Airband fast-tracking fibre roll-out in Herefordshire


Hundreds more homes in Herefordshire will have access to ultrafast fibre broadband by September this year as Worcester-based internet service provider Airband ramps up delivery speeds.

Fastershire is the partnership between Herefordshire Council and Gloucestershire County Council to bring faster broadband to the two counties. The rollout with Airband is funded by Herefordshire Council and the Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme and managed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs using the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

More than 92 per cent of properties in the county can access superfast broadband and the project is working with Worcestershire based supplier, Airband to extend coverage further and provide a new fibre broadband network to over 4,000 properties in 10 rural communities in Herefordshire.

This follows Fastershire’s announcement at the beginning of June that it had expanded the reach of one its rollout contracts with another supplier and combined these rollouts help will increase superfast coverage to over 96%.

Airband Marches manager, Chris Penkoks, said that ultrafast connectivity to the large area stretching from Canon Frome in the north to Preston Cross in the south, and from Stoke Edith in the west to Waller’s Green in the north, was a priority for Airband and should be live by September 2020.

“Some of our previous projects in this area have been delayed by contractor issues so we wanted to focus on getting this area up to speed. We are now primarily using Rural Optic – Airband’s civil engineering arm – with other contractors on standby to make sure we hit build deadlines and provide ultrafast connectivity to these areas as soon as possible.

“Right now, we’re building fibre networks in and around Much Marcle – from Much Marcle garage up past Westons Cider factory and along Lyne Down Lane. We will be working back from the garage along the A449 back to a cabinet that we will be installing on the A4172, near Newbridge Farm Park,” said Mr Penkoks.

“As of June 15, we had laid a total of 2275m of direct buried cable in this cluster,” he said. “We remain on track to complete all of the works and test the network by mid-August and we are looking to get the whole cluster connected and live by the end of September 2020,” said Mr Penkoks.

Councillor Ellie Chowns, Cabinet Member for Environment, Economy and Skills, said, “It’s great news that the Fastershire and Airband are rollout is extending coverage in the county by to another 4000 homes and businesses. The increase in working from home during lockdown has highlighted just how important it is to have superfast broadband.  This innovative technology means that more remote areas can be reached more easily which is great news for those that have waited a long time for connection.”

Dean Checkley, managing director of RuralOptic, Airband’s civil engineering arm, said:

“Covid-19 has been a big reminder that connectivity is essential for everyone – especially in rural areas – and we have expanded our engineering and operations teams to make sure we can roll-out this project as quickly and as safely as possible.

“RuralOptic deployment speed is faster than many other fibre roll-outs since we use a lot of existing public infrastructure – the poles and ducts etc that are already in place – which is great because it makes the whole process a lot quicker and importantly it minimises disruption to the community.

“Rural broadband is always a feat of civil engineering and there are often unique challenges, but in many ways, the pandemic and ensuing ‘Lockdown’ has created quieter roads and has enabled us to roll-out our fibre network in this area faster than normal.”