For small businesses broadband is an essential requirement and yet for many people it’s hard to get the level of service they want from their supplier.
Why is this and what steps can you take to get the quality of broadband you need to run your business successfully?
We asked telecoms expert, Dave Millett to explain what alternative options you have if your business can’t get the broadband service you want from one of the main suppliers.
The background to the broadband problems
There have been a number of recent claims about how the broadband in the UK is improving. Culture Minister Matt Hancock declared in February that 95% superfast broadband coverage had been achieved and that the Government’s pledge has been met.
Additionally, the Government set a new commitment that by 2020 everyone will be getting 20mbps downstream speed, wherever they live.
More hope for the future came when Openreach announced its plans to connect three million properties with more reliable and ultrafast fibre to the premise broadband by 2020 – taking the total to three million.
What are your options if you can’t get superfast broadband?
But what are the alternatives if you are in the 5% of homes with no access to superfast broadband or you are a business in one of the broadband deserts that are so common in cities and out of town business parks, or trying to escape the rat race of inner city life and retreating to the countryside and carrying on in business.
It does remain a post code lottery as to what you may get. I am just moving from central London to rural Kent where the best fibre broadband speed is only 17 mbps instead of the 80 mbps I have been used to.
The first thing to check if the major providers cannot offer decent broadband is are one of the increasing number of small independent fibre and wimax providers can be the answer.
For example, B4RN – https://b4rn.org.uk/ – which grew out of local frustration with lack of broadband speed locally have built their own 1Gb network and is supported by local volunteers to keep prices down.
Others only supply certain towns, like Gigler in Bournemouth. Certain areas such as Cornwall have benefited from EU investment and other areas such as Cambridge and Hull have benefited from investment in local infrastructure.
You can find what is available in your county via https://www.cable.co.uk/guides/rural-broadband/
Secondly, if you are unfortunate enough to be in an area where broadband speeds are less than 2 mbps then some councils offer grants towards the setup costs of satellite broadband.
Business grade versions offer service level agreements around average speeds of around 8-9 mbps downstream but the monthly costs do rise if you need to download large volumes of data.
The Government has reintroduced grants on a national level for companies wanting to put in larger dedicated circuits. However, this was badly abused by many suppliers last time in that they simply raised their normal prices by the amount of the grant – so the end user did not benefit.
The grants are aimed at the set up costs rather than the ongoing costs which can still be high. The issue is that, unlike standard broadband, pricing of these dedicated circuits is distance dependent.
A small business in a remote part of Scotland found the best price was over £1,000 a month for a 10mb circuit. The grant scheme would not bring this down. If this option is being considered it is worth shopping round to find which supplier has the nearest network. It can mean a difference of more than 50% in price.
Step 3 – If you are located on a business park
There is an option is for collective buying of a large circuit with individual companies contributing to it based on their usage. This is suitable for business parks where multiple businesses can fund the monthly costs of a high end connection which is then divided amongst them.
The incremental monthly cost of putting in say a 100mbps circuit instead of a 10mbps circuit may be as little as 30-35% more, and sharing it between 10 businesses brings the costs down to the level of fibre broadband for each business.
This does need co-operation and agreements covering what happens if a business leaves the park or folds.
The growth in availability of 4G in more parts of the country and the introduction of data sims on one month rolling contracts is an option.
This could be good as an interim solution until affordable ultrafast broadband becomes available. Sims with up to 100Gb download allowances are now available.
Intelligent use by using a multi-purpose router combined with slower traditional broadbands would allow users to use 4G for urgent real time traffic or for services such as VoIP and video which need better speeds and switch to the slower traditional broadband non time critical solutions such as overnight backups.
This solution worked for a South London business relocating to mid Wales in a location that was two miles from the nearest road.
The business opted for 4G and combined it with moving their London landline number to a VoIP app – meaning they can satisfy their communication needs, both personal and business, at an affordable price. That gave them the added benefit of retaining their existing number and thus avoiding the expense of changing it and the risk of losing contact with past clients
In this case, they were fortunate that two of the four carriers offered coverage, but this is not always the case. The Government could assist this by insisting that mobile networks allow free roaming in the UK – as you do when in Europe.
There is some hope but for the next few years it will remain a very diverse range of back-up solutions to consider if the basic internet infrastructure is not there of a size to suit your business.
Companies should research all the options carefully and ensure it is suitable. This is especially true if you are moving offices.
Before you sign the paperwork you should carry out these checks as the extra costs of connectivity could offset what looks like a good deal of the rent.
This was true of a media company moving out of serviced offices into their own building near Oxford Street in London. They found they could only get very basic broadband and ended up spending over £300 a month for a dedicated circuit which they had not budgeted for in their move plans.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Dave Millett who has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry. He now runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80% on telecoms costs.
Dave Millett is a regular contributor to ByteStart, and other telecoms guides he’s written to help small business owners, include;
- 13 Questions you must ask to get the best deal on business telecoms, and why you should never buy just on price
- Business telecoms in 2018 – Key factors, trends and questions
- Telecoms mistakes to avoid when starting a business
- Working from anywhere: live anywhere in the world, do business in the UK
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- A Beginner’s guide to cloud computing for small and start-up businesses
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