August 27, 2014 at 9:09 am
It has recently been announced that superfast broadband (i.e. at least 24 Mbps) has arrived in over a million homes and businesses across the UK. This is all part of a £1.7 billion Government initiative to secure Britain’s future in a long-term economic plan, by providing access to parts of the UK neglected by the private sector, in particular rural areas.
By 2017 it is hoped that 95% of all homes and businesses in the UK will have superfast broadband and, indeed, with the fibre-optic technology being rolled out at a rate of knots, up to 40,000 houses and premises per week are gaining access.
£1.7 billion of course sounds a vast sum of money but the financial pay-back is similarly huge. The current rural programme is expected to produce a twenty-fold return which represents excellent value.
Superfast broadband has benefits for both domestic and business users. For those accessing broadband at home it will be possible to download whole films more quickly, chat to friends and family using Skype and the like, and not experience the frustration of speeds dropping just because someone else in the home is using broadband at the same time.
For businesses, particularly in isolated communities, the benefits are huge, boosting profits and opening up markets. By 2024 the boost to rural economies is expected to be a staggering £9 million a day.
However, you may wonder what is happening about the 5% not covered by the Government’s plans. The good news is that an investment of £10 million has been made in pilot projects to work out the best way of helping homes and businesses in the most remote and hard-to-access parts of the UK.
April 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm
Ofcom has revealed that for the first time BT is the most complained about broadband provider in the UK. BT, which markets itself as the UK’s ‘most reliable’ broadband provider has come out worse than all the other four big internet providers. This includes EE, which has always taken the title in previous years.
Ofcom’s report, which covers the last three months of 2013 and is adjusted according to the number of customers, reveals the following ranking of providers, with most complaints first:
- Virgin Media
The report reveals that BT received 32 complaints for every 100,000 fixed-broadband customers between October and December last year. Complaints range from service faults to issues with customer service. Furthermore, BT also generated the most complaints for its TV service, with a similar figure of 31 per 100,000 customers.
Libby Barr, managing director of BT customer service, says the firm is ‘disappointed with the results’, especially as the provider has improved in the last quarter. She also adds that the disruption to its service is a result of being the ‘fastest-growing business by far in the UK’, and other broadband providers who fared better may have a declining customer base. This claim is disputed by Virgin Media, who say they too have had an increase in customers. According to the report, Virgin Media attracted only 7 complaints for every 100,000 users.
EE, who are now second on the list for the first time, have had 60% fewer complaints than a year earlier. A spokeswoman for the company says, however, that there is still room for improvement as they received 29 complaints for every 100,000 subscribers.
January 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm
The statement was made following Sony’s announcement of their new streaming service, PlayStation Now, which will now allow people to play games the same way they stream TV, movies and music. The games will also be stored in the cloud, up to date and ready to pick up and play on any compatible device. In order for the gamer to have a ‘good experience’, Sony states that a broadband speed of 5mb or greater is required for this service.
Computer Weekly reported in the last quarter of 2013 that the growth rate of the average broadband speed in the UK was one of the world’s largest with the average speed hitting 8.4Mbps. However, there was a staggering 48 per cent increase since the same period in 2012. This was the largest gain of any country worldwide and contributed to the UK being ranked tenth globally for average speeds.
Ofcom reports that since they first began publishing broadband speed rates in November 2008 the average broadband speed has more than quadrupled. That would equate to a broadband speed increase of 309 per cent.
“When OnLive was first announced, there was scepticism around whether game streaming could even work,” OnLive’s general manager Bruce Grove stated. “Over the last few years we’ve seen increased fibre deployments and people now routinely have 20Mbps, many can get 100Mbps or greater.”
Ofcom and OnLive believe the UK’s broadband capabilities are more than enough to support such a service and that the roll out of fibre optic broadband has opened up streaming to more gamers than ever.
January 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm
The two companies announced on Tuesday that they achieved speeds of 1.4 terabits a second on a test performed on a 255 mile link between the BT tower in central London and Ipswich. This is the equivalent of transferring “44 uncompressed HD films in a single second”.
Demand for increased bandwidth is growing by around 35% every year, claim Alcatel-Lucent, due to more customers using data-hungry streaming services such as Netflix. This demand is putting pressure on internet service providers to find ways to enhance or upgrade their broadband infrastructure while keeping costs down.
Even though it may be many years before consumers notice any increased speeds, the results of the test have been seen as a breakthrough by experts as they show that there are ways to send a greater amount of data through existing infrastructure without having to perform costly upgrades.
The tests were done using existing fibre cable technology, and a new “flexible grid” system. Kevin Drury from Alcatel-Lucent has explained it by likening the method to reducing space between lanes on a busy motorway. By creating some flexibility, streaming video would be able to use the equivalent of a large wide lane, whereas standard web pages would need only a small one, thereby packing together more data into the same amount of space.
However, packing lots of channels closer together in this way comes with risks such as interference and error. These have to be managed carefully in order to deliver the quality the customer expects.
November 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm
If you don’t know your Mbps from your MB and you think traffic management is something to do with the Highways Agency you are not alone. It has recently been revealed that half of us are bewildered and befuddled by the terms used by our broadband providers.
The website broadbandchoices.co.uk carried out a survey of 2,000 people and found that 46% of them have trouble understanding what the words used on their broadband bill mean.
When it comes to understanding broadband adverts it gets worse. 60% of the 2,000 hadn’t got a clue about the technical jargon and, as a result of this, many of us are paying over the odds for what we need, to the tune of around a hundred pounds a year. Either we choose the wrong package for our requirements or else we choose to stick with a provider because we feel it is just too complicated to start shopping around when we are bamboozled by the lingo.
One common misapprehension is that “up to 16 Mb” refers to a download allowance rather than the speed of downloading. In fact almost two out of three of us have no idea what our download limit is, meaning we could face fines for excessive downloads or alternatively we could be paying for a download allowance far in excess of our requirements.
Fortunately help is at hand for those of us who find the whole issue a headache. A handy jargon buster is available here which will ensure that you don’t think throttling is an arrestable offence and that cookies are for eating!
September 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm
With many students about to go off to university, choosing the right broadband package is on the minds of many. Good access to the internet is vital for so many aspects of student life (apart from working out what to attend in Freshers’ Week) : academic work, accessing the university intranet, banking online and being able to drop the odd email to reassure worried family that they are remembering to change their socks occasionally!
It can be difficult finding which package suits students best. After all, they are only at university for approximately nine months out of 12, but are the so-called nine-month special student deals as good as they appear? Students are advised to work out the sums precisely to see if they would be better off with a standard 12-month ADSL contract which can be cheaper than a 9-month fibre optic student contract.
Other handy tips include:
- If you are in a student house with multiple occupants and want to stream videos, for example, check the expected broadband speeds with your provider to avoid the frustration of buffering.
- If you think you may be moving around during the university year, think about mobile broadband deals. Bear in mind, though, that this is only viable if you are a light downloader.
- If you are working to a strict budget, consider a monthly contract that can be cancelled at any time if funds run low. Again though, this is not suitable for heavy downloaders.
- If arguments about who is hogging the bandwidth are a frequent issue, everyone in the house should think about using a data monitor.
- Finally, don’t forget about free Wi-Fi hotspots. There is a limit to how long you can make a coffee last but it can help you to spin out your data allowance.
August 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm
Many of us are less than happy with our broadband and landline providers but the thought of switching can be just too much. The general perception is that it is a time-consuming and complex process and too many consumers are completely put off by this, and so they ignore the fact that they could be getting a better deal elsewhere and stick with the same provider.
Although new rules were introduced in 2007 regarding the provision of Migration Authorisation Codes (at one time a huge bugbear for those trying to switch) switching provider has remained a thorny problem for many.
The good news is that Ofcom announced earlier this month that they are introducing new measures which will make it much easier for people to switch. Currently customers face a dizzying array of switching processes, depending on who their current provider is, who the new provider is and what sort of package they are on.
When the customer has to make the request through their current provider it can take a long time to jump through the hoops. After all the provider has a vested interest in retaining the customer so, as well as applying pressure to the consumer not to change, they often drag their heels and spin the process out. In addition, customers often find themselves with no service whatsoever whilst the change is being effected.
Ofcom has now announced that in an attempt to streamline the process there will be a single protocol led by the “gaining provider” which will have the consumers’ best interests at heart. The details should be finalised by early next year and put into practice a year later.
July 25, 2013 at 9:30 am
Ofcom has announced that it wants to reduce the amount that BT charges other internet service providers (ISPs) to use its copper network in order provide their services to their own customers. If this goes ahead, it could result in cheaper broadband for the customers of these ISPs.
Many ISPs, such as Talk Talk, use BT’s copper lines to provide broadband and telephone services to their customers, and they pay an annual cost to rent these.
It is hoped that by reducing the annual rental price, these ISPs will be able to pass on the savings to their customers, leading to greater competition in the sector.
The services that will be affected include fully unbundled and shared unbundled deals.
Fully unbundled deals involve the ISP providing phone and broadband to its customers using its own equipment and using BT’s exchanges. Shared unbundled services involve BT providing the phone line and the ISP providing broadband to its customers.
Ofcom wants to see a price drop of 6% for fully unbundled services and an 8% reduction for shared unbundled services.
Ofcom said that it was proposing the price reductions to give more incentives for investment in networks and to make sure landlines and broadband are more affordable for everyone. It is currently running a consultation, and if it is approved, the prices could be reduced in April 2014; customers may well find out at that point whether they will be able to enjoy cheaper broadband as a result.
BT reacted to the news by stating that the proposals were complex and that it would review them.
July 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm
The postcode lottery is a term trotted out with regularity in relation to schools and hospitals but now it seems that it can be applied equally to broadband services, both in terms of price and speed.
A recent survey has revealed that some people in England are paying more than twice as much as their neighbours, despite the fact that they often receive an inferior service. The study looked at 1.7 million postcodes covering 97% of English households and was carried out by broadbandchoices.co.uk.
Collectively we are overpaying by £170 million a year, equivalent to almost £60 per household. Whilst some parts of the country can choose between ten providers, some only have a choice of five. The differences arise not just between counties or even towns but can occur in the same street.
It is not just price that varies but download speed too, with some households taking almost 50 minutes to download a 2-hour HD film, compared to the 10 minutes it takes their neighbours just yards away.
Dominic Baliszewski of broadbandchoices.co.uk recommends that we use an OFCOM-accredited comparison site to check that we are getting the lowest possible price and best speed available in our area and, if necessary, we should switch provider.
The top three areas for broadband price and service are Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire and London, with the three worst being Herefordshire, Rutland and Cumbria. Generally speaking, the north of the country fares better than the south in terms of choice of provider, although download speeds are slightly slower.
April 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm
John Lewis recently announced that it is now giving away free broadband packages to customers in its stores who purchase a device that can be connected to the internet. The special offer consists of six months of free broadband, although customers will have to take out a 12-month contract.
The range of products for which the special offer is available is not confined to laptops and tablets. Customers who purchase internet-enabled TVs, Wi-Fi printers and mobile phones will also be able to take advantage of the offer.
In total, John Lewis has stated that 80% of the technology items that it sells are capable of connecting to the internet, so it will be hoping to convince a number of its customers to take advantage of the offer and give the relatively new broadband service a try.
This is the first really aggressive promotion of its broadband service since the company entered the market. The reason why John Lewis has decided to get into the broadband market is to try to offer customers a better level of customer service than they may currently be receiving. John Lewis is known for its emphasis on excellent customer service, and it is hoping to capitalise on the high level of discontent amongst broadband customers by providing them with an alternative.
Customers who buy a product that can connect to the internet will have to take advantage of the offer within the year following their purchase. They will have to take out a 12-month contract and they must also pay line-rental charges.