Self-dig schemes can be achieved either as part of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme, to extend coverage to areas not in commercial plans, or as a Community Fibre Partnership with Openreach. With a ‘self-dig’ you can take the initiative and do some of the groundwork yourself to reduce costs and speed up the process. Communities can choose to dig and install their own network ducts in a process known as ‘self-dig’. To start a self-dig scheme, you will need to work alongside the Better Broadband for Suffolk team and/or Openreach to determine whether a ‘self-dig’ solution is an appropriate form of delivery and that everything will meet the correct specifications.
To find out more about self-digs, please read the sections below. If you would like further information, please contact us.
What do you need to do?
- Send the Better Broadband for Suffolk team and/or Openreach a list of the premises that occupy your community and provide a desire to operate a self-dig scheme. This will allow them to assess if you have the capability and whether there is enough interest from the community to make the project a cost-effective solution.
- Outline where you want to dig to so these can be considered when the Better Broadband for Suffolk team and/or Openreach survey the area to find a viable route.
- If a viable route is found and you are happy with the quote provided by the Better Broadband for Suffolk team and/or Openreach, you will need to:
- Confirm the addresses for all of the premises in the community who will benefit from the new fibre infrastructure
- Identify land ownership and any potential premises that are capable and willing to be part of the self-dig work
- Identify any natural boundaries that stand between premises and road links (i.e. rivers, streams, woods, hills, etc.)
Things to bear in mind when participating in a self-dig scheme
Who owns the land?
If the dig route crosses private land, you will need to get the landowner’s permission and contact them about the proposed work.
Who needs access?
You will need to coordinate wayleaves (legal access rights), if needed, and think about how heavy machinery will get in – or how engineers will access the network in the future.
DIY or contractor digging
If you have the skills, resource and the manpower, then a DIY scheme can prove to be the most cost effective. If you aren’t able to complete the dig yourself, then you may need to contact a selection of contractors, including Openreach, to see what the most cost-effective solution available is.
Will roads need to be closed?
If the duct crosses a road you will need to get permission from Suffolk Highways and work within the set dates and times allocated. It is best to avoid routes that need to cross a road, and it is possible to get a contractor to do the road section of the dig.
Keep it straight
Ideally the route will have long straight lengths, to minimise jointing chambers and avoid sharp bends.
Where to dig
Sometimes the existing network is the best route, but if not, the Better Broadband for Suffolk team and/or Openreach will indicate areas where the community can dig. They will also highlight where you may need to dig back to from individual premises.
You might be able to get financial help towards the cost of a self-dig. For more information, please visit the pages below:
Your community can help by:
- Digging the fibre spine out to the community
This is the main duct into the heart of the community from a connection point in our network.
- Digging in the lead in to the premises
If your premises are far from the service distribution point you might want to dig from the road to your property to reduce the cost of the overall solution.
We proactively encourage self-dig scheme, so if you are interested, please contact us.
Self-dig in action: Baylham Stone, Suffolk
Baylham Stone was not in plans to receive Superfast Broadband as part of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme, which will achieve 98% coverage across Suffolk by 2020. Although the 16 premises in Baylham Stone were connected to a fibre enabled cabinet, residents were approximately 7km away from the cabinet. This reliance on copper cable, over such a long distance, meant that speeds diminished until they were indistinguishable from standard broadband.
Some residents utilised alternative solutions to increase their broadband speeds. This included satellite broadband – which many found unreliable – and 4G dongles once the area was 4G enabled.
Local business owner Keith Willets, who had installed a 4G aerial in his premises, was able to reach speeds of around 10Mbps – 4 times faster than the satellite connection available to him before. However, the limited provision and high cost of the service was not an effective alternative for Keith’s business.
Keith contacted the Better Broadband for Suffolk team to see if there was a way for fibre broadband to be implemented in Baylham Stone. A survey was carried out to find a viable route for fibre optic cables to run and resulted in a self-dig scheme being proposed. Openreach, who conducted the survey, worked alongside Keith whose invaluable local knowledge identified a route next to a footpath where a trench could be dug. A wayleave had to be obtained from a landowner whose land the proposed route ran through. In order to acquire the wayleave an agreement was struck that ensured the trench would be dug at a minimum depth of 1.1m. The trench was fitted with ducting to allow the fibre cable to be installed efficiently. The size of cable installed provided the area with more capacity than is currently necessary but will be able to serve additional properties in future.
Progress stalled on a couple of occasions during the digging and installation process due to unforeseen circumstances arising, such as:
- Encountering a decommissioned WWII Air Force fuel pipe
- Special equipment being required to cut into the especially hard areas of ground
- Protected tree roots in the planned path of the ducting
The cost of the work was shared by properties in the area who benefitted from the new superfast fibre broadband connection. Once the works were completed, the residents had to wait for internet service providers to update their records so that they could order a Superfast Broadband connection. Once available, residents were able to order speeds of up to 300Mbps.
Keith’s business is now able to transfer larger files and documents online, video conference with clients – reducing the need to travel, and work more flexibly. Other benefits to the new connection include streaming video content without buffering or a decrease in quality. One resident is now able to order online shopping and Skype her family and friends in a high quality, uninterrupted call, where before she found it difficult to get to the shops and arrange visits to see family.
Keith said “I would definitely advise others to take on a self-dig scheme. Although they can be challenging at times, the benefit is well worth it. Despite the initial cost, I’m sure all of the houses in the area have gained value now that we have some of the fastest speeds in the county. We have all been enabled to join and benefit from the online world.”