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Deloitte – Patchy Broadband Putting Northern Powerhouse At Risk

Friday, September 25th, 2015 (11:38 am) - Score 1,132
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A new study from financial firm Deloitte has warned that slow / patchy broadband connectivity could be leaving small and medium sized businesses in the North West of England at a disadvantage, particularly those in the more urban areas of Liverpool and Manchester.

The research, which examined what type of broadband services were available at just 12 key business locations in Manchester and Liverpool, found that only 4 (Sharp Project, Little Peter Street, Cheadle Royal, Birchwood Park) could access an ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service and none were able to get ultrafast FTTP.

Simon Hearne, Senior Manager of Deloitte’s North West Team, said:

Some larger businesses have the cash reserves to put fibre down themselves, while others can share faster connections they have in different parts of the country through Ethernet services.

However for smaller companies, slower connections can be a real issue. For instance, businesses in the creative industries typically deal with lots of images and video – large data that needs fast connection speeds.

Fibre coverage is a priority for the government and there has been plenty of investment in recent years, but it’s not yet benefited all businesses on the ground.”

Sadly we have been unable to locate the original report and without that it’s difficult to properly examine the findings. For example, the Manchester Evening News only seem to focus on FTTC and FTTP, but there’s no mention of Virgin Media’s cable network or whether the availability of other alternatives has been properly examined.

The government has of course been putting a lot of effort into improving national connectivity through its Broadband Delivery UK programme, although EU state aid rules mean that related funding can generally only be used in less dense rural or suburban locations.

Outside of that the Government has also been offering Connection Vouchers (up to £3,000 a pop) to help connect smaller businesses to superfast broadband, but this only works best in areas where the underlying connectivity is already available (it doesn’t make much of a dent in overall network coverage).

Inside cities the private sector is often to blame for poor connectivity, where the case for commercial investment without recourse to state aid should be significantly easier to make. Frankly if you can’t keep dense urban areas up-to-date with something better than ADSL2+ then something is clearly wrong and it shouldn’t take state aid to fix it.

On the flip side we shouldn’t forget that the private sector isn’t standing still and there are various commercial developments underway. For example, the Get Digital Faster project is working to improve connectivity around ‘Greater Manchester’, while Virgin Media is expanding their ultrafast cable network in the city (here) and Hyperoptic are rolling out FTTP/H to some of the related areas (Liverpool etc.).

Not that existing coverage is all that bad, yet there’s clearly room for improvement and if true progress is to come then the local city authorities could certainly be doing more to drive that forward. Vouchers alone are not enough and some operators may have a vested interest in delaying the build of affordable business alternatives to their expensive leased lines.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    Yeah it could be a negative factor sure but not as bad as the lack of investment and pre election lies from the government like the electrification of key rail lines that was promised and then dropped

  2. Avatar Stuart

    This was cover by Bdaily: https://bdaily.co.uk/

    I quote “Deloitte found that while there are connections of 60 Mbps in parts of central Manchester, residents of the South Lakes are relying on speeds of just 3.94 Mbps”

    Searched & I can’t find the link to it now.

  3. Avatar Steve Jones

    Companies dealing intensively in video and images(which is the example given) surely ought to be using business class broadband services and contended consumer products. What really matter for those companies is surely how much high speed private circuits cost. Asymmetric products are not designed for those sort of markets.

    • Avatar GNewton

      There are virtually no decent symmetric fibre broadband services available from BT, other than hopelessly overpriced leased lines (and even these are not evverywhere!).

      Re-introducing a nationwide fibre-on-demand broadband product could help here quickly, with monthly costs similar to native FTTP, but with higher installation costs for which a government voucher scheme, again nationwide, could help small to medium sized businesses. All of this could be quickly introduced, no long term false promises and fake trials are needed here. And in the meantime, BT’s Openreach would gain some more breathing space in actually sorting out its broadband issues.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Apart from that the original FoD product was shelved due to issues with service delivery which would be massively exacerbated by the steps you mention, and that they are testing is successor a great idea.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – where are leased lines lines not available and presumably the reasons would apply to FoD?

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