For the most part, there are no downsides to moving to an idyllic part of the UK. You get to enjoy the countryside, great views, lovely walks, friendly neighbours, and a slower pace of life.
That is until you consider broadband. Just like rural pubs and community Post Offices, fast internet in rural locations seems harder to find than it really should be. According to Ofcom’s Connected Nations report, over a million households in the UK still do not have access to decent broadband. Most of these are in rural areas. But why is it so slow in the country?
Some reasons include:
- Properties can be further from telephone exchanges which means slower connections.
- Some properties may not connect to a street cabinet at all which prevents superfast FTTC (Fibre to The Cabinet) connections.
- It is uneconomical to install fibre or superfast alternatives where there are relatively few potential subscribers.
- Providers tend to upgrade urban areas first because this benefits more people.
- 3G/4G signals for mobile broadband may not have the coverage where you live.
All is not lost though as investment in broadband is increasing, the Universal Service Obligation is on its way and some smaller providers are stepping up. Jamie Kavanagh, a contributor for Broadband Genie goes through the current options for broadband in rural areas.
Assessing your existing rural broadband
If you have an internet connection already, run a broadband speed check to see what you have now. Once you know what you have, you can research what you can get. Then visit the government’s Go Superfast website to see if your area will be getting an upgrade anytime soon. The website also has useful information on available subsidies and other initiatives. The BT Openreach website is another useful portal for identifying whether you can, or will soon be able to, get fast broadband.
Faster rural broadband
Once you know what speed you have and whether your area can expect a speed upgrade anytime soon, you can explore other options beyond the mainstream fixed line services.
Satellite broadband costs are coming down and speeds are going up. You will need a satellite dish but otherwise the technology is accessible just about anywhere in the UK. The benefits of satellite broadband are that it reaches the parts other solutions cannot reach. It is similar in speed to ADSL, and you don’t need a landline for it to work.
The downsides of satellite broadband are the cost and environmental factors. It is more expensive than most other broadband solutions and is often data limited. Environmental factors include interference from weather, and most crucially the increased latency because of the distance signals must travel which can hinder the use of some online services.
Fixed wireless broadband
Fixed wireless broadband (FWA) is a broadband solution that uses radio instead of cables. Transmitters are placed within an area much like mobile phone masts to repeat a wireless radio signal which your router can tap into. The benefits of fixed wireless broadband is that it is cheaper than satellite and has more generous data caps. It is also less susceptible to weather and can ignore many geographical features. The receiver is also subtler than a satellite dish. The biggest drawback of fixed wireless broadband is lack of coverage. Many rural areas do not have access to fixed wireless broadband.
Mobile broadband uses mobile phone signals to connect your devices to the internet. It involves less hardware and expense than satellite or fixed wireless and is easier to setup. The benefits of mobile broadband are cost and competition. It is much cheaper than FWA.
and satellite and there are more companies that offer it. Data caps can be more generous too. Signal coverage is problematic, however. Not everywhere has the signal strength for fast mobile broadband. Ofcom’s mobile checker app will tell you whether this is a good solution in your area or not.
Local broadband initiatives
Many regions of the UK have started their own initiatives to connect to faster broadband.
B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) is one such venture. Visit the Rural Broadband
Partnership to see what is going on in your area.
These initiatives are often more expensive than a standard ADSL or cable connection, but you can have much more control over it if you pay for it yourself, and you could get a connection that is significantly faster than the standard broadband available to most of the UK. For more information about rural broadband, use Broadband Genie’s guide.