In recent years, the UK technology agenda has gone to great lengths to encourage businesses to venture into the cloud. But there is one glaringly obvious gap in many businesses’ technological capabilities: the reliability and speed of broadband infrastructure.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, strong connectivity is considered a top priority when considering where to start a business. Yet, as it stands, the UK is lagging behind much of Europe in terms of broadband coverage and download speed. Worryingly, business parks suffer from some of the worst broadband speeds in the country, and last year it was reported that a quarter of UK businesses were without reliable broadband.
To combat this, the government has pledged that UK homes and businesses will have a legal right to high-speed broadband by 2020. As part of this, the £67 million DCMS gigabit voucher scheme was rolled out nationally to help with the cost of upgrading to full fibre broadband.
So, do businesses have the technology needed to meet the growing pressures of the global economy? Informi carried out a study to identify the top 20 best places in the UK to start a small business – with a high level of access to ultrafast broadband one of the key criteria.
Start-up’s Cities Index 2017 gave digital connectivity similar importance when naming its top 25 UK cities to start a new business outside London. Access to business support, including accelerators, science and business parks with ultrafast broadband, were, once again, all highly valued. Oxford made the list due in part to its impressive Science Vale UK Enterprise Zone, one of the most well-regarded science park complexes in the UK.
The current state of business broadband
Full fibre is the future of broadband, providing a super-speedy and ultra-reliable connection that brings with it a huge range of benefits, but what does the current landscape look like? At the moment, much of the UK’s broadband is provided by fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), a hybrid of fibre and copper. It runs along fibre optic lines up to your local street cabinet, and then connects to your premises via copper lines.
The FTTC fibre/copper system is known to be fast enough for most business, and reliable. But it’s not future-proof, and businesses don’t get the full benefit of fibre. Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband on the other hand uses fibre optic cables for the entire length of your connection – so you can connect faster over a bigger bandwidth. FTTC speeds are eclipsed by FTTP, which is capable of an astonishing 1 gigabit per second.
Ultrafast broadband doesn’t just enable your company to do the same things but quicker, it can revolutionise the whole way you do business. Here are four ways it can transform your business.
1. Work faster and better
FTTP is a great way of ensuring a consistent experience when working from anywhere – and is key to supporting flexible working models. Additionally, improved upload and download speeds allow businesses to deploy enterprise standard unified communications tools. Through faster download and upload speeds, businesses can afford to think bigger.
Research shows that 1 gigabit per second broadband would mean a hospital could download a 2 gigabyte CT scan in just 17 seconds, instead of 11 minutes over a standard broadband connection.
Disaster recovery becomes a competitive advantage rather than a financial hit. A corporate server could be restored 20 times faster over full fibre broadband than over a legacy network. And importantly, there’s more opportunity for growth. These new-found efficiencies and innovative business mindset go hand in hand with our next advantage – cloud technology.
2. Ultrafast broadband enables better, cheaper collaboration
With the convenience and cost-saving of Skype, it isn’t hard to see why businesses are choosing to strengthen communication through video conferencing.
Time-consuming and expensive face-to-face meetings are reduced.For a seamless, quality experience without disruption, businesses need a connection that proves reliable time after time – and ultrafast broadband is the solution. With greater efficiencies, a drive for innovation and a better-connected workforce, it means your business can adapt to an ever-evolving landscape.
3. Become more agile and responsive
Whether it’s sourcing materials from the other side of the globe or connecting to the world through social media, we live in an arguably borderless society. With this greater connectivity, businesses have to be wary of, and react almost instantaneously to competitors, customers, environmental risks and other factors that impact everyday business. Through a resilient, ultrafast connection, your business can respond and react more quickly.
But when you’re unable to do so due to a poor connection, the results are noticeable. With this kind of benefit resulting from ultrafast broadband, can your business afford not to invest?
For ambitious, growing businesses, ultrafast broadband is fast becoming a must-have. You’ll save time and money, be more productive and competitive – and even work differently. To find out how the DCMS gigabit scheme could benefit your business, visit gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk.
Ben King is CEO of WarwickNet