SMALL businesses located in Roe Valley Enterprises in Limavady’s Aghanloo industrial estate can look forward to faster broadband speeds following a new partnership arrangement with telecommunications provider B4B Telecoms.
The two parties have agreed on an ambitious plan to deliver a dedicated ‘Fibre To The Premises’ solution to companies within the park.
Up to now the broadband download speed in the estate has been stalled at around two megabytes per second, so more than 25 businesses came together to campaign for increased speed and have now finally been able to sign up for the new service.
Roe Valley Enterprises chief executive Martin Devlin said: “Fast broadband speed is now effectively a utility service, as vital to small businesses as electricity and water, but unfortunately businesses in some parts of the north west had been left behind.
“But working with B4B we identified sufficient numbers of tenant companies who needed faster broadband and we went down the route of the Rural Broadband Voucher Scheme which opened up new possibilities. We are delighted with the outcome.”
Tommy O’Hagan from B4B said: “The ‘Fibre to the Premises’ solution means the estate now will have access to 1GBps services, with many tenants choosing to avail of the 100Mbps download. These speeds far surpass those available under the existing network and it represent a huge leap forward for these businesses in Roe Valley.”
In the 2016 Autumn Statement Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £400 million fund for investment in new digital infrastructure. This amount is to be matched by private investors pushing the total value of new investment to at least £800 million with aspirations for it to be as high as £1 billion.
Announcing the new fund, Mr Hammond told MPs that the UK must move towards full fibre to the property broadband connections indicating a change in government policy or at least entertaining the idea of promoting FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) connections over FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) technology which has had the vast majority of public funding of late.
The Government’s position until now has been to promote and invest in the roll out of the copper based FTTC technology as it represents a better return on investment to achieve coverage of Superfast broadband, this strategy has pushed Superfast broadband coverage across the UK to 89%. This new announcement hopefully signals an indication that the UK government are now willing to promote and invest in Gigabit connections taking the UK digital infrastructure to the next stage offering connections with up to 1Gbps upload and download bandwidth.
It is understood that this fund will be aimed at smaller operators who are already offering FTTP connections to a small number of customers- approximately 2% of properties currently have access to these connections but it is hoped that this new investment fund will increase that number and incentivise the bigger network providers such as BT and Virgin to improve their FTTP coverage.
The chancellor also committed £740 million to develop 5G and further roll out of fibre connections.
Ofcom’s 2016 Connected Nations Report has both positive and negative news about the UK’s digital infrastructure.
The overall tone of the report is positive, identifying that in 2016 saw an improvement of both fixed line and mobile communications networks. As in other years 2016 saw an increase in the amount of data we all use as constant connectivity becomes ever more necessary to our lives. Another welcome factor was the ever improving download and upload speeds.
These improvements however, only serve to make those without adequate provision feel even more isolated and with over 1.4 million homes still without access to decent broadband that’s a lot of people to be on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’
The 1.4 million figure refers to those homes where broadband speeds are still below 10Mbps which is still the most likely figure for the Universal Service Obligation (USO), this leave many premises requiring upgrade before the USO can take effect.
On the other hand Superfast connections (defined here as >30Mbps) are available to 89% of premises as of May 2016 with the expectation that the figure is even higher now. The issue which the report identifies is that take up of Superfast services is slowing and suggests that pricing may need to decrease further to aid take up.
This comes from Ofcom’s annual report into the UK’s digital infrastructure. As well as covering the UK as a whole, the report also analyses each of the home nations individually, highlighting changes in infrastructure accessibility and uptake since the previous year’s report. Connected Nations reports for each of the home nations can be found here: Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.