Side notes: what is a soft launch?

DoublePoleDoubleThrowSwitchSo what is likely to happen when the Project is ready to go live and a big switch is thrown?   We have planned for a “soft launch” – a phased upgrade of residents to their new fibre broadband service. This was always our intention as we believe it would be beneficial to us.  Also we envisaged that BT and the ISPs would’t be able to process new connections in one deluge anyway.

The key reason for a phased roll out is that it’s important to get a few test cases on fibre first – this will hopefully test the new cabinets and network, on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis and so shake out any bugs, or geographical anomalies. The GU8 Team will manage this stage with carefully selected test cases – our Pioneer Residents from each neighbourhood. With these control cases the GU8 Team will be better armed to work with Openreach on solving the inevitable bugs.  This will be preferable to leaving it to individuals to fight Openreach to address the inevitable technical teething problems.  It will allow us to assess the likely speeds as a control test so that when the 2nd and 3rd batches are connected it will be more efficient and we have something to compare with – and hopefully we can then target possible home network issues rather than the new fibre as the cause of speed issues.  Importantly it means that when we do go to Openreach with issues, we will have valid comparisons and evidence to justify our claim that they look at their network as the cause.  This will benefit all.

The process :

The experience in Enton is that it takes anything from 3 days to 3 weeks to process an application if made on day one – Enton saw a relatively slow response from residents to sign up and so the upgrades were spread over months rather than weeks..  My experience is that ISP’s will start selling fibre on a new cabinet at different times too – so you may see a neighbour get connected but a different ISP may be slow to have a computer enabled to say “yes” you can upgrade.  Residents will have to keep pestering their ISPs.  Indeed you can switch to a new ISP (community recommendation may be useful here

Once the ISP’s say yes, then Openreach will be sub-contracted to switch from one cabinet to the new – that may be subject to a queue of pending swap-overs to justify them sending a man to do the connection in the cabinet and exchange.  As I understand it, our scheme is more complicated than normal – usually a cab upgrade will mean a simple movement of cables from one side of the copper cabinet to the adjacent fibre side of that cabinet and associated twiddling with a screwdriver or something in the exchange. In our case we are having 2 new cabinets – our copper route will remain via cab 26 or 48, for voice calls, but our fibre service will come via a completely new route and that means a switch in the exchange to the new fibre route and then the linking of the fibre to the copper to your home under those new cabinets.  That is relatively simple, BUT administratively it does require for the ISP to understand you are moving to a new cabinet.  That might need some hand holding by us and Openreach – particularly for the small number of our residents already on a (slow)  fibre service via 26 or 48.  Openreach acknowledge this and say they’ll assist a smooth transition.

The other factor that is important is getting a few test cases on fibre first – this will hopefully test the project, shake out any bugs, or geographical anomalies. With control cases we will be better armed to work with Openreach on solving the inevitable bugs.  It will also allow us to assess the likely speeds as a control test so that when the 2nd and 3rd batches are connected we have something to compare with – and hopefully we can then target possible home network issues rather than the fibre as the cause of speed issues.  We anticipate we will be running a few “soup-up your home network” workshops to try and reduce the number of variables. This soft launch will also manage the potential deluge of requests for fibre.

Paul Osborne

About Paul Osborne

Hydestile resident GU8 Superfast Community Broadband Project Team
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