The UK is at the bottom of Europe for Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and ranks 54th in the world for 4G coverage behind Peru and Albania, says Dave Millett, from independent telecoms brokerage Equinox, so, what options, if any, exist to solve your telecoms problems?
When you hear about the availability of high-speed broadband in leading countries such as South Korea and Sweden it is hard not to feel frustrated. The UK is at the bottom of Europe for Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and ranks 54th in the world for 4G coverage behind Peru and Albania. It is no surprise that businesses in rural areas have telecoms challenges affecting their day-to-day working and competitiveness.
So if you are “living the dream” with a business based in the countryside how much of a nightmare is it? What options, if any, exist to solve your telecoms problems?
The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project was set up in 2011. The Government’s intention was to bring internet connection of 24Mbps or above to 95 per cent of the country by 2017. This is called “superfast” though most other countries define this as 100Mbps or even 250 Mbps. We have only about 2 per cent coverage at 100Mbps. Far from ideal for most businesses.
Small fibre and Wimax providers are offering pure fibre without needing a landline. Both offer ultrafast connections, and for reasonably competitive prices, but they're limited to small numbers of buildings or developments each.
Other small ISPs like LN Communications and B4RN have focused their efforts on small villages suffering with poor broadband, while others only supply certain towns e.g. Gigler in Bournemouth. You can find what is going on in your county here: https://www.cable.co.uk/guides/rural-broadband/
Businesses can move to dedicated lines to guarantee speeds. The problem is that pricing is distance dependent. In a remoter part of Wales one small business found the best price was over £1,000 a month for a 10mb circuit. For dedicated lines, it is worth shopping round for the suppliers with the nearest network. The difference in quotes can be as much as 50 per cent.
Lord Adonis’s recent report suggested the UK should get 5G technology by 2025. Many small businesses would be happy to get basic 2G now. More than one-third of the geographic land mass of the UK has no coverage.
You should always consult the networks online to check their coverage as they all have stronger and weaker areas. One step Ofcom and the Government could take to improve rural coverage is to force the networks to allow free roaming within the UK. From July 1st you will be able to roam free in Europe but not in the UK.
Booster can be plugged into broadband to improve the signal. If the coverage maps say you should get indoor service and are not, the network provider will usually give you a booster for free (though you may have to push them).
If you don’t have a phone line at your premises BT and Kingston Communications (Hull) are required to install lines at the standard price even it involves extra costs. What’s the catch? Extra costs up to £3,400 for phone lines and £1,000 for ISDN2 connections excluding VAT are free - above tjod the customer has to pay. To help your budgeting you can see how charges are built up at http://www.bt.com/pricing/current/Excess_Construction_boo/2-1319_d0e1.htm
Imagine planning to move your business to an idyllic village in Scotland, 1.5 kilometres from the A road. The current owners uses satellite but the property is close enough to a BT cabinet to get fibre broadband. So far so good – all that needs to be done is put a phone line in. Based on the price list the cost is… about £20k!
Our client decided against this investment for the time being and is going to continue using satellite for their business. They will have no landline connection and will have to rely on a mobile signal. The good news is that the costs of satellite broadband have come down to under £100 a month. Usage is capped but it is now viable for businesses.
Unfortunately the choices remain relatively restricted for most rural businesses though it does pay to keep exploring the options. Every business needs to check fibre broadband availability regularly and also check the mobile coverage maps as networks are changing where services are offered. Right now it’s a postcode lottery but the pressure for change is building.
ABOUT DAVE MILLETT
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