We’re a country known for pushing boundaries – we have everything from drones to driverless cars (this is the nation that brought you chips and gravy, for goodness’ sake!) – and yet Ofcom has just released a report about the big divide between broadband coverage in different parts of the country. As we rely on it more and more for business too, how vital is it, and which areas should we be looking to improve the most?
UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has done a report on the UK’s telecoms infrastructure, and found that the average download speed is 23 megabits per second (Mbps) but 3% of premises don’t have even the basic broadband of 2Mbps; and 15% can’t get 10Mbps, which is really what the typical household needs nowadays.
There’s also a huge gap between the minimum and maximum broadband download speeds available in Britain, with a wide range from just 0.1Mbps all the way up to 350Mbps. Andrew Ferguson, editor of the Think Broadband website said: “About three to four million households still don’t have access to superfast broadband, while others don’t realise it is available in their area.” The government’s aim is to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of UK premises by 2017, which Ofcom’s called “aggressive”.
They’ve also set up an interactive map so you can see just how jealous you should be of other parts of the country and their connectivity. And it is important to get decent, universal coverage. Our CEO Lawrence Jones said: “We don’t realise we are using the internet all of the time. But all of the companies that are successful are only successful because they are using the web.”
Not only that, but the UK lags behind on this front. Our MD Jonathan appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning to offer some expert insight from a business perspective. He said: “Places like Japan and Scandinavia were thinking about the ability to access the internet at lightning speeds a decade ago whereas in the UK we were focussing on different things. It means now that where speeds are decent in big cities and lots of big businesses can reap the benefits of it, many small businesses and entrepreneurs would prefer to base themselves in smaller areas, more rural areas of the UK, and it’s almost impossible to get the download and upload speeds that you’d need to run a successful business.
“What the government needs to do is look at productivity. We know that from a small business perspective, the faster your internet connection is, the more productive you can be and the more you can improve your standing in the economy. Britain is trying to make Britain great for businesses, and currently it simply isn’t great for any business that wants to base itself in a rural area.”
The area that he thinks needs more attention in future is slightly different though, saying: “But really for businesses it’s really also about the upload speeds…and there’s nothing in the report that necessarily talks about how we’re going to increase that. Therefore, you’re looking at a situation where you could be receiving information very quickly but if you’re working from home … then that’s not necessarily high on the agenda to change at the moment.”
Ofcom reckon the era of the landline could be coming to an end as well, as more people move to voice-over-broadband services as they use mobiles and the internet more for calls and business – about 16% of houses already have no landline. But just like with broadband, fast 4G mobile services aren’t even throughout the country, depending on where you’re trying to ring or connect from. The example they used is that for people in cars, 4G is not available at all in 71% of areas. They also found that while nearly three-quarters of premises have access to 4G, only 35% are served by Vodafone, O2 and EE.
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