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Residential vs commercial connectivity – understanding what you’re getting

Given the digital economy’s positive impact on GDP, it’s unsurprising the government wants to invest in solid digital foundations and boost connectivity.
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Back in 2015, it was already contributing ten per cent to the country’s GDP and last year the UK was recognised as one of the countries best placed to take advantage of the move from capital-intensive industry.

However, when the press talk about connectivity, it often fails to distinguish between commercial and residential connectivity. This lack of transparency is not helpful for businesses, as access to quality, resilient internet may mean the difference between whether a business can be profitable or not.

So, to help you get to grips with the phrases you’ll hear and what they mean for you at home and in the office, we’ve provided a quick guide to understand the difference between residential and commercial connectivity.

What does the government mean when talking about fibre?

For the past 18 months, the government has repeatedly promised the country “fibre”. But when the it talks about fibre, it’s primarily talking about delivering fibre to residential buildings. At the moment, fibre service to homes usually means Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) – where there is fibre to the (green) cabinet in the street, then copper cables the rest of the way to your house. While improving the speed somewhat, reliance on copper cables for the final stretch impairs the end user experience.

We’re now seeing a greater push towards Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) or Fibre to the Home (FTTH), with companies like Hyperoptic and Gigaclear delivering fibre cabling directly to the premises and, in some cases, right up to individual flats within a complex.

The world of office buildings is different; most have fibre all the way into the building. However, some businesses still initially choose to use copper broadband, because it is cheaper, resulting in significant reductions on connectivity. Without full transparency of options, many come to regret this decision.

What speeds do businesses need to be productive?

People are consuming data at an ever increasing rate. However, the internet demands of household, for example five people watching Netflix or using twitter, is minimal in comparison to the data demands made by tens, hundreds, or even thousands of workers in an office. At present, there are at least two connected devices per person in an office. With the arrival of smart buildings there will be thousands of connected devices embedded into the building (The Edge in Amsterdam, for example, has an incredible 28,000 sensors located throughout the building).

In addition to greater volumes of people and connected devices in an office building, what we use the internet for when we’re at the office increases our data requirements. For a business, symmetrical internet speeds (the same upload and download speed) are imperative for access to the cloud, saving and sharing work, and activities such as video conferencing. For the household of Netflixers, the best user experience comes from great download speeds.

While speed is largely a function of the price you’re willing to pay for bandwidth, there is a huge divergence between the top speeds seen in commercial buildings, and the slowest speeds seen in homes. For top internet speeds at 1Gbps, which most commercial fibre can offer, you can download a film in approximately 15 seconds. But with the slowest broadband speeds in some residential areas, you would be anticipating a wait time closer to 15 hours for the same film.

What should you do when your internet connection fails?

When the internet goes down in your home – it’s a pain. When the internet goes down for your office, it can be damaging. Research from Ontrack recently identified that one hour of interruption of a website generates financial losses of up to 6.5m for an online bank and 2.6m for a credit card payment system. As a result, the way internet providers respond to each situation is different.

Consumers will ring their provider and, if they’re lucky, the provider might come to fix the problem within a few weeks, whereas for businesses, they will respond much quicker. However, access to a resilient service means more than having an internet provider which is quick to react to an outage; landlords and businesses have options to be proactive in protecting against internet disruption.

In best-in-class commercial buildings, multiple internet providers will service the building using multiple points of entry into the building. Businesses in these well connected buildings can make use of the building’s diverse physical infrastructure to establish a back up service by arranging for one internet provider to act as the primary provider, and a secondary service to be set up in case the primary provider’s connection fails thus minimising the risk of downtime.

Conclusion

When it comes to connectivity, residential and commercial services are barely on the same page. Modern, growing businesses increasingly require the symmetrical speeds at 1Gbps that commercial fibre offers to support their business functions, however, nearly a third of British SMEs are still without access to superfast broadband and 130,000 businesses receive speeds below 10Mbps.

The government’s pledge to deliver the necessary infrastructure should address this problem by making it as easy as possible for businesses to access fibre services. At the same time, it is in businesses’ best interests to understand the options available, and invest in enterprise grade services to ensure adequete speeds, service, and resiliency. With the right investment into digital services from government, landlords, and businesses, we should be able to deliver on the chancellor’s desired boost in productivity.

William Newton is president and EMEA MD at WiredScore

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