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Understanding the challenges of rural broadband

Posted 13 Jan 2021

As a Suffolk based business, we understand the challenges faced by many of our clients when it comes to broadband connectivity. Whilst so many of us take fast broadband speeds for granted, those who live in rural locations may not be quite so lucky. 

The realities of rural broadband connectivity became apparent in 2020 as firms were required to ask employees to work from home where possible. For those living in urban areas, the switch to remote working was seamless. All they needed was a functioning device and a reliable connection. But for those living in locations where internet speeds aren’t always fast or reliable, the experience was quite different.

We recently wrote about plans to install nationwide gigabit broadband, but for those who are working in, or living in, rural communities, there’s a real risk that they may get left behind.

With this in mind, we thought we would explain some of the challenges of rural broadband.

Why is rural broadband so slow?

Simply speaking, it’s a matter of infrastructure.

Currently, 95% of the UK have access to fast broadband speeds (approx. 30 Mbs), but it is believed that there are up to 1.6 million premises that are impacted by slow or unreliable internet. 

Blog graphic outlining some of the reasons why rural areas may be left behind when it comes to business broadband. Lucid Systems who are based in Suffolk explain how they can help those living in rural areas benefit from business broadband

Most of the UK’s internet connectivity comes directly from ‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ (FTTC). Fibre optic cables run to a street cabinet, and copper wires connect the cabinet to individual properties and business premises.

In rural parts of Suffolk, this can cause issues because the further away your property is from the street cabinet, the slower your connectivity. In some rural locations (or on large land properties such as farms), your internet connection may use an ADSL line. This is where the signal is sent over copper phone lines because the property is deemed too far away from the nearest street cabinet.

Another issue is that some rural communities do not have the same access to consumer choice when it comes to their broadband provider. Service providers will install their own equipment to provide faster speeds and more reliable connections, but only in areas where they deem it to be economically viable. Therefore, if you are living or working from a remote area you may not have the ability to choose to switch to a faster broadband provider.

Can you improve your internet speed if you live or work in a rural area?

You may wish to look at using your mobile data (perhaps investing in a dongle, a SIM card, or a wireless router) to boost your signal. This is a popular choice, although there are still areas in Suffolk and Norfolk where a mobile signal can drop in and out.

You could also choose to have satellite broadband. This is where your broadband is supplied via a satellite dish attached to your home.

Can rural broadband impact local businesses?

As experts in business broadband, Lucid Systems work with rural clients to ensure that they have the best broadband connection possible for their business needs

We’ve worked closely with many businesses in rural areas, helping them to ensure that they have the best connectivity for their needs.

There are many farming businesses in Suffolk that need a strong and reliable connection to improve their productivity. Our close understanding of the local areas, as well as our insights into their IT infrastructure and their business premises, has enabled us to make effective recommendations to improve their business broadband connections. Sometimes, it can be about identifying the best place to position the router. At other times we may need to install external ariels to boost mobile coverage.

With rural internet connectivity, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This is why we always collaborate with clients to help identify the most effective and affordable solutions.

In 2020, the issues caused by rural broadband connections highlighted a disparity between those who were able to work from home, and those who couldn’t. Some businesses have found that their employees were simply unable to work effectively from home because of the lack of access to reliable internet connections. Nationally, this was shown to be an issue for staff who commuted to work in large urban areas whilst living in rural communities.

This has put some workers at a disadvantage because they were at higher risk of being furloughed or told that they had to continue working from an office.

Do all rural areas have slower broadband connections?

As experts in business broadband, we’ve worked closely with businesses throughout Suffolk, Norfolk, and Essex – many of whom operate in rural locations across our local countryside. We know the East of England extremely well, and thanks to our knowledge, we know which areas are more likely to be affected by poor internet connectivity.

The infrastructure for superfast internet speeds is getting much better, and many smaller towns and villages across the Suffolk countryside are starting to benefit from ‘Fibre to the Premises’ (FTTP) connections.

This means that poor connectivity is more localised than ever before.

Rather than entire towns/villages being impacted by slower internet speeds, black spots are appearing on a street-by-street basis. These black spots could be caused by the distance to the nearest street cabinet, or they could even be caused by dips or even trees that restrict mobile coverage.

At Lucid Systems, we have access to detailed mapping tools that allow us to research mobile or cable connectivity. This allows us to work with businesses to identify what solutions we can implement to ensure that your business broadband is as fast as possible, regardless of where you are located. It also means that if your employees are working remotely, we can make suggestions about how they can improve their personal broadband connections.

Are you impacted by rural broadband connections? Contact us to find out how we can improve your business broadband. 

by Amy Dawson