Alexandra Park Broadband Issues

Tuesday 22nd October

Update from UKB

Analysis of the customer data traces and logs from the base station highlighted an issue with the load balancing configuration affecting the base at Alexandra Park and potentially other base stations in Swindon.  However due to the arrangement at Alexandra Park it is expected that the impact would have been most obvious to the customers at Alexandra Park.  Last Friday 18th October we implemented a fix to this base station to the load balancing feature.  This change has resulted in the connections at Alexandra Park stabilising and fixing the issue that customers were experiencing of intermittent performance issues.  I have spoken to David Clay and he is in the progress of speaking to customers and looking at their stats to confirm the experience matches our understanding.  Also our 3rd line engineers are continuing their analysis of the base station to confirm there are no unwanted behaviours introduced by this change.  We expect that tomorrow we will have concluded these checks and we can look to plan the deployment of the change to other base stations as required.  This exercise is expected to occur over the next couple of weeks as each base station has the fix modified to suit the particular characteristics of the base station.

 

Once we have confirmed the fix for Alexandra Park we will then proceed to plan for a capacity upgrade on the site in readiness for the next school holiday at Christmas.  This is expected to take the form of the following steps:

  1. Implement a speed cap on all SIMs in Swindon.  The resellers have asked us to consider putting a speed cap at 40Mbps so that customers can see the available bandwidth is shared fairly between customers and is not abused by a few individuals.
  2. Deploy an additional 20MHz channel at Alexandra Park.  This requires an additional cabinet to hold an extra RRU and the antennas will be swapped for upgraded antennas.

 

We apologise for the impact this has had on customer’s broadband service and hope that our responsiveness on this issue proves our commitment to the customers in Swindon.

 

Wednesday 16th October

The below update has been provided by the Senior IT Project Manager at Swindon Borough Council, following the meeting, which took place yesterday.

 

As previously advised councillor Sumner and I met with Steve Hart from UKB yesterday morning. David Clay from the Reseller CCE also attended the meeting.

Mr Hart expressed UKB’s concern about the matter in hand and stressed that it had been escalated within the company and is being addressed as a matter of high priority. He also provided an overview of the actions they have taken and the investigation that is being undertaken.

Below is my interpretation of the technical description of the issue and the actions already taken to resolve them.

Last week a number of changes were made to the hardware deployed at the base stations at Alexandra Park, Wroughton and Bishopstone this was to address the issues that had been previously reported. 

The issue appears to be related to a change made to the radio spectrum within which the broadband provision exists. After an agreement with OfCom UKB have rationalised their licenced sections of the radio spectrum so that the sections are adjacent – essentially forming a single larger section rather than two smaller disparate sections. This change has a number of operational advantages for the provider and for users. However, it seems to have contributed to some issues.

At each base station there is hardware that enables the management of the resources to effectively balance the load across the sector transmitters at the base station. Last week this hardware was upgraded to minimise the issues caused by the spectrum changes and in doing so improved  the load balancing at base stations. This initially appeared to have addressed the issues as connectivity speeds were showing as good. However, at Alexandra Park the user experience is still being reported as inconsistent. UKB continue to urgently investigate and believe they have an understanding of the root of the problem.

On each base station there are one or more chanels that transmit on discrete portions of the radio spectrum.  Channels need to transmit on discrete portions of the radio spectrum. The base station channels are grouped into sectors, which are directionally aligned to spread coverage across the surrounding area. Sometimes, to manage available capacity they are not equally dispersed around the 360° view from the base station. For example at Alexandra Park the density of buildings (and hence users) is greater on one side of the base station consequently there are more sectors deployed to that side of the base station and this may be the key to the problems users are experiencing.

The receiver provided to users has the smart capability to change from one wavelength channel within the spectrum to another. This enables the receiver to select the strongest available signal at a given location. This capability is a provision to improve resilience as it allows the receiver to react to fluctuation in service on a particular wavelength by moving the user to an alternative wavelength. 

Users at Alexandra Park are able to access more than one channel and sector on the nearest base station. What appears to be happening is that some of the receivers are confused about the best signal to connect to and hence they are not remaining connected but are switching between sectors as they seek the best connection. Some applications will be more severely affected than others by an intermittent connection particularly if activity has to restart after each break in connectivity. Some users will effectively have a very slow or poor connection despite the base station transmitting as expected and despite the receiver connecting at full speed.

Mr Hart explained that the next steps are for UKB to work with the resellers, including David Clay, to collate the customer experience data and confirm the root cause of the issue.  Subsequently an action plan will be developed to resolve the issue.  The next update is expected early next week at which time Mr Hart will update SBC.  

In the meantime UKB have asked that any customers who continue to experience difficulties with their connection be advised to raise a call with their reseller. The resellers are generally locally based and are able to assist with some of the possible resolution strategies. In addition they can collate the details of customer issues and pass them to UKB so that they can fully investigate common factors.

Senior IT Project Manager, Swindon Borough Council

 

 

Tuesday 15th October

Steve Hart from UKB has agreed to meet with Councillor Gary Sumner and Swindon Borough Council's Senior IT Project Manager today to discuss the issue, the work carried out so far, and possible options for proceeding. He did, however, stress that the engineers at UKB will need to fully assess the results of the changes that were made last week before they can take any further action. I have asked for a full briefing following this meeting and will continue to update you as I receive further information.

 

Monday 14th October 2019

Update from UKB in relation to the “fix” carried out last Thursday

“This is most disappointing – the immediate response after the equipment swaps at the base stations was that the issue was resolved, but it seems after people have used it over the weekend the performance is inconsistent. Now that David Clay has returned from his holiday he is collating the customer issues – so far this morning we’ve got about 5 customer complaints. Once we have the details we’ll forward to the engineers to review and agree on next steps. As soon as we have a plan I will let you know.”

Councillor Brian Ford, Councillor Gary Sumner, Councillor Cathy Martyn and I are all pushing to get the issue fixed as soon as possible, but please report any issues to your reseller as soon as possible. Thankyou. We'll post further updates as soon as we have any.