By Dave Millett, Equinox
The Government and BT have given us a number of recent supposedly good news announcements about broadband infrastructure. For example the Government says we now have 95% superfast broadband coverage and that by 2020 we’ll all be getting 20mbps downstream speed, wherever we live.
Openreach announced plans to connect 50% more homes with more reliable and ultrafast fibre-optics by 2020 – taking the total to three million. The first three million, of which around 500,000 new builds are already connected, will be spread across Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
But looking ahead 20mbps is unlikely to be adequate for most people’s needs. For example, a 4K film requires a minimum of 25mbps to stream. The current EU proposals say 30mbps is a minimum, and that is likely to rise. Ultrafast Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) offers speeds of 110 to 300mbps down and would be suitable for any home and a significant majority of businesses. But BT’s target of 10% of premises, i.e. just 3 million premises by 2020 will get us to the average that other EU countries achieved in 2016, and BT’s 2025 target would mean we wouldn’t even reach the 50% that Lithuania has today.
So, what do you do if you are one of those 1.5 million properties that will not see superfast until 2020?
Let’s take an example of a small business from South London wanting to relocate to Mid-Wales which illustrates a lot of the issues.
The new location can only get 1mbps down on a standard broadband. There is of course no Fibre to the Cabinet and a dedicated data circuit would have cost them more than a £1,100 a month.
- Check local broadband speeds before viewing a property. Websites, such as Right Move, offer tools to check broadband coverage .
- Check if there are local community organisations to help e.g. B4RN. This is a professionally designed fibre optic broadband network, registered as a non-profit community benefit society, and run by a local team with the support of landowners and volunteers (https://b4rn.org.uk/). Is something like this where you are?
- With slow speeds the business could be eligible for a grant towards the cost of satellite internet. You need speeds of 2mbps or less to qualify for the grant – check if the council offers such grants.
Remember to carefully review your likely usage. A business grade satellite service will give you up to 20mbps, although it will probably average around 8-9mbps. The issue with satellite is the amount of data that can be downloaded for an affordable price. It certainly limits the ability to use Netflix and other streaming services, as one hour of video uses about 1GB of data. Services with 50GB are available for about £100 a month, so if you are going to watch two hours of TV, five nights a week (on average) then you’ll use around 40GB – not leaving much for your business or other family members.
- Talk to providers about 4G. Depending where you are they may or may not offer coverage. The good news is that the cost of data is falling and 100GB download allowance services are now available on monthly contracts at a price point below satellite and with greater speeds. This was the solution in the rural Welsh location.
- See what apps can help you. In our example 4G allowed for moving their London landline number to a VoIP app that works over 4G – meaning they can satisfy their communication needs, both personal and business, at an affordable price. Plus, they can keep their London number which makes the transition much easier. No need to inform everyone of a new number, re-print stationery, or set up call-diverts and automated messages.
In summary, there is some hope for improving broadband infrastructure but for the next few years it will remain a post code lottery. Targets for the future need to be raised significantly if the UK is to remain competitive and if we’re to help rural communities in particular run and attract businesses (and jobs) in the future.
About the Author
Dave Millett has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry. He has worked in European Director roles for several global companies. He now runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80%. He also regularly advises telecom suppliers on improving their products and propositions. www.equinoxcomms.co.uk