Ofcom suggest that as many as 94% of British homes could take advantage of fibre broadband, however, only 45% of us have taken advantage of superfast internet. What are the advantages of switching from cable to fibre optic data transfer, and what are the stumbling blocks preventing people from taking up fibre?
A recent Which? survey found that 41% of internet users said they weren’t considering moving over to fibre because they were currently happy with the speeds they were getting. 20% said they didn’t use the internet enough to make it worth while changing provider or switching their contract.
While it’s true that the average speed currently provided via metal cable, around 12Mbps, is quite sufficient for browsing, using social media and streaming a movie, as data use increases both in individual homes and generally throughout the population, those speeds won’t be sustainable with the current infrastructure and won’t be sufficient for the average homeowner.
As media continues to be delivered by Earth based technology (cable & transmitter to antenna) the metal cable infrastructure cannot keep up with the amount of data which needs to be delivered as we continue to increasingly inhabit the internet. As our demand for more data, delivered more reliably increases every year the current infrastructure will increasingly find it hard to cope. However, fibre is more than capable of taking over and delivering what is required.
Additionally this 12Mbps is not delivered consistently at all times nor to all regions. The data people living in rural areas are prone to speeds so slow that they are virtually unusable. Speeds which fall far below what is useable mean that people living in out-of-the-way areas don’t get the advantages of internet at all, consequently they have no demand because they’ve never been able to use the internet effectively. ISPs are tackling this already by installing fibre to rural communities and housing developments which are currently being built in former green belt and brownfield areas.
Fibre & Superfast Broadband Are Consumer Staples
They are doing this for several reasons, for example, fast broadband speeds are increasingly becoming a standard basket good, that is one of the consumer products and services used to calculate the GDP, inflation and changes in consumer habits. People are increasingly working from home, and if ‘home’ is a newbuild on former farmland, an old farmhouse or barn conversion then having unreliable, patchy or slow internet access would significantly affect their ability to work effectively. Finally, children of school age are increasingly using the internet for everyday educational purposes. Homework, research, study, and materials to be studied are increasingly digital, meaning that without quality internet would put these children at a significant disadvantage to others living in areas of better coverage.
But here’s the thing, as the coverage is already 94% many people could take advantage of it right now. It’s already installed and it’s cheaper and easier to maintain than low oxygen copper cabling. The ads that we see on TV make fibre look very attractive, but the fact that it would be a simple change of contract isn’t made entirely clear. If people are worried that in order to get fibre they would need their road dug up or cable ripped out of their house and replaced with fibre then that is a huge hurdle.
Easy & Cheap To Maintain, The Cost Effectiveness Of Fibre Is Passed On To The Consumer
Fibre optic cabling is easier to maintain than metal cable, cheaper, lighter and easier to handle, it also requires fewer amplifiers, switches or repeaters to send data over long distances than copper wire. In fact, a survey of American ISPs who switched over to fibre have found that they save up to 20% against their competitors and previous years’ returns. That saving can be passed on to consumers, meaning that they get a better quality service cheaper than they currently enjoy while the ISP’s bottom line is still as good, or better than it ever was. So it’s a win-win for both providers and consumers. Customers get a faster, better service with increased coverage and an end to data caps, meaning better customer satisfaction and retention while ISPs spend less on infrastructure maintenance, a major cost in the internet provision field.
On the subject of data caps, the increased use of fibre is seeing these being phased out across the board. New contracts are uniformly offering ‘unlimited data’ as it’s not much more expensive to give unlimited access as it is to limit the amount of data customers could use. Data caps were more than just an inconvenience, and didn’t earn ISPs more money in the long run. With fibre there is no more worry that you’ll burn through your month’s allotted data in the first week and have to buy more (or, as was more likely, patrol around coffee shops looking for a spot to pick up free wifi). Data caps today would be a condition which would make a potential customer definitely NOT choose a certain ISP over another, especially as we enter the Smart Home Technology revolution. This depends on having data available at all times and any interruption to that would mean systems failing, creating a great deal of resentment for the ISPs, resentment which could be avoided with minimal cost if data is uncapped.
Data Caps Are No Longer The Bane Of The Budget Internet User’s Life
As well as data caps no longer being an industry standard, data slowing down is no longer an issue with fibre and unlimited data. Formerly, because of the way cable technology worked you could see a visible slow down in service at peak usage times. Computers across the country would slow down at lunch when everyone was logging on to check their mail and watch videos of cats their friends had shared on Facebook. With fibre the few old telephone exchanges which were still being used to handle the last stand-out metal cable have now been usurped by twenty first century technology (barring that last 6%). Consequently there is no more slowing down of data during busy periods. Thanks to that faster, completely reliable data, you can have many more connected devices within each home, all enjoying uninterrupted super fast downloads and uploads.
This increased data speed and reliability means that everyone within the home can enjoy the kind of service that was virtually unimaginable for an entire household only a few years ago. Before ubiquitous fibre the idea of every one of your kids playing online games while you streamed a boxset and your partner scrolled through their social media while listening to online radio was something quite unattainable, even with the best home internet subscription. Today if you had trouble providing that your kids would revolt.
So, keep your offspring happy, enjoy cheaper faster, more reliable broadband by switching over to fibre as soon as your current contract allows.