Shinness Broadband Investigation

FTTC Plans


I have drawn up a table (appended below) listing all the addresses in the neighbourhood, and for each calculating its distance by roadside cabling from the exchange and from the nearest possible cabinet in each of the Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) scenarios that I've investigated, of which three are described below and their results included in the table.  In order to help visualise these plans, I've also drawn up an online interactive local map showing the neighbourhood and illustrating the plans, each of which may be chosen from the drop down in the top right hand corner of the map.  For those in a hurry, in my opinion Plan C was the best of those outlined below, and was the one included in the FTTC Submission.

Plan A

A single cabinet near the geographic centre of the premises.

My first thought on receiving the disappointing reply to my original enquiry to HIE, was that their thinking is inappropriate to our needs  my view was that we wouldn't be using FTTC to get the sort of headline speeds of up to 70Mbps to be expected in a town, where most premises are fairly close to a cabinet, instead we would be using it to get the sort of workable speeds that those in town can already receive via ADSL, say around 5Mbps, and that this would be sufficient to enable our people to use the internet more effectively than currently they are able with the treacle-slow speeds we get at present via ADSL.  In fact, my work on the distances involved shows that this would be true:

Results summary for Plan A
 Distance (km)Speed (Mbps)
Worst Case4.284.0
Number of premises likely to receive less than … Threshold Speed (Mbps)Premises

However, although there is nothing wrong with the basic concept of using FTTC to obtain town ADSL speeds in a rural location, nevertheless I have come to believe that there are four important difficulties with this plan …

When composing and distributing my original leaflet, I hadn't realised that quite so many respondents would turn out to have satellite broadband, and thereby already be receiving speeds of 10Mbps or more.  I now realise that anything proposed must result in something that can compete against satellite not just in price, which is relatively easy, but also in speed, and, for about half our community, this plan will not do that.

The next is that quite a number of premises will still only have ADSL speeds, and, after the recabling, some of these might choose to remain on ADSL, but might then actually have a greater cabled distance to the exchange than they have now, and therefore worse ADSL speeds, and may resent, as they might see it, being 'forced' onto FTTC to get what they previously had via ADSL!  Given that the price of FTTC from the cheapest suppliers can be as low or lower than ADSL prices from more expensive suppliers, I think the number of such malcontents would be low, nevertheless the aim is to benefit the community as a whole, and such an adverse possibility as this needs to be avoided if possible.

The next is practical, it means recabling the whole of the loop formed by the A838, Achnairn, Achfrish, and Tirryside.  My reading of OpenReach policies as judged by their failure adequately to maintain local infrastructure is that they would resist this, especially if they are paying for any of it, even only a fraction of it, and while "He who pays the piper calls the tune", so if we were to obtain funding to do this, they would presumably have to comply, I suspect that it would be only in spite of serious resistance.

Mention of funding brings me to the final objection to the plan, which is political and economic in equal measure.  We would presumably need the funding and political support of an organisation such as HIE, and such an organisation will only support projects that meet the qualifying criteria of the government sources of the funds that they control.  Consequently, a headline on such an organisation's web-site that says, in effect, "XYZ brings ADSL speeds at FTTC prices to local community!", even were it at the local community's request, is not going to happen.  In simple terms, this wouldn't be a project which they would feel able to fund or support.  To attract both funding and support, I think we must aim higher  we must aim for something that at least would meet the UK Government's proposed Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps to every household, and preferably also would go at least a significant way towards meeting the goal of 24Mbps declared by the government bodies that fund organisations such as HIE.

Plan B

Three cabinets, minimal recabling.

So I began again, this time thinking to use existing cabling almost unaltered, but have three cabinets along the main road, one at each side turning  that is one for Colaboll, Tirryside, Acfrish, and Blairbuie, one for Achnairn, one for West Shinness.  The advantage of this plan over Plan A is that it substitutes a greater number of cabinets for extensive recabling work, which might well be cheaper overall.  However, compared to Plan A, although average figures are significantly improved, unfortunately the worst case figures are slightly worse:

Results summary for Plan B
 Distance (km)Speed (Mbps)
Worst Case4.653.5
Number of premises likely to receive less than … Threshold Speed (Mbps)Premises

Of the objections to Plan A, three remain for this plan  there are still those who would only get ADSL speeds, and, consequently, we would still not be fully competitive with satellite, and the targets of government funding bodies would still not be met.  We need better.

Plan C

Three cabinets, recabling of Achnairn and Achfrish.

This is a compromise between the two previous plans.  It's similar to Plan B, but invokes recabling of the central area by moving the Achnairn cabinet up the hill to be exactly half way between the extreme outlying points of Blairbuie in the north east and the cottages down by the loch side in the south west.

Results summary for Plan C
 Distance (km)Speed (Mbps)
Worst Case1.9117.0
Number of premises likely to receive less than … Threshold Speed (Mbps)Premises

This plan would make the entirety of Shinness compliant with the government's proposed Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps, and more than three-quarters of it compliant with the Superfast Broadband policy of 24Mbps, and although 18 premises will still be below that level, other schemes failing to bring superfast broadband to every single premises have been funded previously.  The plan still involves quite an amount of recabling, but it's the area of cabling that anyway is already in most need of repair.  Further, my guess is that if you offered the occupants of the most remote premises the 17Mbps or greater that this plan would bring them instead of the speeds they're getting now, most probably they'd very happily accept the offer!


Plan C was probably near the best that realistically could be achieved using FTTC technology.  I didn't consider further schemes with additional 'onesie' cabinets over the three in Plan C, because the fundamental limit is the remoteness of Blairbuie and the cottages by Loch Shin from the rest of us  even a cabinet at the Blairbuie junction at the top of Achnairn would still not bring them up to 24Mbps at the distance they are, so they would have required a cabinet just for themselves and have fibre laid all the way out to it, and I presumed that that could not be justified for four households.

Now that our submission has been rejected, we will have to investigate alternative options, however, as some of them may involve expense on our part, that discussion and consequent investigation must involve participation and decision by the wider community, and is for another day.

Full Results Of FTTC Investigation

Projected FTTC / VDSL speed for each premises for each plan
AreaAddressEastingNorthingDistance From Exchange (km)Distance From Cabinet (km)Max VDSL Speed (Mbps)
Plan APlan BPlan CPlan APlan BPlan C
Achfrish23 Duchally2562639120747.672.292.261.1014.014.026.0
AchfrishAch Cottage2559309124148.141.822.730.6418.010.851.0
AchfrishEil Nan Ron2564389118937.432.562.031.3711.716.522.0
AchfrishRose Cottage2564719118377.352.611.941.4211.717.022.0
AchfrishThe Forge2561879120867.742.252.331.0514.814.026.0
Achnairn14 Alt Na Sorag2546849123448.640.310.311.1976.076.024.5
Achnairn17 MH12554379127988.891.053.480.1626.06.580.0
Achnairn27 The Sheiling2556389127788.621.343.220.2023.07.780.0
Achnairn27 The Sheiling MH12556829127528.571.383.160.2122.07.780.0
AchnairnCalasona MH12552309128709.541.211.210.7624.524.535.0
AchnairnCalasona MH22552409128569.551.231.230.7724.524.535.0
AchnairnCalasona MH32552499128449.571.241.240.7924.524.535.0
AchnairnClach Mhor2546939122458.490.170.171.1080.080.026.0
AchnairnGunns Cottage2551999126459.090.770.770.7735.035.035.0
AchnairnHale Nook2549499123968.750.420.420.8169.069.035.0
AchnairnMid Rose Cottage2554849129928.891.353.490.2022.06.580.0
AchnairnShin View2553839128258.931.083.520.2026.06.580.0
AchnairnSutherland Game & Shellfish2552359126339.110.790.790.4435.035.069.0
Achnairnc/o Sutherland Game & Shellfish2552889126699.190.860.860.3831.031.069.0
AchnairnThe Sycamores2556029128168.671.283.270.1023.07.380.0
Collabol Farm 2562259101495.922.550.510.5112.560.060.0
Collaboll1 The Cottages2563869101385.682.750.280.2810.276.076.0
Collaboll2 The Cottages2563659101405.712.780.300.3010.276.076.0
Collaboll91 MH2563439101495.742.800.330.3310.276.076.0
ShinnessAsh Cottage2552329116437.740.732.331.9143.014.017.0
ShinnessElm Cottage2552359116227.740.732.331.9143.014.017.0
ShinnessLodge Keepers Cottage25362691432411.092.760.320.3210.276.076.0
ShinnessOak Cottage2552109116477.740.732.331.9143.014.017.0
ShinnessShin Cottage2551549117037.810.612.411.7951.013.318.0
ShinnessShore Cottage2550529116907.860.542.451.7460.012.519.0
Tirryside3 A Half2568719108526.073.620.670.676.143.043.0
Tirryside3 The Cottage2568569108686.103.620.700.706.143.043.0
Tirryside4 Pondside2569399108906.153.670.740.745.743.043.0
Tirryside4 Pondside MH12569609108906.163.670.760.765.735.035.0
Tirryside4 Pondside MH22569659109006.163.670.760.765.735.035.0
Tirryside5 Rowancroft2569939110276.283.800.880.885.431.031.0
Tirryside7 Little Achfrish2571679114396.764.281.361.364.022.022.0
West Shinness3 The Cottage25318191492311.613.290.840.847.335.035.0
West Shinness425310891508411.803.481.041.046.528.028.0
West Shinness5 Woodside25329891473911.413.100.650.658.251.051.0
West Shinness625336091520211.973.651.
West Shinness725343791513111.883.561.
West Shinness8 Tigh Na Clough25349791505811.783.461.021.026.528.028.0
West Shinness9 Airde View25356991497811.683.350.920.926.931.031.0
West Shinness1025371491477811.493.170.720.727.743.043.0
West Shinness9125344791505611.823.501.061.066.526.026.0
West ShinnessBirch View25366391469011.353.030.590.598.751.051.0
West ShinnessBurnside Cottage25292191541912.203.861.441.445.122.022.0
West ShinnessCalann25296891518111.953.631.
West ShinnessLodge25306691503011.783.471.021.026.528.028.0
West ShinnessThe Croft House25289591529612.083.761.321.325.423.023.0
Average 2553519126718.752.241.700.8920.029.142.6
Worst Case
Number of premises likely to receive less than … Threshold Speed (Mbps)Premises