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Is high-speed broadband a panacea for all your IT issues?

The recent COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent explosion in ‘Work from Home’, have brought the challenge of reliable internet connections into sharp relief.
In 2020, the UK average broadband speed ranked at 47th place globally – the good news is that in 2022, this had improved to 35th place, with the average UK speed jumping from ca. 42 Mbps in 2020 to ca. 72 Mbps in 2022. The less welcome realisation is that we still lag behind 18 other Western European territories.

But does this really matter, and why does the UK apparently lag?

UK Infrastructure

The UK has one of the longest-established telecom networks in the world, and we can boast a fixed-line network that provides near-universal internet access across the UK, albeit at a functional level. We could draw the analogy with the celebrated NHS; here we have a service that, while not perfect, is available for everyone to use.
Currently, most of us in the UK are still dependent on the Openreach network, a combination of copper wires and fibre cables. Even the term ‘Fibre Broadband’ as used extensively by telco providers is a bit of a misnomer – this generally means ‘Fibre to The Cabinet’ (FTTC), with the last stretch to the premises over copper. Only ‘Fibre to The Premises’ (FTTP) is true ‘fibre broadband’.

So, while we may have the option to upgrade our connection to ‘fibre,’ it is worth remembering that the speeds we obtain will only improve significantly when the entire line is fibre. Where any part of this is still dependent on the copper wires, we experience lower speeds, and reliability is affected by the copper expanding and contracting. Dampness, humidity and wind movement (all common features of UK weather) directly impact physical metal-to-metal connection, with the consequent impact of non-fibre connection performance.

While the government is targeting broadband speeds up to 1,000Mbps for the majority of UK locations by 2025, this is a very ambitious goal considering the amount of work needed to roll out pure fibre networks. Government legislation gives all UK residents a ‘Universal Service Obligation’ to demand a 10Mbps / 1 Mbps (which the UK Government has determined is sufficient to support an average UK household) goes some way to assisting those who have the most serious difficulties, but this is hardly ‘high-speed internet’


Your Infrastructure

So, a faster connection between your building and the main internet ‘highway’ is clearly a good thing, but it might not be the answer to everything – there are two other bottlenecks that are often overlooked:

i) Internal Building Networks
This is the final connection between your internet service as it enters your premises and your computer – often Wi-Fi, sometimes an ethernet cable – has a huge impact on your overall user experience.
Wi-Fi, although steadily improving, will almost always deliver inferior connection speeds when compared with a physical (ethernet) connection. There is little point in having a 1000 Mbps broadband connection to the premises if the internal Wi-Fi network is limited to 54 Mbps data throughput.

ii) The Destination Equipment
Not all website servers and hosting platforms are created equal, and neither are their connections to the internet backbone. If a website (or video) is loading slowly and buffering, the problem may simply be that the website provider is under heavy demand and unable to keep up.

So, it’s a bit like owning a supercar in the UK – you make be the proud driver of a Porsche Taycan with a top speed of 143 mph, but you’re still governed by the 70 MPH UK National Speed Limit.

If you’re experiencing a slow or problematic broadband connection and want to explore the options available for your business please get in touch for a no obligation chat.


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