June 9, 2020
By FarrPoint Team
Online searches for terms such as ‘slow broadband’ have risen by more than 60% during lockdown in the UK – a time when broadband speeds have never been more important. The issue of insufficient connectivity is not isolated to rural areas either, with some of the most populous areas of the UK also facing the struggle to stay online when jobs depend on it.
During a recent government video-conference, MP for Sunderland Central, Julie Elliott, froze mid-question during her appeal to the DCMS Chair for a faster rollout of fibre broadband for her constituents. The irony was not lost.
Throughout lockdown, our Consultants have been providing clients across the country with advice on enabling reliable and secure remote working practices and how to get the most out of working from their home set-up. However, there’s only so many adjustments you can make before admitting that the quality of the broadband service to some premises is not fit for purpose.
One of our very own connectivity experts has outlined their anguish at experiencing download speeds of 20 Mbps and upload speeds of 2 Mbps to their busy household. And this is not rural, our suffering staff member lives in an attractive area of Scotland’s capital city. With a family of four with both parents working, children completing school work, watching Netflix and playing video games online, this level of connectivity is simply not sufficient. The quality of the broadband service is important, not just the headline speed.
Using his technical knowledge, our Consultant bonded a 4G mobile service to their fixed line connection to try to make the connection more usable. That’s only improved things incrementally due to even the best 4G signal being variable and struggling to be used for video calling due to packet loss. Remember, this is leafy city suburbs with only one fixed line provider serving limited broadband speeds and poor 4G coverage across all four mobile networks.
Similarly to many in the UK, there are no alternative suppliers available in our Consultant’s area so there’s no better option. Also, the move to roll-out full-fibre services Ultrafast broadband has either not started yet or there are no immediate plans to advance it as with many other postcodes. These are in danger of being the forgotten middle - premises sitting between competitive city centre areas and subsidised rural areas.
In Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations Update it was announced that “27.7million homes (95%) can now access Superfast broadband.” In reality, 95% of premises have access to be connected to a cabinet with download speeds of at least 30Mbps, but by the time that cabling reaches a property the performance can be very different. In our Consultant’s example, his property is less than 1.5km from the cabinet in question; there are some others who are a great deal further.
One of our other Edinburgh-based Consultants has three competing broadband infrastructure providers serving his home just a few km away, all with their own cables laid down the street and offering up to 1Gbps services.
There really must be a smarter way to deliver connectivity services to all of us, no matter where we live.