7 months ago

British Broadband and its Better Half

In April 2023, the UK smashed through the 50% full fibre target as part of Openreach’s infrastructure upgrade project. A new report from Ofcom, titled ‘Connected Nations’, has confirmed half of all properties can now take advantage of full fibre broadband.

Ofcom’s Role

Before delving into the implications for businesses, it's essential to grasp what full fibre broadband is. Full fibre, sometimes called fibre to the premises (FTTP), is a broadband technology that carries data via optical fibres directly to homes and businesses rather than to an exchange cabinet that connects to a property with copper cable (known as fibre to the cabinet or FTTC for short). This method offers superior speed, reliability and bandwidth compared to traditional copper-based networks.

Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, plays a vital role in tracking and reporting on the country's broadband coverage. They collect data from service providers to provide a relatively accurate picture of connectivity in the UK.

Openreach’s Plan

Openreach’s heavily publicised plan to provide 25 million premises with ‘ultrafast’ full fibre aligns with the Government’s aim of making ‘Gigabit-capable’ broadband available to a majority of at least 85% of homes and businesses.

Woman using laptop in a kitchenThe management of the existing network involves dividing the UK into roughly 5,600 regions, which are typically villages, small towns or areas of large cities. Openreach’s fibre-optic expansion strategy refers to these regions as 'exchanges'. Businesses can use a fibre checker tool to find out the status of their local exchange in the project.

What the Milestone Means for SMEs

Reaching the 50% mark is a significant milestone for the UK, reflecting the substantial investment to take the country's digital infrastructure to the next level. SMEs across the country rely on quick and stable internet connections for their day-to-day operations, which full fibre will make much more reliable. This translates into boosted productivity and the ability to invest in cloud-based technologies for businesses.

Businesses located in areas with full fibre coverage gain a competitive edge. They can offer superior online services, quicker response times, and better customer experiences. This can attract new customers, partners and investors, positioning these businesses ahead of their competitors.

After the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work, this is often a major consideration for SMEs. With 50% full fibre coverage, more businesses can support remote work effectively. Equally, employees can easily work from home, saving money and emissions on commutes and improving work-life balance.

Looking Ahead

While Openreach is making impressive progress in expanding full fibre coverage, there is still work to be done. Continuous investment in digital infrastructure is needed to reach more remote regions. The final goal is to ensure that all businesses, regardless of size and location, can benefit from full fibre connectivity.

Hitting the 50% milestone is good news for SMEs, improving connectivity and supporting innovation. As the upgrade work rolls on, the future looks bright for business in the UK despite the challenges.

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Sam White