Fit for purpose: Is broadband too slow and old for modern homes?

Based on a recent study, we consider whether UK broadband provision is cutting the mustard and what you can do to deal with slow speeds or restricted access.

When it comes to contemporary living standards, our basic expectations are widening rapidly. Broadband as a domestic utility, as a basic human right it seems, has never been higher on the wish list for most.

Fuelled by home-based working and increasing hunger for on-demand services, the need for speed is seemingly insatiable. But is that growing online dependence being planned for? Are new homes being built better equipped to deliver broadband for now and tomorrow?

Connection racket

Despite government insistence that better broadband is a priority, the UK’s coverage continues to be perceived as insufficient. Examining 3,044 new build homes registered July 2019-April 2020, Broadband Genie surveyed the fixed-line broadband provisions.

Coverage options would start with the basic, entry-level ADSL that typically averages 10Mb bandwidths. Next up would be Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC), the most common domestic fibre connection, and Fibre To The Home (FTTH).

With the former averaging speeds of 65Mb, it could be viewed as a minimum “standard” especially when access to booster technologies like G.fast remains limited. FTTH or cable equivalents like Virgin Media, however, offer the kind of high speeds and future expandability that should make seamless installation within new, future-proof homes a no-brainer.

New homes, old reliances

Sadly, the findings were less progressive. Just over half (57%) of the surveyed new builds had FTTH provided as at least one of available broadband types. Only 8% could boast Virgin Media or cable equivalents readily installed.

Curiously the amount with ADSL was 44% and considerably less than every property, as might be expected for the bare minimum BT landline. Within this would be 25% coverage of FTTC and just a mere 1% boasting G.fast technology.

Delving deeper, the study also distinguished the split for households where only ONE broadband option is present. This showed an alarming 19% were wholly limited to ADSL even if an encouraging 79% could enjoy FTTH coverage.

Improving the infrastructure

Although a mixed bag, the study results confirm that 100% future-proof broadband coverage is a long way off for new, UK domestic property builds. A continued reliance and dependence on ADSL is worrying given typical present-day usage.

The growing explosion of bandwidth-sapping activities like high definition video streaming and online gaming, across multiple devices, can easily overwhelm an outdated network.

Recognising that demand, the government insist that 2021 Building Regulation changes will enforce the installation of “high-quality digital infrastructure from the outset, make it a priority as part of the build, and ensure broadband companies are on board before the first brick is laid.” (DCMS)

Slower than expected? Check it! 

If your home broadband is surprisingly slow now, today, then there are options and avenues you can pursue before you consider upping sticks and moving.

For starters, check your speed versus the bandwidth you were sold by your ISP. Online speed testers like Broadband Genie’s are ideal for this purpose and taking readings at various times of the day allows performance levels to be monitored.

Advertised package speeds are deliberately caveated as “up to” but it’s fair to expect a certain level. Check your speed, check your contract and contact the provider – because if the service is below a minimum guaranteed speed they could be breaching the agreement.

Second line solutions

The need for maybe an additional, dedicated broadband solution traditionally comes with working from home. It allows both general domestic and more professional business applications to be separated wholly, boosting performance and reliability across both.

Crucially, BT is now offering customers this very such “second line” option that adds a “superfast” broadband connection designed for homeworkers, gamers, or homeschooling setups.

An alternative to BT’s Business broadband deals, the fibre-based packages boast average speeds of 50-67Mbs ranging from £29.99-59.99 per month. Premium deals also bundle the Halo 2 service, adding a 4G Mini Hub for mobile broadband support.

Fixed-line broadband alternatives

Mercifully, alternative solutions are available where mainstream fixed-line connections might not be possible, including:

  • Mobile Broadband

The introduction of unlimited mobile broadband products from providers such as Vodafone and Three can be ideal. Mobile WiFi routers offer 4G network access throughout the home, with the ability to connect up to 10 devices and boasting download speeds of up to 150Mbps.

  • FTTP Providers

Fibre to the premises (FTTP) providers extend beyond just BT, to include the likes of Aquiss, Fibre net and Giganet Home. Some such as Gigaclear have an emphasis on improving connectivity for rural communities with high-speed home and business options ranging from 30-900Mbps.

  • Satellite Broadband

A step further is satellite broadband, serving remote locations where even cabling dare not stretch. Nationwide UK provider BigBlu offers home packages with average speeds from 12-33Mbps and business products up to 50Mbps.