Last year, I wrote a post about free Wi-Fi provision in central Milton Keynes. I wasn’t very impressed (although I’d like to see the service prosper) but have to admit that I haven’t tried it since. In the same post, I also mentioned that there was a WiMax trial planned for Milton Keynes and a few weeks back, after hearing nothing for over a year, I received an e-mail to tell me that it is now available in my area.
This sounded good – I have “up to 8Mbps” ADSL at home and my router tells me that I get about 7.2Mbps downstream with about 448Kbps upstream, but if I could get good upstream bandwidth too then that would be an advantage. Then I noticed two things that put me off.
Firstly, the service is provided by Connect MK – who claim to be:
“A Council company created to provide better broadband services for Milton Keynes”
WTF! Milton Keynes Council appears to me to be incapable of managing anything of any substance (of course, that is purely a personal opinion, based on my experience as a Council Tax payer). In the small town where I live (under the control of the unitary authority that is Milton Keynes Council) we have: a secondary school that opened 8 months late and Â£3m over budget [source: political propaganda for the upcoming local elections], with design changes that mean it stands out like a blot on our (pleasant) landscape; a backlog of road repairs; short-sighted planning decisions with councillors supporting further expansion without any of the supporting infrastructure (including the grid road system that has worked so well for the last 30 years in urban Milton Keynes); etc., etc. (my list could go on and on, but let’s stop here – you get the idea). Now the same council wants to provide network infrastructure services. It’s not 1 April is it? Not according to my calendar anyway.
Secondly, the price: a 1Mbps downstream/512Kbps upstream package with a 10GB download limit is advertised for Â£20 a month; 2Mbps down and 512Kbps up with a 20GB allowance is Â£25; but 2Mbps down and 1Mbps up with a 40GB allowance is a staggering Â£50 a month! Are they joking?
I pay around Â£30 for my small business ADSL service and I have no issues with bandwidth allowances (my current ISP operates a system of peak and off-peak usage, and the off-peak usage really is unlimited, with peak usage rates depending upon the tariff). If I wanted a residential service I could pay a lot less than that. For that matter, I can get HSPA mobile broadband Internet for Â£15 a month on an Â£18 month contract.
As it happens, Connect MK is a reseller for the infrastructure provided by FREEDOM4 (formerly Pipex Communications). Interestingly, despite having supplied my home address and postcode details to Pipex and Connect MK having e-mailed me to say “Great news – You can now receive a WiMAX Broadband Service”, neither the current FREEDOM4 coverage map nor the coverage checker on their website indicates that I can receive the service – at this time it only seems to cover urban areas of Milton Keynes. It’s not a very good indictment of Connect MK’s ability to provide a reliable service when they haven’t even worked out that I live 10 miles outside their coverage area.
Regardless of the network coverage, I fail to see who would even consider the Connect MK WiMax service as an alternative to ADSL or cable. At the prices quoted, I can’t imagine much of Milton Keynes’ population getting connected with Connect MK.