Mark Wynn
Mark Wynn

Member Article

Digital Britain - going nowhere fast

Mark Wynn, managing director of Avonline Broadband, comments on the state of Britain’s broadband infrastructure.

The fast get faster

In its latest report on residential download speeds, Ofcom research confirmed what millions of UK households already know – that broadband speeds for well connected properties continue to accelerate while homes with unusable or no broadband stagnate. In rural locations where customers achieve an average download speed of just 3.5Mbps whilst paying for an “up to 24Mbps” service, the digital divide continues to grow.

Since the original Digital Britain Report in July 2009, the overriding emphasis on speed over practical coverage has been a fundamental reason for failure. However, with the recent Lords Committee report warning of the dangers of this approach,the focus may be about to change.

Getting left behind

A strong digital economy is clearly beneficial for the UK industry while universal access can play a strong part in sustaining smaller communities and supporting successful businesses, both of which are vital for overall economic development. For the many businesses investigating the economic benefits of rural relocation good communication links are vital. In this economy, businesses cannot afford to wait for traditional broadband providers to reach outlying areas within reasonable timescales. The uncertainty of acceptable communication links is a key barrier to the healthy flow of commercial activities into these local communities.

Technology catching up

As the dominant broadband technology in the UK, ADSL connections running over the BT network have severe limitations regarding distance from the exchange and the number of simultaneous users. It is these limitations that the digitally excluded understand very well.

For fixed line connections, fibre remains the ultimate solution but cannot be commercially deployed into the rural communities quickly enough – BT plans to get fibre to around two in three homes within the next three years. However, most of these will be homes that are already amongst the better served today.

That leaves broadband delivered without wires – mobile broadband, wireless broadband (WiMax) and Satellite Broadband.

Mobile broadband suffers many of the same limitations as the ADSL network - it is concentrated on the urban populations and the investment to deliver high bandwidth in rural networks is uncommercial. Reliability, speed and high monthly costs are all common concerns for users.

WiMax has only really been deployed in small scale, often requiring strong community action to get a project launched. There is an inconsistent track record of WiMax operators, many starting and subsequently failing, leaving a trail of worthless investment. When delivered and run professionally, these schemes can deliver excellent value services but the major limitation is the requirement to get an entire community engaged before the project investment will be committed so time is again a key factor.

Broadband looking up

The one solution totally designed and built to deliver unilateral broadband coverage is Satellite Broadband, and the latest Next Generation Ka satellite technology is very quickly winning its place in solving the problem. Satellite Broadband is now delivering a fast (18 Mbps) service across the UK with heavier duty options available for larger businesses.

With 100 per cent coverage of the UK, investment costs from around £100 per property and monthly charges from less than £15 per month plus VAT, thousands of homes and businesses around the UK are already benefiting from this new technology.

Summary

To ensure that they survive and thrive, rural communities need successful businesses. Those businesses need good broadband and communication links and, in a weak economy, cannot afford to wait for the traditional providers to reach them or for government policies to be agreed or delivered.

By taking direct action and looking to the skies, many businesses are discovering that Next Generation Ka satellite technology can deliver fast reliable broadband today to any business anywhere in the UK.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Mark Wynn .

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