About GigaPlus Argyll
What is GigaPlus Argyll ?
GPA is a Next Generation/Superfast Broadband service that will be installed within a set of Postcodes allocated to us from HIE/BT. These postcodes make up what is hoped to be the first phase of an extensive rural network covering the areas that the BT Infiniti service doesn’t reach.
Next Generation or Superfast Broadband is specified as being a minimum of 24MB/S. The GigaPlus Argyll network will operate wirelessly and the broadband signal will be transmitted from a series of masts located throughout the catchment area. This signal will be received via a small box or dish located on or very near the customer’s property. The system does not use any telephone line or other cable technology.
The early background
In response to priorities identified in the Community Plans for the Ross of Mull and Iona and for UIva Ferry, the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) started a project in October 2012 to identify need for better Broadband provision which is now progressing with support from Community Broadband Scotland.
At a public meeting in July 2013, we announced that we had successfully installed a pilot scheme to deliver broadband to Caliach Farm and Lagg Cottage at the north westernmost point of Mull across a 32km wireless link from the Isle of Eigg. Previously the properties were on dial-up internet and broadband with only 0.15Mbps download speed (compare this speed with commercial VPN speed) - now they are getting speeds of around 8Mbps.
The first installation will be live by late summer 2016, although this is weather, landowner and planning department dependent. However we are all very keen that this will keep on schedule. The plan is for a staged roll out after this, and the network should be fully operational by the end of 2016. It’s a little too early to say what the planned roll out will be but as soon as it is confirmed it will be published here.
The network has been designed primarily to cover: Lismore, Luing, Iona, Colonsay and parts of Jura, Islay, Mull and the Craignish peninsula. For more details on exact locations please enter your postcode into the postcode checker. Due to the nature of the technology used it is likely that there will be other areas close to these locations that will also receive the service. More details on exactly which area will be covered will be confirmed later.
It is with great regret that the Directors of GigaPlus Argyll Ltd (GPA) are announcing that, unless some greater flexibility is shown by government and its officials in a very short timescale, they intend to wind up the company, having exhausted all avenues of progression since the demise of AB Internet Ltd (ABI) in May 2017.
GPA was established when it became clear that there was no available plan to deliver high speed broadband to the rural and remote areas of the Argyll Islands, and was backed by promises of funding and technical support from Community Broadband Scotland (CBS).
After a public procurement process a contractor (ABI) was appointed in June 2015 and a contract agreed for construction of a fixed wireless broadband network to consist of some forty inter-connected masts. The target date for connection of the first customers was mid- 2016. Progress was slow, and the first trial customers were not connected until April 2017. By this time it was apparent that ABI were in financial difficulty, and after they went into voluntary administration in May 2017 all work ceased.
GPA was left with eight masts in non-contiguous areas constructed on the Isle of Mull, and a wireless link back to a fibre connection in Oban.
The terms of the contract provided for ‘novation’ – assigning the contract to another contractor– in the event of ABI being unable to complete the project. This proved impossible because the remaining project funds were insufficient to complete the network, and no contractors could be found that would be prepared to undertake the project with the State Aid obligations associated with the masts. The alternatives were to apply for another round of CBS funding or attempt some form of private (i.e. non-state) funding to complete the project.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has been developing its ‘Reaching 100%’ (R100) programme; aimed at delivering ”Next Generation Access” (NGA) broadband with download speeds of 30Mbps to 100% of premises in Scotland by 2021.
GPA has been told by Scottish Government officials that in light of the failure of our contract with ABI all the postcodes which had previously been allocated to our project have been included in the R100 programme. This allocation will remain unless by 17 November 2017 GPA provides “convincing evidence” that it has plans for completing a network which will be capable of delivering NGA-compliant broadband services to 100% of premises in its area of operation.
Despite our scepticism, the GPA board sincerely hopes that the R100 programme will reach all of the premises that were previously within the remit of GPA, and we wish the R100 program every success in its endeavours. We shall hope to receive written assurance from the R100 team that they will keep the local communities informed of their plans and progress. Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) has agreed to act as a point of contact for the affected communities and any questions or requests should be directed to Moray Finch (MICT General Manager) in the first instance.
The Directors of GigaPlus Argyll Ltd would like to acknowledge the invaluable support and practical help of Mull and Iona Community Trust, without which we would never have come into existence. We would also like to thank Community Broadband Scotland who have worked hard to seek a way around the toxic State Aid regulations, Highlands and Islands Enterprise who have been a source of positive support and advice. We wish to record our gratitude to the many landowners who agreed to host a transmission mast. Lastly, we thank all who shared our vision for a community-led solution, and hope that their, and our, vision of 100% coverage can be achieved by the R100 project.
Who is behind GigaPlus Argyll?
GigaPlus Argyll (GPA) is a Community Benefit Society created for the communities of Mull, Iona, Colonsay, Lismore, Islay, Jura, Luing and the Craignish peninsula. The company has backing from Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). GPA has a board of directors, a volunteer steering group and a full time project manager.
Is this really going to happen?
Yes. Funding is in place and a contract has been signed with AB-Internet to design, build and support the broadband scheme. It is hoped, if all progresses according to plan, that the first connections to the network will be made during early 2017. Once the broadband service is running, there is likely to be a choice of Internet Service Provider. AB Internet will be one, but other providers may well join the scheme and offer an alternative service.
When is it going to happen?
The current plan is for the first customer connections to be made in the early part of 2017 . The rate of progress is subject to equipment and infrastructure suppliers, landowner negotiations, planning consents and the resources to build the network.
Why have there been delays?
This is the first community scheme scheme with public funding to have been attempted in UK. We have been learning a great deal. One of these lessons has been that the process takes much longer than anticipated. We have encountered a number of unexpected problems, not with the technology, but with regulatory, permissions and competition aspects. This has delayed the build, but we are confident that the network will work as intended, and should be running early in 2017.
Will I be limited on my usage?
The packages offered by AB Internet are defined by connection speed, not bandwidth. The scheme will operate a 'fair usage' policy. In effect this means your usage will be unlimited until a point where it is unusually large. If this happens you will be contacted by AB Internet, as there may be a problem with your computer. If you think you will need the ability to download huge amounts of data then this can be achieved by paying a small additional fixed fee each month. As there may be other Internet Service Providers offering services on the GPA network, there may be other packages on offer. Once these packages and any restrictions associated with them are known, these will be posted here
How does the system work?
The GigaPlus Argyll (GPA) system will work wirelessly. What this means is that rather than the BT system where there is a physical wire connecting your house to the telephone exchange, the GPA system will beam the Internet straight to your house. The advantages of this are that we don't have to dig up the roads, fields and gardens to lay cables. With a copper telephone cable the signal gets weaker the further it has to travel away from the exchange, which causes unreliability and inconsistency of speed. The GPA solution does not suffer as badly as this and the signal can travel many miles before any degradation causes problems.
What type of equipment will be attached to my property?
There will be a small box/aerial or dish attached to your house. This dish will be used to transmit and receive data. Although we can't say for certain just yet what the size of the transceiver equipment will be it is very unlikely that it will be any bigger than a Sky dish.
Will I lose my BT telephone Line?
Not if you don't want to. It will be possible to use an internet telephone rather than a "normal" telephone handset which means that you could do away with the BT landline altogether. Telephone calls can still be made in the normal way, but the call will go via the internet rather than the BT line. However if you would rather keep your BT landline you are more than welcome to do so.
What will these speeds deliver in terms of viewing video, streaming music, uploading files etc.?
By having reliable, consistent broadband speeds of around 20Mbps this will enable many internet connected devices to work at the same time. This could be anything from watching films, or streamed TV, playing internet based games, shopping, emailing and Skype calls all running simultaneously without any buffering taking place.
How fast will the broadband speed be?
Much faster than at present. Current broadband speeds available within the GPA region over telephone lines vary from below 1Mbps up to about 6Mbps, and these speeds will vary depending on the time of day that it's being used and how many devices are connected within your house. GigaPlus Argyll will not use phone lines, so once it is available customers can expect speeds of over 20Mbps (according to package) and this will be reliable and will never dip below 15Mbps even when everyone is using it. Speed will depend on the package you choose.