The National Broadband Scheme (again)

The National Broadband Scheme. A Ghost Broadband System for our Ghost Estates.

3 Ireland have silently announced that they are unilaterally changing the terms of
the NBS contract. They will be dropping the data allowance for customers from
15GB a month of data down to 10GB of data.

This clearly demonstrates that the 3 Ireland network is not capable of handling
the data throughput required for the NBS and highlights in general the unsuitability
of any 3G network to handle the large volumes of data required for such a
network to be considered as real broadband.

In our opinion this is clearly a breach of contract and the NBS should be scrapped
with the €80m of public and EU spent on something more suitable to the goal of
delivering broadband to those that are currently not served by broadband.

Other key contracted road map events such as an increase in MINIMUM data
speeds for NBS users to 1.6mbits on the 1st of July 2010 and completion of
the entire roll out to the intended 388 masts (or their replacements)
by the end of September 2010 will not be met.

While there have been issues with planning authorities with regard to the
proposed 160 entirely new masts planned for this scheme (for which one
feels some sympathy for three) the fact is that fewer than half of the
160 new masts have been installed to date. In Kerry only 2 masts have
eceived permission out of the 10 applied for. This scheme is to be
installed and fully commissioned in less than 5 months. 3 are showing
no sense of urgency.

Contract changes are flagged here, please note that NBS customers are
considered to be “pay monthly”

For the record here are the original terms as originally announced:

Will there be download and upload limits and what will they be?

An uncharged monthly data cap of 15GB (12GB download and 3GB upload)
will apply for the wireless product while 11GB (10GB download and 1GB
upload) will be available for satellite users.

Are there plans to upgrade speeds?
Two upgrades of the wireless product are planned by 3 in the coming
years without any increase in the monthly recurring charge:

July 2010 Min (at cell edge) Max (at cell centre)

Download Speed 1.6Mbps 6.8Mbps
Upload Speed 1.2Mbps 4Mbps

Maximum contention ratio of 22:1
Round-trip latency: 100ms

October 2012 Min (at cell edge) Max (at cell centre)

Download Speed 2.3Mbps 10.4Mbps
Upload Speed 1.4Mbps 4.8Mbps

Maximum contention ratio of 18:1
Round-trip latency: 100ms

Furthermore, since the inception of this scheme they have been
unable to maintain the initial minimum contracted download of
1.2Mbps (in common with all Mobile operators), 100ms Latency,
always on or always connected.

With W-CDMA/3G/UMTS/HSPA it’s not even possible to have a
guaranteed minimum connect speed at the cell edge.

This “distance” will vary depending on the number of simultaneous
connected users.

The maximum contention isn’t possible to achieve with mobile
subscribers. The industry standard is that contention
is the sum of package speed per user divided by the system
speed, as if all users connected. It’s not the real time
number of users per mast. The actual reality is that only a
certain percentage of customers connect at once,
thus on a real broadband system you might only see a real
time reduction of package speed from 8Mbps to
7.5Mbps due to real time contention. The 12:1, 24:1 or 48:1
contention rates quoted refer to the bandwidth
needed by total number of customers, not actual connections.

Three Themselves maintain that the commonly accepted distances
for 3g cell sites in varying environments are:

150m – 350m in urban areas

800m – 1000m in suburban areas

2km – 5km in rural areas

That shows clearly the density of cells required for adequate service
levels and also why the NBS can never possibly achieve its stated aims.

If there was a true representative and unbiased audit comparing 3G
system in areas where the customer sign-ups have reached a mature
stage, we suggest that the system would not ever have met either
the NBS specification or met the commonly accepted standards of Broadband.

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5 Responses

  1. Tom Culhane says:

    According to the Dept there will be no change to the terms of their agreement with 3. The helpdesk at 3 says that the data allowance reduction does not apply to NBS customers.

  2. Conor says:

    If the Government / 3 got one thing right with the NBS it was offering the satellite as an “alternative”.

    Read any forum and it is clear that 3’s mobile network is being hammered. The backup in this case is the satellite offering from Tooway (Eutelsat). I am currently receiving this option through the scheme and with speeds constant at ~ 3.5Mb and unlimited usage 11pm – 7am, it’s happy days 🙂

    Any poor souls on a dire mobile connection should kick, scream and scrape their way onto the satellite. The scheme is meant to be bringing BB to everyone after all

  3. Fiona says:

    I have been told my location is not eligible for the NBS. I have been told by Eircom that they will NEVER upgrade my exchange. Ripple/ICE sat on my roof for an hour and gave up – not enough signal. Work gave me a vodafone dongle – it does not work anywhere in the house, same with O2 and meteor, so I ordered a 3 dongle. Today their tech support told me to send it back for a refund because they have no coverage in my area. How do I get onto the NBS please do tell? Thanks, now seriously worried about the lack of options.

  4. Colin Haynes says:

    I have never had the minimum NBS broadband satallite service since it was installed last month and have now waited five days for a promised call back from 3’s “satellite team” despite repeated calls to tech support.
    Is 3 conning the government and its subscribers? It seems that they have not even recruited enough staff to man a support desk.
    Anyone else with any experience of this? [Editor: email removed]

  5. barry says:

    Comregs latest draft paper recognises that mobile broadband does not meet the requirements of a retail broadband service:

    I wonder if the government bothered to check the technical merit of the service they(we) were subsidising before selecting a sponsor for the irish open, sorry a national broadband(sic) provider!

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