Broadband speed and the reality of fibre broadband in the UK

Whilst the likes of TalkTalk and Virgin Media have applauded the impending forced break-up of BT and Openreach by OFCOM, stating that it will lead to fairer broadband pricing and faster speeds across the land, the true picture of the broadband landscape remains largely distorted to the consumer.

The leviathan marketing machines of the major fixed line broadband providers including BT lead non-tech savvy members of the public into thinking that cheap, fast fibre broadband will be coming up their street any day now. Their marketing messaging also disingenuously leads consumers to think that because the word fibre is used in the product name they’re buying, that they’re in fact going to get ‘fibre to the home’ (FTTH, also called ‘fibre to the premises’ FTTP) which will give them a virtually unlimited ability to upgrade to faster services in the future, when in fact for very many the best they will see if they’re lucky is ‘fibre to the cabinet’ (FTTC).

FTTC, whilst improving the broadband speeds and capacity to the local Street Cabinets that serve individual homes and businesses, still offers very limited performance compared to FTTH. In areas where customers are served by FTTC, the performance of their broadband connection is in fact still potentially limited by the quality of the copper infrastructure that exists between their premises and the relevant Street Cabinet.

Quoting FTTC numbers in the press means that BT can state that its fibre coverage is in excess of 80%, whereas the true number of FTTH customers is around 3% of the population.

In terms of speeds, FTTC customers can currently see download speeds of either 30 Mb or 40 Mb depending on location. FTTH customers should be able to access speeds of 80 Mb and above, and in some areas in excess of 100 Mb.

The fact that the average UK broadband speed is only 16.3 Mb* unpins the reality of how few customers can get these faster “ultra-fast” speeds. The UK currently languishes at position 16* in terms of average speeds across Europe.

The future

Another brutal fact of broadband life is that pretty much all the money that the Government and BT have set aside to increase the fibre footprint in the UK has now been spent. It’s clear therefore the areas that will benefit from the key fibre infrastructure improvements and those that will not.

This is leading the Government and its designated broadband improvement organisation BDUK (part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) to focus on alternative technologies like fixed wireless and satellite broadband to deliver super-fast broadband to areas that won’t get fibre in the foreseeable future.

Satellite Solutions Worldwide, through its Europasat and Avonline subsidiaries, can now deliver 30 Mb broadband via satellite to pretty much any home in the UK (or indeed in Europe). Fixed wireless broadband speeds are faster still and we’re focused on rolling out our wireless networks across many regions of the UK delivering 75 Mb. These robust and proven technologies mean that wherever you live in the UK, you no longer have to suffer geographical broadband discrimination.

*source Akamai Report Q4 2016