and we couldn’t get a clear run. We also somewhat cheekily approached BT’s OpenReach to see if we could use their ducting which lies on our private land and goes to each property. This evidently created enormous confusion at BT, since they couldn’t grasp the concept of private individuals wanting to install their own fibre to the house (FTTH). After a flurry of emails and some long pauses we got stone-walled and took that as a ‘No’.
“Then it occurred to us that the surface water drains run from each of the North side houses to the beck near the access chamber. The B4RN ducting is waterproof and unlike the foul drains there is little risk of transiting material forming a blockage. It also had the advantage that ducting could easily be run up drain pipes as they come out of the drains for first floor access.”

Dig where you live.
The Narr Lodge D-Dayers laid the orange ducting out on the ground to each property to estimate and cut the required length. The ducts were then bundled into North and South 4′s with cable ties every 2 metres.


The run to the South side houses could only be done via a trench through Tim & Hazel’s garden and down the back of the houses in the field/gardens. There happened to be a digger on site and this trenched to a depth of about 25 cm and the residents laid in the bundled ducting, back filled and re-laid the turf.

OK… the end result would never make it to one of those TV gardening make-over programs but it’ll re-grow. Since we developed our own barn conversion we did have the foresight to duct under the house and into the garden so it was a 10 minute job to run the ducting into the house.

Elsewhere we are splicing the orange ducting into less obtrusive UV resistant black ducting and routing that up the outside of the house though a hole drilled into the wall.


It is worth remembering that when the FTTH box is in the house it has an integral 802.11b/g/n wifi which is pretty fast (300megabit symmetrical). In addition relatively cheap Cat5e or Cat6 cabling can easily be routed internally to take 1000Mbps symmetrical anywhere within the house.

The fibre connection equipment in the home
 The old internet connection in this part of Quernmore, which is on the 5 kilometre limit for ADSL broadband, has been just about tolerable and arguably better than those at the top end of the village who get no connection at all.

My two daughters love watching things on YouTube and as long as there is not too much other traffic, it works… just! The BBC radio reception in this part of the valley is pretty poor and we tend to rely on internet radio but this needs a good sized buffer and still keeps dropping out.

I checked the broadband speed on a couple of occasions recently during the day. It has reached the heady heights of 1 Mbps on occasion in the last year but recent tests show this is down to 0.4Mbps download and 0.3Mbps upload – nearly symmetrical but hopeless speed for anything serious (see screenshot). I was glad to see the B4RN team installing the access chamber – I can’t imagine what 1000Mbps is going to be like. Certainly the girls are going to love it and keep on asking when are we going to get faster broadband.

Editor’s Takeaways:
1. Even though not every property wishes to be connected at this time, sufficient ducts have been laid to connect all the properties in future.
2. Great example of the B4RN JFDI spirit which reduces the first mile civils’ costs).

3. Many people in the B4RN area are on very low speeds (as described above) with many still limited to dial up or expensive satellites. This is set to change when speeds 3000 times faster are available to many in the next few weeks.

2 Comments

  1. I’m delighted to see how well you folk are coping with the installation tasks despite the weather.
    It’s such a change from seeing the blunders down here where they can’t even get the new PCP cabinets the right way round always. Once they have it all completed we’ll be lucky to see even 70 Mbps.That’s now 15 Months behind our Vtesse networks project and it’s only capable of providing 20% of the capacity of our specification.

    Perhaps one day the politicians and their public sector colleagues will wake up to the gross stupidity of their actions.

  2. This is an excellent account of how the B4RN model should work. I’m getting envious of the connection they will get soon. Great work!