In an increasingly connected world, securing a reliable internet connection is crucial for both personal and professional endeavours. However placing connectivity orders which are likely to involve Openreach connection services can sometimes be daunting, especially when dealing with properties in rural areas or those that deviate from the norm. There are a few common challenges associated with such scenarios, here we look to provide the benefit of our experience through a number of recommendations to mitigate the risks of failed or delayed connections.
Rural Property Challenges:
Limited infrastructure – Rural areas often lack the robust telecommunication infrastructure found in urban centers. Once a connection has been installed, this limitation can result in slower internet speeds, service interruptions, and increased difficulty in establishing a reliable connection. But getting a connection to the property can in the first place can be a daunting task.
Once an order is placed with any UK telecoms provider for a rural or otherwise unusual property, it’s likely the delivery of the physical connection will fall to Openreach. You as a customer will not have any direct communication channel with Openreach – all discussion will be via your service provider (e.g. BT, Zen Internet, etc.). Prior to committing to a price for the connection and on-going service rental, an Openreach engineer will be tasked to perform a route and site survey. A number of considerations will contribute to the level of difficulty, cost and time scale of the installation.
Distance from exchange – Properties located far from a local telephone exchange face challenges related to signal degradation and reduced broadband speeds. The farther a property is from the exchange, the more critical it becomes to address this issue during the connectivity order process.
Unique topography – Rural areas may feature diverse topography such as hills, valleys, or dense forests, which can interfere with installation of infrastructure and eventual delivery of service. Understanding the local topography along any proposed route is crucial for determining the most effective connectivity solutions.
Non-Conventional Property Challenges:
Unconventional structures – Properties with unconventional structures, such as converted barns, industrial buildings, or listed properties, may pose challenges in installing standard connectivity infrastructure. Adapting to these unique environments requires careful planning and expertise.
Lack of existing infrastructure – Properties that have never had a dedicated internet connection may lack the necessary infrastructure, making it challenging to establish a new connection. Building from scratch requires meticulous planning and coordination with service providers.
Mitigating the Risks
Thorough Site Surveys
Conducting comprehensive site surveys is essential for understanding the specific challenges posed by the property’s location or structure. This upfront investment in assessment can save time and resources in the long run. Openreach will themselves conduct a site survey and this is a great opportunity to meet with and discuss options with the engineer. Many positives can result from this discussion, such as alternative approaches (which may cut costs and delivery time), an understanding of the challenges involved from an Openreach technical perspective, as well as an opportunity to make Openreach aware of local opportunities to simplify their task. During one such survey, in collaboration with the surveyor we opened an opportunity to route ducting and cabling via privately owned land, thereby avoiding complicated and expensive roadworks.
Understand the Detail
As a customer, it won’t always be the case that you’re provided with all of the relevant technical information related to your order. If you know what to ask for, you’re likely to get a deeper insight. We’ve been provided with very useful information relating to complicated fibre delivery projects in the past, just by asking. It’s useful to be aware of Openreach’s ‘A55’ document, and their ‘Job Notes’ file. We’ve been provided with both, which include –
- details of the service ordered
- useful maps showing proposed cable routes (overhead and underground via new or existing poles and ducting)
- local exchange details
- any work agreed to be undertaken by the end customer as part of delivery
- photographs of the property and proposed cable ingress routes
- details of the cable termination location
- local authority street / road works notices / applications
Collaborate with Local Authorities
Engaging with local authorities to navigate planning and highways requirements is crucial. Typically Openreach will do this on your behalf, but becoming involved and establishing your own line of communication with the local authority can be beneficial. Understanding the local planning landscape can help expedite any approval process.
Build Relationships with Service Providers
Establishing strong relationships with service providers (including Openreach) can streamline the connectivity order and delivery process. It’s extremely difficult to establish direct communication with Openreach as orders are placed via third party telecoms suppliers. Even BT are regarded as such, so don’t expect better delivery of service via BT over any other respected telecoms provider. However, take opportunities (such as a site survey appointment or local engineering works as the order progresses) to get close to and speak with Openreach engineers or contractors about the work they’re undertaking on your behalf. News of problems or challenges can be understood, and sometimes negated, more quickly during these ad-hoc meetings than waiting for official lines of communication. Regular communication and collaboration foster a better understanding of unique challenges and lead to more effective solutions.
Get into construction
Where rural properties are surrounded by private land, be open to engaging with local civil engineering contractors for any construction works required within the grounds. For example, installation of underground cable ducting could be completed faster and at a lower cost than by Openreach. It’s important to adhere to Openreach requirements, though. Be mindful of the type of duct being installed, depth, and requirements around inspection chambers. Request a copy of Openreach’s ‘How to build a fibre network’ developer guide which sets out requirements, and make sure your private contractor adheres to these principles to reduce the risk of Openreach being unable to use the infrastructure you’ve installed.
If things go wrong
Openreach do have an issues escalation and resolution process. It’s known as a DSO (Director of Service Office) escalation – your service provider should be able to initiate this on your behalf. This process becomes appropriate should Openreach have failed with an engineering commitment.
Don’t think that a cabled Internet connection is your only option. In cases where traditional connectivity solutions are impractical, exploring alternative technologies such as satellite internet or fixed wireless can provide viable options for reliable connections. We’ve had great success deploying Starlink over recent times. More traditionally we’ve utilised fixed wireless connectivity solutions through partners such as M247.
Navigating the complexities of placing connectivity orders for properties in rural areas or with unique characteristics requires a proactive and strategic approach. By acknowledging and addressing common challenges and implementing the recommended mitigation strategies, individuals and businesses can enhance their chances of a successful and timely connection with Openreach and other service providers, ensuring they stay connected in today’s digital world.
But, it is a complicated affair. Relying on expert help maybe your better option. Please contact us if you’d like some advice, or a hand to hold through the ordering and delivery process.