David Kirk writes:


It is a few years since I last wrote about the nature of Broadband provision in this area. I hope now to provide an explanation of the changed context for current and prospective Broadband users in the village.

Broadband Services

The UK’s progress in moving businesses and domestic residences to Direct Fibre Broadband is speeding up. In practice this means fibre cables are being installed alongside the existing copper phone network. Eventually, when the country is fully “fibred”, the old copper cables will be removed.

In our area the copper cables are buried in a thin topsoil often sitting on impervious heavy clay. These cables are progressively failing from their frequent immersion in water due high water tables exacerbated by occasional flooding. Direct fibre, containing long, microscopic strands of glass, are much less affected by water and will make a big difference in the reliability of voice/data services.

The scale of the UK programme is massive in terms of work, costs and timescales. A handful of large telecoms providers, and many dozens of smaller ones, are all hard at work. Whilst there are minor details in the design of the component parts, their resulting equipment configurations generally carry out the same job as national / international standards ensure that each supplier’s systems can be fit for purpose.

So how may this impact our village?

It is really hard to make a prediction about what will happen in Wreningham. Because our existing Superfast service is better than in many surrounding areas, it is possible our village won’t benefit from the government’s “final 15%” subsidy (Boris’ £5bn fund!) to achieve up to 1GB transmission speeds. The government’s subsidy plan is based on an “Outside-In” concept – i.e. implementing new systems for those with (currently) the worst service, first! Wreningham may be more likely to require a “commercial” implementation – from either Openreach or others. The high cost of installing Direct Fibre in a small village such as ours might place us near the back of any queue; the larger telecoms organisations usually look for the bigger opportunities, first.

County Broadband

As I write this, Wreningham households are receiving attention from County Broadband. They wish to offer their direct fibre services to this village. This would be an extension to their other fibre systems already being installed across a significant number of villages in South Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire – funded by the “local” company, AVIVA. Should enough Wreningham households choose to take County Broadband fibre service, we might expect a village-wide installation. County Broadband typically leases the underground ducts and poles belonging to Openreach. As a result, the fibre implementation “on the ground”, from either company, would look very similar.

BT Broadband

This is the supplier for many in the village. Its services are provided over the Openreach infrastructure. Whether Openreach will upgrade their existing service at some point in the future – by replacing existing copper services with direct fibre – remains unknown. This may be the case for many years yet. It’s common for such plans to be a closely guarded commercial “secret”. However, the existing copper-based BT/Openreach service would still be available for those preferring to stay with their existing supplier(s).

Landline Telephones – any change there?

Whatever happens with direct fibre, our landline telephone services will change.

Despite those that describe landlines as old-fashioned the landline phone remains relevant to many people and to many situations. Mobile phones have not yet solved all the phone needs in rural (or indoor) environments even though they can connect to broadband WiFi (indoors) and new lower frequency mobile signals (outdoors).

Expect changes by 2025. From then the traditional landline telephone sockets will cease to function. Landline phones will connect to a broadband router instead, using a new socket or an adaptor. The changeover would probably be heralded by a media blitz so, nearer the time, no-one should be caught out – and most existing landline phones could continue to function. Newer generation phones will offer new and more versatile services – so additional benefits can result, too!

This alternative telephone technology is known as “VOIP” (Voice Over Internet Protocol). You don’t need to wait; should you wish, you could implement VOIP today using your existing broadband equipment. The voice quality can be superior, and the connection method can result in very cost-effective international calls.

Note that direct fibre systems would either provide, or be capable of integrating, these VOIP capabilities.

For those who don’t currently use broadband, it’s likely that simpler interface boxes will be provided by the phone companies to provide a similar solution.

David Kirk

Many Ashwellthorpe Road residents will be well aware that their telephone and broadband service has been curtailed courtesy of the severing of the telephone lines by Anglian Water’s contractors. A swarm of OpenReach and BT vans have delivered personnel to reconnect the cable ends and restore the lost service.

Whilst this progresses, OpenReach invite you to let them know if your service has degraded or completely lost. Contact details are on the BT webpages.

Don’t forget that in the interim the Village Hall has a high-speed service which you can use. You don’t have to enter the Hall, just pick up one of three sets of signals (all the names start with “TP-Link”) and log into the broadband.



The wifi service is now available for the community to use within, or in the vicinity of, the Hall.

There are 6 wireless networks available – all commencing with the letters “WAP” – 3 operating at 2.4GHz and another 3 at 5GHz. We have measured the download speed at nearly 80Mbps and upload at 20Mbps.

Select the network and log in through the Wreningham Community Hub homepage. Password access is currently not required, but that may change. When you use the service please be aware of the Terms & Conditions.

30 June 2017

David Kirk has contacting Karen O’Kane, Programme Director for BbfN, about the status of plans for broadband services for the village. This is a summary of their exchanges.

The Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) website has a map with coloured dots indicating broadband status. It indicates plans for every postcode in the county. Unfortunately it is not completely accurate for Wreningham (note that such status information will usually be an approximation as postcode areas do not always map directly to BT’s physical network). Karen O’Kane says the coding errors in the dots on the Wreningham part of the BBfN map will be corrected “during the next quarterly update” in September. This won’t of itself bring about an improvement in service but at least it will show a more accurate status for the village.

An alternative guide to progress on Superfast is available on the Openreach website (note you may need to use a browser other than a “Google” to get it to work). This gives a detailed property by property listing for both current availability and future plans. The site is interactive so simply type either your phone number, or your postcode and select your own address from the drop-down list.

Hethel Road and Glebe Close: to be linked to the green BT cabinet by the school. Karen O’Kane reaffirms the “by the end of the year” target – whilst not being clear whether this is a calendar year (ends in December) or a business year (ends in March). This should give access an improved service.

Superfast broadband performance falls off with the distance from the BT cabinet. Thus, after the “end of the year” work, the majority of homes in the postcode NR16 1BB (north of the 30mph sign in Hethel Road) will, she says, “not have access to speeds above 15Mbps”. Hence this postcode will continue to show up as a red dot on the BBfN map implying no further plans etc., but the majority of areas of Hethel Road should show varying levels of improvement.

Norwich Road near Top Row: a few properties are being shown on the Openreach website as potentially being provided with direct Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) broadband as part of an Openreach infill scheme – although no timescales are given. This could see these properties able to access in excess of 200 Mbps at some point in the future.

14 March 2017:

We received this briefing by the BBfN Programme Director which was delivered to a meeting recently. It describes some of the UK Policy relating to Broadband roll out in the country. It includes advice for domestic users – Digital Briefing Note for Public Distribution.

8 March 2017:

To bring you the next chapter in the Broadband story for Wreningham…

The Parish Council wrote to BetterBroadbandforNorfolk (BBfN): letter to BBfN . We received this reply which has interest for a number of residents: BBfN response to WPC

In the meantime, you may have seen reference to Wreningham in your copy of The Link which is now available in the village. The Parish Council is to receive funding via our County and District Councillors to implement an improved broadband service centred in the Village Hall. It is not designed to address the broadband problems being experienced by a number of residents in their homes. It is an interim measure to give access to Superfast Broadband to the community as a whole. This is expected to provide wi-fi broadband with 70+Mbs download and 15Mbs upload speeds. It will be accessible when you are in proximity of the village hall.

Once it is up and running, the Parish Council would like to receive your comments on the service.

In a previous post we were waiting for the second cabinet in Wreningham, by the School, to complete the installation and commissioning processes. This is now done. 29th September is when Superfast Broadband will be switched on at the cabinet and be available for the majority of village properties, not served by the Top Row cabinet. ISPs should now be offering these services to their subscribers to start from 29th of this month.

However, Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) advise that a number of Wreningham properties, for historic installation reasons, will not have access to the Superfast Broadband. The technical rationale is beyond me, but, in simple terms, as advised to me:

  • Wreningham properties have copper telephone wiring over which they can access digital services.
  • Some, but not all, are linked directly to the telephone exchange by long runs of copper wiring.
  • Re-routing to the cabinet would need several 100 metres of additional copper wiring.
  • The increase in the wiring run would result in a digital service be even slower than before re-routing.

As yet there are no alternatives offered by Openreach under the current contract with the government and Norfolk CC. This situation has implications for the national roll-out of Superfast Broadband and is being taken up at county and national level by Norfolk CC, Liz Truss (MP) and Ofcom.

Don’t shoot the messenger! I’ll keep on at the BBfN people to see if there is a solution for those affected by this.


For sometime work has been progressing in our area through the Fundenhall exchange and its connected distribution cabinets located by the roadside.

The cabinet in Top Row has been enabled since the beginning of August and those parts of Wreningham supplied by it can now arrange connection to the superfast broadband with their ISP. You can check your status by entering the relevant details at this link  (http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/).

BetterBroadbandforNorfolk advised yesterday that the cabinet near to the school on Mill Lane (known as Fundenhall cabinet 8) is nearing completion with an anticipated go-live date towards the end of September. Apparently a new cabinet takes longer to commission as it requires more work than to upgrade an existing one, including changes to the local copper network and updating BT records to show properties are served from the new cabinet. A further web link has been provided to show when FTTC (Fibre-to-the-cabinet) services become available: https://www.btwholesale.com/includes/adsl/adsl.htm

​The Parish Council have been advised about new work by the Better Broadband ​for Norfolk (BBfN) Project. A new communications cabinet (Fundenhall PCP 8) is to be installed on the verge outside Wreningham VC School in the near future to serve residents and businesses in the immediate surrounding area.

​The​ survey pack ​provides some additional information about the installation of this cabinet (note that photograph 1 on page 3 shows the new cabinet footprint superimposed in green near the hedge).

The BBfN site has the following about FUNDENHALL – “BBfN is bringing better broadband to parts of Fundenhall – Services should become available from ISPs by the end of September 2014 and to parts of Wreningham by the end of March 2015 Work continues to move some customers from an existing cabinet to a new cabinet to achieve better speeds in Fundenhall.
***Latest news *** Further parts of Fundenhall will receive access to better broadband by end of June 2015.

This cabinet is obviously part of the necessary infratructure but when it will go live for the benefit of Wreningham residents remains to be seen!