Jenkins-Of-Ewelme Web Site

4G Wireless Broadband (LTE) and Fibre Optic Broadband (FTTC) in Ewelme
and other rural areas in Oxfordshire and beyond.

The previous penning of pages about ways of obtaining  broadband in the rural village of Ewelme Oxfordshire, was prompted a few years ago as an attempt to convey to the local 'broadband have nots' or 'slow have gots', that notwithstanding rather gloomy news about Ewelme being a 'not spot', there was/is indeed perfectly sound and often faster alternatives to that provided locally by BT owned land lines. It is now  known personally that during that period, well over 40 households in Ewelme, have adopted the use of wireless/mobile broadband (3G+) for themselves, and it would not be unreasonable to assume that others who have not needed advice or required assistance, are also now utilizing this technology within the village boundaries or in the near locality (e.g. RAF Benson, Berrick Salome/Roke, Preston Crowmarsh?). Although the information provided previously is still highly relevant with regard to choice of hardware and installation advice (see 3G in Ewelme), we are now moving into a new era, where on the one hand, wireless broadband has already evolved into an order of magnitude faster than landline performance here, but where news of the forthcoming effects of government funding (BDUK) is also starting to emerge, in terms of the attempts to alleviate the gap between broadband speeds available within rural areas and those experienced within more densely populated towns and cities. However in parallel with this, 4G wireless broadband is now becoming available, including many rural areas, due to the availability of new radio frequencies that have been recently licensed to a variety of mobile phone companies, which have been left available by the no longer used analogue TV channels.

This page (last update 18/4/14) is therefore intended to describe the current and still evolving 'state of the art' of mobile/wireless broadband, but in view of persistently confirmed expectations of the 'soon' to be available fibre optic cable to the central cabinet in Ewelme, discuss whether this means that our village will eventually become a centre of multi-technology communications excellence, and how one can compare the two technologies. N.B In January 2014, fibre optic broadband via FTTC arrived in Ewelme (see speed tests below).

The Frustrations of Delay (Fibre)
One should be able to confidently predict that it can only be a matter of time before the equality of available broadband speeds throughout the land will be achieved, in the same way  that we all now have access to electricity and telephones. However, this example would also need to be tempered somewhat by the fact that nobody in Ewelme can yet obtain mains gas! Indeed, when this page was perhaps rather prematurely first written in November 2011, exciting local news being conveyed via the Parish Council indicated that both Wallingford Exchange and Ewelme itself would be enabled using fibre optic cable for 'Super Fast Broadband' to be installed by the end of December 2011. However, on the 15th February 2012 the front page of the Wallingford Herald confirmed that  previously BT rescheduled upgrades to Wallingford Exchange to enable 'Fibre To The Cabinet' (FTTC) installations would now take place from June 2012, and Oxfordshire County Council were proposing that rural areas associated with this exchange will be regarded as a BDUK funded pilot scheme prior to other rural areas in Oxfordshire getting the same service by 2015. A convincing fanfare article in the April 2012 edition of Ewelme News, reassured residents that super fast broadband via fibre optic cable was now planned to be available in Ewelme by December 2012.  But perhaps it is not so unusual that the best laid plans of local government and politicians oft' go awry, and in July, the Ewelme News reported that fibre optic broadband would be unlikely to be available until July 2013. The Ewelme Parish Council web site - reports in February 2013 that fibre optic broadband is likely to be open for local connection by the end of 2013. However, in March 2013 it was reported by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) that the announcements regarding the installation schedule for fibre optic broadband in rural areas were unlikely until June/July 2013, due to county council elections. In fact, on the 9th August 2013, OCC announced the signing of the contract with BT and the publication of a map indicating the areas of Oxfordshire that are intended to be involved with the installation of fibre optic super fast broadband by the end of 2015.

You can download this OCC map in high resolution pdf for zooming into your location from HERE.

Although many areas are shown to be the subject of improvements (blue), including Ewelme, what has not been made clear are the locations of the intended FTTC installations. What this means is that houses some distance from these points may still not achieve the intended minimum speed of 24 Mbps, although highly likely to be a lot better than currently achievable. The white areas indicate that there will be no FTTC installations at all, although an intention for any residence to achieve broadband speeds of at least 2 Mbps and up to 24 Mbps!  How this will be achieved is unclear, but likely to be either excessive line extensions from  FTTC, direct lines from exchange, or wireless! It is also unclear as to how one determines whether a particular house actually gets 24 Mbps. Is this theoretical on the assumption that no-one else is using the available bandwidth? Will the speed at the FTTC be so high that for a given attenuation out to say 1Km that the speed will not drop below 24 Mbps? It will now not be known until December 2013  following BT surveys, as to where and when this 2 year project will begin. If Ewelme is quite likely to be in the initial installations, it will probably not be available for use until Spring 2014. But what are those areas going to do that will have to wait for up to another two years towards the end of 2015?? Read on perhaps? Just consider the adjacent map, pretty much to the same scale and area shown, which indicates current 3G/4G coverage by wireless broadband provider Three. The dark blue areas indicate a strong 'indoor' wireless signal, whereas the green indicates areas with 'outdoor' strength signals (as we have in Ewelme, meaning window mounted dongles and MIFIs). If other mobile broadband providers coverage maps were also superimposed, it is highly likely that most of the white OCC areas would be able to get a superior broadband service by wireless?!

You can see this Three coverage map for your own location HERE

Likely Roll Out Schedule for  Fibre in Oxfordshire
As of 5th November, Oxfordshire have still not yet issued the results of BT's survey of the County requirement following their award of the contract in August. But Kent CC already have! Kent, as with many other counties, are a little ahead of Oxon in their contract dealings with BT, but OCC have already indicated that this county will be phased in a similar manner.

This is what BT are scheduling for Kent, and it would be most unlikely that Oxfordshire and therefore Ewelme, if lucky enough to be in the first phase, to achieve actual and completed operational connections much before the beg. 2nd quarter of 2014.

This schedule will be replaced by one published by OCC when available of course. However, what is striking with such similar schedules throughout the UK, is that significant numbers of the rural population could still be waiting for fast fibre optic broadband for up to a further two years. Perhaps broadband by wireless will have evolved even further by then in terms of coverage and speed, for broadband deprivation in even the most remote rural location to no longer be an issue??  See a video produced by Kent CC HERE.

What does FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) mean?
The most common way that BT are currently bringing superfast broadband  (SFB) to the majority of the country is by laying a fibre optic cable from an enabled exchange to a local roadside cabinet. SFB is commonly defined as providing speeds of 24 Mbs, although faster services are now also available. The location of such a cabinet is usually adjacent  to where a current junction box is situated (e.g. King's Pool), so that the 'exchange' from fibre to copper/aluminium telephone cable can be made. Indeed, the new cabinet could be thought of as a mini local exchange. In theory, fibre optic cable produces very little loss in speed, so if a 100 Mbs service is provided at the exchange, then similar speeds might be expected in Ewelme 5 Km away. Of course, there will be some attenuation of light (speed loss) over that distance, but nothing compared with the gross attenuation currently experienced over individual telephone wires between Wallingford and Ewelme, restricting ground based maximum speeds to less than 2 Mbs seen at the central cabinet. However, one problem remains with this method (VDSL2), where at best, using short lengths of copper telephone wire from cabinet to the destination will not cut the speed too much, but in worst case, using long lengths of original aluminium telephone wire will, in the extreme, cut the apparent speed significantly. Unfortunately, no-one quite knows what the speed distribution will be, although it might be concluded that the free Wi-Fi available at the Ewelme Village Store will provide the opportunity to measure the ultimate  source performance, whereas speed at Lower End over a Km away will perhaps indicate worst case. Such results will only be able to be established once the installations are complete and local speed tests performed. The means by which such a connection interfaces with your PC, tablet, TV, smart phone, will continue to be via an internal Wi-Fi enabled router supplied by your provider.

Below is a chart indicating the sort of attenuation (loss of speed) that might be expected the further away from the FTTC roadside cabinet you live, using the higher speed VDSL2 instead of the current ADSL protocol. This can be regarded as a percentage reduction if one assumes that 'basic' super-fast broadband maximum will be 100 Mbps at the King's Pool cabinet. Lower End Ewelme is 1.35 Km as the crow flies from the central Ewelme cabinet, if that is the supplying cabinet. This would mean that only about 16% of the available bandwidth capability into Ewelme might be available at this location.. Eyre's Close is about half that distance, and would have approximately a third of the bandwidth available. It has to be realistically considered though, that telephone wires don't actually fly in a straight line and that a significant percentage of our telephone cables (originally designed for analogue voice) are made of 'slower' aluminium, rather than the more conductive copper. Moreover, the number of users simultaneously using the network (contention ratio) is also not considered. Still, even with worse case scenarios in both those locations, most internet activities will undoubtedly be able to be achieved far more speedily compared with what can be achieved right now by landline.   Although meant to be used as a 'app' to determine distance from home to 3G/4G mast, the following utility can also be used to find your own distance from King's Pool to your location. Click Here to try it yourself . You can then use that measurement to give you an idea of the sort of physical attenuation that might be expected at your place.

Since January 2014, FTTC broadband has been available in Ewelme, Oxfordshire. This weekly chart shows the current speed at about 800 meters from the cabinet, which provides reasonable correlation  with the chart above. N.B. During the last 2 weeks, service has either been non existent, due to waterlogged junction boxes, or speed reduced by 10 Mbs from normal.

The alternative to FTTC, in landline terms, is FTTH or FTTP (Fibre To The Home/Premises), where individual or spurred fibres are taken from the central cabinet to individual homes. This will be the only scenario where the full potential of a fire optic connection will be realised. This might be a practical consideration in towns and cities where high populations exist. However, in a village like ours, this is only likely to happen for a significant additional subscription, which if practically possible, could prove costly for an individual household/business. However, BT have just launched their 'Fibre on Demand' service, where indeed a business or even an individual or group can arrange for FTTP to be installed for a standardized quoted price (likely to be in the region of £1000).

But there are Available Alternatives (3G/4G broadband by wireless)
There are now more operational wireless based mobile phones being used today than there are land based telephone lines. These have evolved from the original and ostentatious 'brick' style analogue car phone  type, into  highly versatile computer based, pocket sized, touch screen operated, digital communication machines. As a 'voice' device, the great advantage over the landline based home phone, is that the mobile phone is, well, mobile. This means that it could actually replace the home phone in all respects, including walking around the house without needing separate 'DECT' or Bluetooth wireless phones. Most importantly, it means you can be immediately contacted or make contact while in your car, train, bus, work or on holiday in this country or abroad. As a digital data device, the 'smart' mobile phone can be used to send/receive text messages (slow speed requirement), picture attachments (slow speed requirements) up to the ability to make video phone calls, watch a live TV programme, or download large data files. This requires a minimum of a 2Mbs wireless connection to be at all useful. A smart phone can also be 'tethered' to your PC by direct connection or wireless, but in this case, the cost of data tends to be more expensive compared with using a dedicated 3G/4G Wi-Fi router or dongle. Such a window mounted device provides the equivalent internal house service to that provided by a landline router, such as BT Home Hub. Like a mobile phone, a 3G/4G wireless router is also small enough to be mobile, and can be used on the move, or fixed in another location. This also has the advantage of acting as a Wi-Fi access point (AP), where the cost per MB of data transferred is significantly cheaper than directly through a 3G/4G enabled mobile phone. This actually means that the mobile phone can access the Internet via Wi-Fi more economically. The fact that broadband by wireless has been available here for the last 3 years and recently measured at up to 21 Mbps in Ewelme, even before 4G has reached us, bodes well for use as a perfectly adequate alternative/additional means to enjoy the Internet. It remains to be seen how this continually evolving wireless network will compare with fibre based landline when it arrives.




Wireless Broadband Today

Now although  this page is titled '4G' to differentiate it from the previous '3G' descriptions, we are yet to receive this particular stage of propagation  of broadband by wireless (also known as LTE - Long Term Evolution) here in Ewelme, although all major cities in the UK are now enjoying the experience (but see recent Auction result). However, it has been known for a while now that this local area at least, has been capable of servicing mobile phones and wireless broadband dongles and routers designed to operate using what is technically known as an HSPA+ network (High Speed Packet Access plus). To put this as simply as possible, 3G and its evolutionary upgrades were/are capable of downloading data via wireless at initially maximum speeds of 3.6 Mbs, then 7.2 Mbs then 14.4 Mbps. Firstly, it required that not only the 'Three' radio masts on the Sinodun Hills (Whittenham Clumps) or at Hale Farm Benson needed to be regularly 'upgraded', but so too the performance of marketed dongles and routers! So, if you are still using equipment bought when 3G first became available, you will only be able to receive data at a maximum speed of 3.6 Mbs. Similarly, if you are using the still available E585 MiFi router/dongle, the maximum speed you will be able to experience will be 7.2 Mbs (the highest recorded speed published in Ewelme using that device was 6.8 Mbs). The E586 and E5331 MiFi' s have a speed capability using HSPA+ of up to 10 Mbps. But now 'Ultrafast or 3.9G ,using the protocol DC-HSDPA is now available through the device E5756.(illustrated), providing speeds up to 21 Mbps.  It should be positively noted that Vodafone are now also providing a service from their mast in Preston Crowmarsh. However, at the moment, this alternative network is not as well developed as that of Three, and can only be recommended for use unless signals from Three are found to be unobtainable or significantly weaker. 




Local browser display of HSPA+ E586 MiFi router (type ''. into your browser) showing high speed capability.

An HSPA+ network  enables data rates to operate  at up to 21Mbs, although it is understood that the local mast and receiving equipment capability is currently publicized as being 40% higher than it was before, which implies about a 10 Mbs maximum at the moment. However, using the older equipment you will not be able to notice the available speed increase. The highest instantaneous peak download speed recorded in Ewelme to date is over 10 Mbs using the  E586 and E5331 MiFi router/dongles, and generally speaking, daily operational speeds are indeed higher than those experienced before that hardware upgrade occurred. However, it is difficult to quantify whether this always equates to 40%. Upload speeds recorded locally have also noticeably improved, often greater than 2 Mbs, which is higher than the best download speed by landline here right now (during 2013)!. But now with the propagation ability of DC-HSDPA in Ewelme, together with suitably appropriate MiFi routers, provides a service which in some locations will be equivalent or better than that possible when fibre optic broadband becomes available.

This is what Three are currently promoting and said will be available during 2013. However, due to the change in speed capabilities and use of different frequencies, it is likely that upgraded hardware will be required, such as the Huawei E589 , which is capable of automatically switching through all the various wireless protocols from 4G down to 3G and 2G if necessary to ensure a continuous connection, especially when travelling. It will also allow up to 10 devices to be connected at the same time. This device is already being provided by EE for customers able to receive 4G in larger cities at the moment, and is slightly larger than the current E386 and E5331. The newer E5756 has a DC-HSDPA capability but not LTE. The E5776 also covers all the latest protocols like the E589.

Now the following paragraphs apply just as well whether you have slow ADSL or FTTC, or 3G or 4G, for comparing Broadband speeds and performance.

Is Speed Important?
Well, it all depends on how and why you want to use your internet connection. If you want to use it just for emails, browsing social interaction sites (e.g. Facebook/Twitter/Skype) and for doing some internet shopping, I guess your main concern will be whether the response you get from a mouse click or touch screen 'Enter', does not include noticeable delays or slow screen updates. It is well known that if you use 'dial up', such usage can be painfully slow (56 kbs max), and hopefully anybody who had such a connection has now at least got hold of the lowest 3G offering. On the other hand, if you have Ewelme type landline broadband (0.5 to around 1 Mbs variable), the same usage regime might well be deemed acceptable, possibly depending on which side of the village you live. However, if you want to experience anything that  involves the transmission of video, such as watching a missed TV programme with YouView or browsing YouTube, downloading a large file containing a film or software update, holding video conversations (e.g. Skype), or playing interactive on-line games, you need to know that the current and variability of the particular network to which you are connected, is robust enough for your usage requirements.

You can certainly use Ewelme 'copper' based landline broadband to 'stream' (play while downloading) an internet radio program, which requires less than about 0.2 Mbs continuous bandwidth (speed requirement or availability). (Try this site with your loudspeakers on!) But when it comes to watching a Standard Definition (SD) video program from the BBC or ITV, you need a bandwidth of at least 2 Mbs to prevent the performance constantly stopping while the data download 'catches up' (buffers) with what has already been displayed at a faster rate. Try the BBC iPlayer. It is unlikely that you can do this using Ewelme landline broadband without constant buffer delays. However, depending on your mobile broadband equipment age and status, you should be able to watch such a programme without interruption during extended periods of the day. When it comes to watching High Definition video, the bandwidth requirement rises to  a minimum of 3.5 Mbs for uninterrupted viewing. This would only be possible at certain times during the day using a 7.2 bandwidth 3G router/dongle, but with a 40% increase in possible efficacy using the new 21Mbs dongle/routers, ensures an even greater likelihood of success.

 Do you really want to watch TV using the Internet? Well of course you do, maybe to just try it because the facility is there! But apart from it being a useful occasional feature if you have missed a favourite programme or there is nothing else to watch on the countless digital channels now available, it should be considered that recording and replaying your own digital programme using FreeView, FreeSat or Sky is so easy now, and doesn't use up any of your monthly download allowance, or indeed use up the available bandwidth of others. I'm sure these comments aren't going to put you off still wanting to have the choice of having a go when you want to, and I would also share those sentiments. However, the now widespread availability of 'YouView' catch up TV will surely put the streaming bandwidth of both wireless and land based broadband to the test.

How is Broadband Speed Measured?
The classic method of determining internet speed, is to communicate with a dedicated server (remote computer), that has a high speed internet connection. A file is then downloaded to your computer, where knowing the size of said file and measuring the time it takes to complete the transaction, determines how fast the connection is operating. The opposite is then performed  to determine the upload speed. It can be categorically stated, having had many years experience in testing communication speeds, that you will never get the same answer twice! However, such a test methodology does give a good idea of the usability of the Internet at a particular point in time, and by recording many readings over an extended period, a fair idea about the day to day performance of your local network can be established. Why can't you get a consistent answer? It's because an internet connection between your PC and the file server consists of a number of intervening routers and physical communication technologies. Take for example performing such a test by using local wireless/mobile broadband. First, assuming the use of a MiFi router, the initial connection is between your PC adaptor and the MiFi via WiFi. N.B. It is just as important to ensure that your internal Wi-Fi signal is a strong one, and not one struggling to tunnel itself through walls and doors, since this will have just as bad an effect as a weak external 3G/4G signal. This is then physically switched (routed) via an HSPA+ connection to your local radio mast. From there it is likely to be transported (backhauled) via fibre optic cable or microwave link to a high speed internet 'backbone' (router). Who knows what routes it will then take to get to the speed-test server, but  most likely to be via several routers connected by fibre optics or microwave links. If the server is in another country the route may also involve satellite.

 Data is transported in 'packets', which means that a file is sliced up into chunks of, for example, 100 bytes. Each packet contains a destination address (Internet Packet - IP address) and an origin IP address. The physical route each packet takes is determined by each router on the journey, and may be different for each packet. It may be that one packet arrives at its destination earlier than its predecessor! However, each packet is numbered and receipt of each is acknowledged by sending a short message back to the sender (one reason why you also want a fast 'upload' speed), and the complete file is then reassembled into it's original form by the receiver. Packets that get 'lost' and are not acknowledged for a variety of reasons, are resent. Such situations obviously slow the whole process down. Now consider that many other packets are also being  transmitted and received from various unrelated sources and destinations within each of the sections of the complete route, just like letters in a postal system at various sorting offices. The more packet traffic there is, the slower the system speed for your packets will be. Also, each section along the route may have a different 'bandwidth' which is a measure of its ability to send packets at a certain speed (i.e. in Mbs). So you can see that for a given speed test, it will certainly indicate the current trend, but is unlikely to give precisely the same result every time. This description also applies whether the local broadband connection is one of fibre optic cable, telephone wire or wireless, using the communications technique known as TCP/IP (Google it for more info!). Of course, all this happens so fast, that as users, we don't notice that we are sending and receiving millions of packets of information!   

This dynamic illustration tries to convey the multi-route journey individual packets might take in transferring pieces of a file from one remote computer to another (Your PC at the bottom) . What is not shown are the unrelated and random packets travelling between other sources and destinations that would also be included during this file transfer. This would have the effect of determining the instantaneous speed such a file transfer will take from moment to moment.

You can see for yourself how many 'hops' there are between you and, for example, a web server you are browsing. Open the 'Command Prompt' available on a Windows based PC, and use the 'tracert' command together with the URL (named address) of a web site, as shown. This will return the number and identity of all the routers a single test 'packet' has had to go through to reach the destination.





Speed Test Methods
There are many speed test facilities available, basically using the principle of downloading a fixed size file and measuring the time it takes, then returning the file back to establish an upload time. One of my favourites has always been, which presents an uncomplicated and advert free tester, but still with the facility to record a limited number of test runs, and will even draw a graph of historical performance.  However, my functional preference at the moment is the BBmax tester, which although a bit garish, provides some very useful logging facilities. There's even one,, that lets you choose from test servers located all over the world, but that might be going a bit far don't you think!?

 The first thing that precedes the BBmax speed test proper is what is known as a 'ping' test. As its name implies, it sends out a very short message to the IP address of the test server, and measures how long this takes to be 'reflected' back. Such a  test not only gives some idea of how clear the route to the file server is at a certain point in time, but also an indication of the reaction time (latency) of the network, which could be important to someone playing an on-line interactive game or video conferencing. The BBmax tester also allows you to keep an unlimited on-line log of your results.  This has proved to be most useful, not only to see long term trends in speed results, but also allows the test to be both portable in terms of being able to be used on different computers and smart devices, but also in different locations. To do this, you need to log on after you have registered a user name (email address) and password. This is exactly what 'Three' will ask you to do if you are discussing some sort of performance issue with them. They usually want you to do some tests over three days! You provide them with your email address and password, and they can see what's been going on. Would you like to try mine to see two and a half years of measured performance? Click here. In recent times, there has been more consistency, although there have been some, that were initially thought to be 'ridiculous' results e.g. >15 Mbs. But because these sorts of recorded speeds are happening more frequently on a regular basis, they just have to be believed. The tests were done using one of two MiFi devices, both via in-house WiFi, one in a local room and the other in another room at the other side of the house. Both MiFi were mounted on downstairs windows.

It's all very well doing these spot checks occasionally to see whether you are getting satisfactory performance, but my main means of continuous 'real-time' monitoring is to use the 'tbbmeter', which you can download from . This can be compacted to be a small inconspicuous square at various levels of transparency, and arranged to be 'on top' of your display so you can 'see' all the Internet traffic speeds that comes and goes through your PC or device. Similar real time 'apps' can be found for Android and other mobile devices, e.g. Network Monitor Mini.



This display is showing the varying speeds of buffered data download while watching a TV programme in High Definition. Note the instantaneous speed shown of 8.5Mbs!

Other forms of Test
There is no doubt about the potential superiority of wireless broadband at the moment. But what happens when cable is installed in the village? This is completely unquantifiable until physical tests can be performed. However, the results of national average speeds give an indication of perhaps what to expect. Do we assume that we will get the sort of speeds offered by Virgin Media or those offered by BT Broadband? Try it for yourself?

Now, here is a tough test run provided by the BBC, but one which will provide a good indication of the 'quality' of your broadband speed. Rather than just downloading a known sized file and measuring the time to arrive at the linear speed, this one simulates the actual buffering protocol used when watching or listening to a streamed TV or radio programmed. It also does it three times and then takes the average, and provides a realistic idea of whether you can just listen to a simple radio stream or have the bandwidth to watch a full high definition TV programme.

You can certainly see the difference between an 'ordinary' speed test and the actual data download while streaming. At the time of writing, users of landlines in Ewelme would be hard pressed to achieve much more than streaming radio, and to watch HDTV would be out of the question. Although this test doesn't always produce this result, it does indicate that it is likely that standard definition TV can be streamed at any time using wireless broadband in Ewelme. Try it for yourself?

It is important to remember that the speed of data transfer between two computers at any given moment is dependent on a number of factors, including: the operational speed of your computer, tablet or phone, the speed of any in-house Wi-Fi link, the speed/capability of the link to the Internet backbone via wireless and/or fibre optic cable, the amount of traffic interspersed with this transfer, and the speed/capability of the link back the other way to the destination computer or server. Perhaps the best or most useful speed test is merely to judge whether the current link achieves what is required of it. Does the email get sent efficiently? Does the web page requested get displayed quickly? Does the YouTube video download and play without breaks? Can you watch a high definition iPlayer programme? If the answer to all these questions is Yes, then the speed of the network does satisfy your particular requirements and who cares what it actually is? Just consider that a speed of 3.5 to 4 Mbs would be sufficient to perform all those tasks, and having a local network capable of transferring data at say 20 Mbs, won't actually make much difference to your experience. However, such a wider 'bandwidth' will ensure that your instant speed requirement will be robustly consistent at all times.

Anyway, here's a basic LIVE speed test you can try here without leaving this page. This may not show such steady rates as tests using dedicated servers. The result is an average, but note for the peak needle levels.

Comparing Wireless with Fibre Optic Cable Broadband
Apart from the way the broadband router box is installed, where for cable, it will be connected to the incoming telephone lines (BT Home Hub?), and for wireless, it would be accessible by WiFi from an optimally sited (at/on a window) MiFi router, there would be little to choose between the two, except perhaps for speed! My only suggestion is that one of the first subscribers to cable ought to be the Ewelme Store, which currently copes with landline broadband, but which could not only usefully speed up on-line credit/debit card transactions, but also  boost the speed of the currently Free WiFi for visiting customers to the cafe. 

Here is the remotely monitored Ewelme Store router real time on-line 'statistics' display. This shows the current speed potential of 0.7 Mbs download and 0.45 Mbs upload. Hardly broadband right now, but if connected to fibre optic cable via the  BT cabinet a few metres away, would indicate the best speed potential by cable in Ewelme.  

Having the ability to freely connect to such a service would mean that anyone could test the speed of Ewelme's cable broadband using a  WiFi enabled PC or Smartphone (there are many speed test 'apps' available as well as those already described), from a point only a few metres from the central FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) while sipping a cup of coffee! The Ewelme Store router is also currently being monitored remotely, so probably the performance of the highest quality cable access point in the village can act as a regular comparison with wireless/mobile broadband. However, it is well known by now, that the indigenous aluminium telephone cables can drastically attenuate a high speed data signal. In the case of current landline broadband the effect has been shown to cut the speed  down by 50%!  It is thought unlikely that a 25 Mbs superfast broadband capability provided by Wallingford would also 'appear' at the central box in Ewelme, due to the underground distance from the exchange (some 5 miles?) and shared usage, although the attenuation over distance for fibre optic cable is far less than that exhibited by the 2007 installed copper cable. However, would it still be the case, that the outer reaches of the village would still only expect half the speed seen at Ewelme Store? Perhaps the Parish Council ought to finance a test at 'Lower End' (some distance from King's Pool), when cable broadband becomes available, to establish the span of broadband speeds across Ewelme!! Will the process continue of one technology alternatively leapfrogging the other, before reaching such ridiculous speeds that no-one will care anymore? In the meantime, enjoy the 'up to' 10 Mbs broadband currently available in Ewelme by wireless!

You can also use the BT Broadband Availability Checker to see what your current landline estimate of speed is right now. This will  indicate when and at what speed the switch over to FTTC will potentially provide for your postcode address or telephone number.

From the 3G/4G point of view, it may be of interest to know that unlike landline broadband, the individual wireless broadband providers have each been allocated specific wireless frequency bands. Also that the bands are also divided into separate frequencies for download and upload.

What this means is that when assessing and testing which wireless broadband provider is likely to give the best performance, it is necessary to have that company's SIM card installed in the dongle or router to ensure the device is 'tuned' to that frequency. Of course, for a given location, it is best to first establish which providers service that area before devices are purchased or term contracts agreed. This can be done using this link to a catalogue of coverage utilities. Unfortunately, purchasing a dongle or router from a particular provider will mean that it will only work on that company's frequencies and will not work with other SIM cards or use other provider's 3G/4G masts. This may give the mistaken initial impression that wireless broadband is just not available at your location. This would be most unfortunate if you have been suffering with none or slow broadband by other means for some considerable time! However, if a location is serviced by two or more providers, devices can be 'unlocked' for a small fee, so that by swapping SIM cards and thus frequencies, it is possible to establish which signal is strongest or fastest - or both!

The diagram above  shows the bands that have been allocated to various companies for 3G. the same principle will be used for 4G frequencies. For example, Band 'A' is allocated to Three, and band 'B' to Vodafone etc. It is worth noting that because the upload frequencies are not as heavily utilised as the download, since most data is 'downloaded'. This means that during tests, the upload speed should be quite consistent (around 2 Mbps here in Ewelme), even though the download speed may vary dependant on traffic by other users, or by 'traffic shaping' by each providers, especially at peak times. Conversely, if the upload speed is varying wildly with a possibly reduced download speed, this is a sure indication of a problem with either internal Wi-Fi and/or a weakened 3G/4G signal.

Here are three screenshots that uses another comprehensive speed tester from ThinkBroadband. The first was published as an actual FTTC example from West London and proposed what might be expected when FTTC is installed here. No information is available has to how far this test location is from the cabinet, A similar test using the same speed tester was also performed locally in Ewelme via (pre 4G) 3G+ wireless broadband, which might be regarded by some long suffering sub 1 Mbps  ADSL broadband users since 2007 to offer the immediate opportunity for quite decent broadband right now? This was performed using a E5331 HSPA+ MiFi. The third chart uses the latest E5756 Ultrafast device.  In January 2014, FTTC fibre optic broadband arrived in Ewelme. The fourth diagram shows the result of a BT Infinity 1 connection at approximately 800 metres from the central cabinet.


It can sometimes be difficult for someone trying to establish what level of broadband service they might get, before they sign up to what is often an obligatory 12 months. This page and previous ones on the same subject, tries to provide a means to 'try before you buy' so to speak, by demonstrating various ways to test local broadband speeds against the advertised 'up to' hyperbole.

There is little doubt that no matter when and how fast FTTC superfast proves to be, evolving data communication using cellular wireless technology is here to stay, increasingly supported by  the proliferation of smart phones and iPad like tablets incorporating 3/4G interfaces, or the increasing use of WiFi enabled laptops connected to a local cellular mast via a fixed or portable 3/4G router. Some smart phones now offer 'tethering', meaning they can act as a 'dongle' when connected to a PC, or can also operate as a WiFi access point (AP) to provide 3G access to other local PCs, and some even offer 'all you can eat' data usage for a month for a one off payment. However, for these smart phones to act successfully in this area, would mean that they would require a 'Three' compatible SIM card to be installed, although recently, someone using a Vodafone dongle locally has also reported using an Internet service successfully here! The question is whether cable and wireless performance will remain comparable in terms of speed and service. The advantage of wireless technology over cable is not only that it is capable of dealing with home based voice, email, web and HD TV, but it is also portable, enabling it to function during travel, at work and on holiday. The advantage of cable over wireless is that if it can be provided in areas such as ours at a reasonable speed, then consideration of distance to and direction of a local radio mast, your terrain or the weather, will no longer be such an issue. Maybe in time though, a multi-provider 4G mast will be inconspicuously situated at the top of Green Lane or high up behind the Ewelme Rectory? The history and evolution of some form of rural wireless broadband in Ewelme now spans more than 7 years! (see Ewelme Wireless Broadband and 3G in Ewelme), and has shown that wireless technology doesn't stop still for long. So, it will be most interesting to see what the next couple of years will bring us in this regard.

Isn't technology wonderful, or what do you think?

Useful Links

Ofcom announce winners of the 4G Auction!

Oxfordshire Broadband Plan

Oxfordshire Broadband Champions
A 'Champions Forum' was set up within Oxfordshire in October 2012 to bring appointed representatives  and others together for discussion regarding the likelihood and timescales for certain areas of the rural county in getting superfast broadband. To read the various threads and to contribute yourself if you are so inclined, you need to sign up to this active forum.

Thinkbroadband To obtain weekly information about the installation of Superfast broadband throughout the country.