Residents of the Isle of Coll, Scotland have been without internet access for around three weeks due to an issue with the wireless backhaul radios that feed the island. The remote island has around two hundred residents, with around forty of them being affected by the issues. To get service to the island, Openreach deployed a Wireless-to-the-Cabinet (WTTC) network a few years ago. The use of microwave links isn’t something new, mobile phone providers use the same technology to feed other phone masts and WISPs regularly use the technology for backhaul.

However, in the more traditional broadband world, where Openreach sits the use of microwave links isn’t that common. The project was started in 2015 and finished in 2018 – the end result provided 80mbps services to the residents and is basically the same as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet, but the uplink is a wireless link. The Argyll and Bute Council website has the following update as of 28th Oct 2022 07:02pm:

“Engineers are continuing investigations into the loss of broadband to around 40 households on the island of Coll.

Service is provided to a wireless broadband cabinet on Coll from a radio station at Tobermory on Mull. Riggers replaced two damaged radio dishes there on Thursday.

Unfortunately this hasn’t restored service, and specialist engineers are now needed on the island to continue investigations. Due to lack of helicopter and ferry access, and risk to private sailings due to swell, we’re currently trying to secure a private plane, but this is not available until Monday.

The cabinet serves around a quarter of island properties and we’re sorry for the ongoing outage and the impact on those affected.

Fixed phone and mobile services are not affected.”

Around two weeks ago the wireless link stopped working. Openreach are reported to have replaced the dishes earlier this week, which were claimed to have been damaged. However, this wasn’t successful. Openreach are now required to send “specialist engineers” to fix the issue.

Our take

What this sounds like to us is that, for whatever reason the link stopped working. Rather than send trained wireless engineers, Openreach decided to replace the antennas and now, after that has stopped working they are only now sending wireless engineers. By the look of the image above, there are two radios, either to cope with the reflectiveness of the water or one as a backup. It would however, be pretty odd if both had failed. Hopefully next week, Openreach can restore service to the residents of the Isle of Coll.