I am writing this to you from the future. Or at least from a future. The one that British Telecom has created here in Deddington as a template for all the telephone exchanges in the UK. London hopes that it will one day be like us. Probably.
The complete Deddington exchange from Aynho Wharf to the Barfords will be totally enabled with the completion of phase three – the old half of Deddington – some time in March. Then we have two years to switch our phones and internet connections over to fibre optic before they remove all the copper wiring in the area. There is no coming back from the future here you know.
The first step is to choose your phone and internet provider and package. The obvious choice is the omnipresent BT Infinity but there are a good dozen companies (listed at http://www.thinkbroadband.com/guide/fibre-broadband.html) which you can talk to instead, with rates varying from £18 to £150 a month based on internet speed and download limits. Some will include free installation of the last bit of cable from pole to phone point, others not.
Our installation was pretty painless. There were two visits, seven days apart. The first replaced the copper cable from the telegraph pole to the house and then ran the new cable down to a junction box nearer where we wanted our phone and broadband connection to be. The second included drilling through the outside wall, installing the actual new hardware and enabling the new connections. (For those with a fear of dentistry, look away; metre-long drill bits are not for you.)
The only real input the engineers need is to know where you want your new boxes installed. You’ll need to have a space about the size of an A4 sheet of paper free somewhere near a plug socket for the new phone lines and battery pack to be fixed. If you have computers or an office in the house, consider having the boxes there for a wired connection to your main machine and using wireless phones rather than the other way around. As long as the distance between the junction box and the new location is less than 25 metres around the outside wall, there’s no problem.
If you’re curious about the battery pack, one downside to fibre optic cables is that unlike copper wires, they don’t carry an electric charge. The battery pack is mandatory in case a power cut happens and you need to use the phone. The pack is good for 12 hours which hopefully should be enough.
Once everything was installed, the engineer rang the BT service centre and asked them to switch the cable on. Funnily enough, our guy had a good half a dozen phone numbers for the centre and none of them answered for about half an hour. When he did get through, he was told their systems were down so he’d have to call back later. Nice to know it’s not just the consumer that gets the run-around by BT.
With respect to phones, the old ones continue to work as normal even with the new cable installed. More next month on the search for a decent fibre optic phone and figuring out just what we can all do with this new-fangled speedy broadband thing. I can confirm right now however, that the BBC iPlayer and other watch on demand TV channels all work beautifully in glorious high definition. Which is nice.