Londoners can now get same-day broadband, but does Relish have a future?
Relish will deliver an LTE wireless router to your door - at least in central London - to provide a same-day broadband service. The network has actually been running since 2014, but the Hong Kong-owned parent company needs to attract a critical mass of users.
Londoners can now get same-day broadband from Relish, but it's far from being a new broadband service. The company has previously offered a next-day service for its cellular wireless broadband, so the only change is speeding up the delivery of its wireless router. Hence the stunning PR-supplied photo of couriers on bikes...
Relish's LTE-based service does have an obvious appeal to businesses: it can be a quick fix if you have no way to get usable broadband via a phone line or cable, if you need a temporary service, or you are moving between different offices in central London. The business service offers a static IP address and costs £25 per month for a minimum of one year, which could be attractive to companies who can get speeds of 20Mbps or more. Of course, neither speed nor service quality is guaranteed, and these could be problems for some users.
Relish could also appeal to home users who need instant broadband, or have no landline or cable access. However, mobile 4G broadband devices like the Mifi and/or tethered smartphones may solve the same problem more conveniently, depending on contract terms and pricing. In those cases, Relish may still be attractive for its much higher potential speeds.
I said the service was far from new, and it actually goes back to 2012, when its suggested "up to 65Mbps" claim sounded even more impressive. In fact, Relish's parent company UK Broadband - owned by Hong Kong-based PCCW - launched a wireless broadband in the Thames Valley in the UK in 2004. This service was rebranded Now Broadband and closed a few years later.
After that, UK Broadband bought 124MHz of wireless spectrum in LTE bands 42 and 43 (3.5GHz and 3.7GHz). This enabled the company switch on the UK's first 4G LTE commercial service in February 2012, when it said it had "networks in London, Reading and Swindon" (ie the Thames Valley area).
UK Broadband's London service was centered on "the Southbank and Borough areas of Southwark" just south of the river Thames. This 2102 service was expanded and rebranded as Relish in 2014.
While I've not had chance to try Relish (I'm out of range of its coverage), the service itself looks straightforward. You plug the router into a power socket and log on to the resulting Wi-Fi network, though you can also use wired Ethernet.
For some users, the main problem will be placing the router where it receives a strong, reliable signal. This will depend on how far they are from the nearest Relish mast, what's in the way, the structure of their home or office, and other variables. It would be useful to have a way to test the strength of the signal before buying the service.
Unfortunately, Relish's service seems to have had problems. The ISP Review website has only seven user reviews, but only two reviewers are happy. Five of them give Relish only one star out of 10 for customer support, and another gives it two stars. (The other is a 10.)
One commented: "Relish's basic speed is exceptional. Its service is crippled by poor customer service and non-disclosed technical flaws that render it a bad choice for anyone except the most naive of domestic customers." A 2014 reviewer said: "If you need inbound connections forget this ISP. The router is hopeless and the CGNAT service basically rules out any inbound connections unless you want to try jumping through lots of hoops if you have or buy additional hardware that supports VPN."
There are far more user discussions on the London SE1 community website, Relish's launch area. It seems that some home users had problems with Relish's Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT/IP address sharing) causing connection drops.
CGNAT is not really a "technical flaw" and presumably wouldn't affect business users with static IP addresses.
Still, Relish's LTE service clearly works well for some users, and Tech Radar gave it a good review. In 2012, UK Broadband apparently intended to roll out a national network, but that's an unlikely prospect if it can't get a foothold in London, where the population density is high and there are plenty of people with money.
According to a Daily Telegraph story (Operator of Relish wireless broadband logs heavy losses): "Losses for 2014 almost quadrupled to £37.5m [$48.6m] as UK Broadband built the Relish network and advertised it on the London Underground, among other sites." PCCW has a global reach and plenty of cash, but it will want to get back its infrastructure investment, and more.
UK Broadband really needs Relish's same-day broadband service to take off.