Managing MANs

I live just outside Wexford town where I have a relatively expensive, relatively slow and occasionally downright awful fixed wireless/wifi broadband service. It struggles to top 1mb download and yesterday I clocked it at 16kbps upload. I’d have been faster training a pigeon to sing the email to the intended recipient and act out the powerpoint presentation through the medium of interprative dance. It (the broadband, not the pigeon) usually finds mist, fog, rain and leaves on trees to be a total embuggerance.

Wexford is a hub town on the National Development Plan. Wexford has a grown up fiber-optic MAN that is, at present, woefully underutilised. What could be done to improve things to bring top notch fibre speeds to the door (or the last mile) and open up the use of the MAN to people who are just outside its loop?

The map of the Wexford MAN can be found on the website. On the eastern side of the Slaney it terminates in an industrial estate (with lots of relatively tall buildings) in Knottown, Ardcavan (follow the blue line out). There are not that many houses out this part of the road as most of the land is agricultural or industrial uses.

About a 3kms (approx 1.8 miles) north of Ardcavan is Castlebridge, which is a very rapidly growing village unserved by fixed line broadband and patchily served by FWA providers.

Might the use of technology like this support the extension of that leg of the MAN out to Castlebridge and surrounding areas with a massive increase in available bandwidth for customers in those areas, with reduced attenuation due to distance etc. as instead of having to pick up anntenae in Rosslare or in Wexford town? The industrial estate where the MAN terminates is at the high point of a shallow hill (not that shallow on the bicycle though) and a reasonably tall mast on one of those buildings (such as the one that the Dept of the Environment are using and which Wexford VEC also use) would provide possible base for such a piece of infrastructure. ComReg recently approved the roll out of this type of technology.

Would this not help convert the Wexford MAN from a virtual white elephant investment (which the Mayor of Wexford has previously complained about the cost of connection to) into something that actually could help make Wexford a ‘knowledge economy hub? Personally, if I could get even 5MB at a reasonable price I would be happy to reduce my commuting and work from home (hey, Minister Ryan… see how broadband can help reduce our carbon emissions? Have you joined those dots yet? Particularly as your colleague Micheal Martin is telling the world how much in demand our skills at hoiking bb into remote areas is.). If the marketing blurb is to be believed, this service would provide a 99.99% availability connecting Castlebridge to the MAN for backhaul. 99.99% availability for >1mb broadband on this platform versus 0% availability for >1mb broadband currently.

Or have I (as usual) missed something obvious with either the technology or the politics.?

Perhaps the solution to our broadband joke is the punchline to another joke…

English archaeologists have dug down in Surrey and found long strands of copper bound together in pairs. This has lead them to deduce that the primitive Britons had an advanced copper based DSL network with speeds of up to 12mb. French archaeologists, not to be out done, have dug down and found long strands of glass laid in leather bindings. This has led them to deduce that the ancient Gauls had fiber to the hut and speeds in excess of 20mb.

A team of archaeologists from UCD have also done excavations in the South East of Ireland and found absolutely nothing. The only conclusion they can draw from this is that the ancient Celts had a highly advanced totally wireless broadband network with speeds of up to 1GB to the hut.

8 thoughts on “Managing MANs”

  1. I too am dependant on a truly awful fixed wireless service, it’s not so much the speed but its tendency to be down when I need it most and its high latency at peak times.

    I live and work in what is in effect an ex-urb of Dublin, close to Naas. We’re within 3Km of a yet to be upgraded exchange with an ISDN capable connection, but for many of my neighbours even if the exchange is upgraded either distance or split-lines will ensure that wireless will continue to be their only alternative.

    For large parts of the country fixed wireless offers the only hope of always-on broadband, yet its provision is being left to small and/or under-funded and/or amateur organisations.

    Perhaps all of use who live in such areas should make a point by switching to use another telephone provider other than Eircom. I know they will continue to receive line rental from alternate suppliers, but it would send a very clear message, particularly if affected communities were to organise “mass switch overs”.

  2. Tom

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think part of the problem is that many of the planners in telcos (and not just eircom) as well as in government live in urban areas that are well served by broadband and, bluntly, take it for granted that they can get 2mb+ in most urbanised areas and only have a vague abstract understanding of the impacts of weather, trees and the cycle of the moon on wireless services in rural areas.

    This means that they often don’t see the real needs of people in more rural areas. That added to the ‘silo’ thinking that we experience around capital investment in MANs etc. and we wind up with a cack handed situation where investment is duplicated in network but people still can’t get basic levels of service.

    I do think that a small incremental investment on the MANS to implement technologies similar to the example in my post (which looks good on paper but there is precious little detail on their website) to extend the reach of MANS to rural towns on the outer edge of the MAN’s reach would be a quick win.

    Of course it would require some form of strategy for national broadband that isn’t based just on electoral boundary divisions (current plan) and actually looks at the issue in the context of national spatial strategy and population growth trends for the initial phases.

    Mass switchovers to competitors of eircom would make a point to eircom, but they are only part of the problem here. Consistent Government policy (or the lack there of) around rural broadband and the role of MANs is another issue that needs to be addressed.

    When questions can be raised about the hiring policies for the management of the national broadband scheme ( and the Minister can’t keep the numbers of people on broadband straight in his head from one interview to another ( and then we have a problem that is bigger than just one company.

    We had an opportunity last summer to switch our governance over to another supplier and we failed to do so.

    The ideal solution is to put everyone (eircom, comreg, other providers, the dept of comms, tech providers [who Micheal Martin thinks are only the dogs bollix it seems])in a room, bash out a solution involving everyone and then put necessary public and private capital behind it to make the bugger work. Of course the EU would have a problem with that as it could look like State support for incumbent operators.

    Another alternative is the State buys the network back and invests in it as a national resource and puts local network provision in the hands of local authorities (like the bins, water supplies and non-national roads). Yup. That will work (particularly if you’re in Galway).

  3. Pingback: A Tale of Two Services. « Gobán Saor

  4. Daragh, at least you are on the right side of Forth Mountain. You should see it from my side…..

  5. Mike

    Spring has sprung and the birds and leaves have returned to the tree that lies on my line of sight.

    Presence of nest apparently means that I’m paying through the nose to poach a few eggs in a tree midway between Castlebridge and Forth Mountain, while using a combination of dialup and Vodafone 2g (depending on the telecoms needs of the wifey).

    We should have pints and a bitching session in The Crown Bar some weekend!

  6. Daragh,

    I’ve now taken to sitting in my car on the top of Forth mountain with a 3 dongle. I kid you not. This is to do my 9-5 job BTW…..

  7. Mike,

    OK…. so your day job requires you to sit in your car in a semi-seculded spot with your hands making darting gestures around your lap, always concious of passers-by.

    Yup. I’ll be using that as my defence.

    I’m training a pigeon to deliver my messages via the medium of interpetative dance as it would probably be quicker than sending it over my Voda 2.5g connection.

    Today Pigeon dances Powerpoint… to the tune of Thriller. It’s a good presentation.

  8. Hmm, you may be right there. BTW next time you are in the Crown say hello to Mick behind the bar from me…

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