The Government is planning to spend £5 billion on rolling out full-fibre broadband to the most remote parts of the UK. BBC News has responded with their explanatory article, Full-fibre broadband: What is it and how does it work?, but my concern is that businesses will be convinced that this so-called superfast connectivity is what they have been waiting for.
The plan is to use this investment to get full-fibre broadband to the hardest-to-reach 20% areas of the UK, with 50,000 rural homes targeted for connection by Christmas. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said full-fibre broadband is needed to improve the country’s infrastructure and productivity. He wants a full rollout by 2025.
For residential purposes, full-fibre will enable people to enjoy a better experience when using data-intensive streaming services, smart devices and video calls. According to Ofcom, the average household used 240Gbps of data a month in 2018, up 26% on the previous year.
Up until now, most people have been using broadband or ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) connections that use copper cables to a street-level cabinet or junction box and on to the house.
The next level up is FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) which uses a faster fibre optic cable to the cabinet, but then copper cable from there to the house.
Full-fibre broadband is also known as FTTP (fibre to the premises) and it uses a fibre optic cable to connect to households without using any copper cable.
The reason for replacing copper cables is that it's old and slower than fibre optic cable, which is made from glass or plastic and uses pulses of light to transmit data. But it does mean digging up the existing copper to deploy it, which is why the roll-out is taking so long. Only about 7% of UK properties actually have access to the fastest full-fibre connection, which can achieve gigabit speeds compared to 30Mpbs that the Government currently defines as ‘superfast’.
The UK ranks well behind some other European nations including Latvia, Lithuania and Spain, where roughly half of all homes have access to the fastest connections.
With these faster full-fibre speeds on their way, surely businesses will benefit too?
The BBC’s article stated these connections will ensure businesses benefit from increased productivity, which is true...but only while these connections are in working order! The issue here is that whatever fancy new name you give them, they are still broadband. They are not designed for critical use. In other words, your business would be severely compromised without access to the internet.
Most businesses can cope for a few hours or so if there is an outage, but if a line has been damaged and needs repairing, broadband customers will have to wait days or even weeks to get back online. This could be catastrophic for a business that relies on access to cloud applications or connections that support their PDQs, for instance.
It does not matter how fast broadband connections are, they still do not come with service level agreements that ensure any faults are rectified within hours. This means they are unsuitable for businesses that rely on connectivity. Sorry folks.
We would always recommend a leased line solution to our business customers. The good news is the price of these connections have dropped, making them more financially palatable. They can also be used to support new voice services, such as SIP or hosted telephony, to eliminate the cost of traditional ISDN lines. They are dedicated and very robust; they are made for business use.
Where leased lines are not suitable, we would advise a fall-back solution in case a broadband connection fails. Often this can be achieved using the 4G network and a router with a SIM.
While I do not want to burst anyone’s bubble and wholeheartedly back a move towards full-fibre, businesses need to appreciate its limitations and should seek advice to make sure they get a connectivity solution that will not let them down.
Give me a call if your current contract is nearing an end and you need advice on your business connectivity options. I will be happy to provide you with a no-obligation quote.