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Uncertainty and Inadequate Broadband Impacts London SMEs UPDATE

Thursday, August 6th, 2020 (9:00 am) - Score 1,023
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London UK broadband ISP CommunityFibre has published the results from a new 3Gem Research survey of 500 SMEs in the city, which among other things found that 85% of businesses don’t know how fast their broadband speed needs to be to thrive and a third upgraded their service during COVID-19 due to “inadequate speed / connection.”

At this point it should go without saying that CommunityFibre has a vested interest in the results of this survey, which stems from their own efforts to deploy a new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband network across London. The provider is being backed by an investment of around £500m and aims to cover 1 million premises in the city by 2023 (here).

NOTE: Of the 500 London SMEs surveyed, 87% were either key decision makers, or jointly responsible for decision making.

Back to the survey – conducted during July 2020 – and 86% of London SMEs said their business needs a broadband connection to operate successfully. Meanwhile 60% voted “high broadband speed and quality” as being more critical for their business operations than either a functioning supply chain (52%) or financial support (54%), while physical offices were deemed the least critical of the assets in the survey (40%).

Despite this 1 in 5 businesses do not know what speed their current broadband connection is running at.

Summary of Findings

* Research reveals that over a third (35%) of SMEs were not able to transition their business fully to an online model following COVID-19.

* Over 70% (72%) of SMEs will look into the bandwidth quality they have as a priority once business returns to normal – 74% will look into the fastest broadband connection out there, and 77% will, or are looking to, switch.

* 66% of SMEs now trust employees to work from home permanently since COVID-19. Only 11% of SMEs do not trust employees to work from home permanently

* 66% are either planning or considering more flexible working from home policies now.

* 71% of London SME’s had to, at least partially, close their business premises due to COVID-19.

* 25% of SMEs have not yet decided whether they will return to having a physical premise again post COVID-19.

Above all else, SMEs think reliability is the most essential feature of their broadband helping their business thrive (72.7%). Second was download speed (55.8%) and third was stability i.e having the same connection throughout the day (50.9%). Some 75.8% also said their business is more reliant on fast broadband connections since COVID-19 and 70.8% said their employees were able to stay productive at where they work during lockdown, thanks to fast broadband.

Graeme Oxby, CEO of Community Fibre, said:

“20 years on from the first broadband connection in the UK, the pandemic has highlighted just how critical broadband infrastructure is to small and medium sized businesses. But SMEs are still not always clear on what they need from their broadband connection to optimise their business.

With the government’s target of installing full fibre in all UK homes & businesses over the next five years – by 2025 – we must work with government, business and landlords to ensure all London businesses benefit from the full fibre broadband they need, and that SMEs have the support to choose the fast, reliable and affordable connectivity they need.”

We should point out that the Government’s target is NOT to install “full fibre” to all UK premises over the next five years (that was dropped last year), but rather to ensure that “every home” can access a “gigabit-capable broadband” service by the end of 2025 (via either FTTP, DOCSIS or Fixed Wireless / 5G mobile etc.). But few people expect them to achieve that without either delaying or, once again, falling back on a satellite based quick-fix (assuming one even exists that can be classed as gigabit-capable by then).

Personally, we’d rather the government took a bit longer to get the job done right.

UPDATE 10:49am

The ISP also appears to have separately commissioned a survey of 1,500 residents across London, which came back with the following results.

Residential Survey Results

· 88% of those living in the UK’s capital city say broadband connection has helped them stay positive during the pandemic by allowing them to access information and connect with others .

· Over half of Londoners (50.9%) are turning to the Internet to ‘do good’ i.e. donating to charity and helping others online and 50.7% have learnt a new skill during lockdown .

· More than half of Londoners agreed whilst pre COVID-19 they were worried they spent too much time on the Internet, now they feel time spent online is positive .

· More Londoners get annoyed by a lack of home broadband connection (71.3%) than a lack of heating (62.9%) or hot water (71.1%). In fact, 82% say broadband has been one of the most important utilities to them since COVID-19 .

· Unfortunately, 1 in 10 find the reliability of their current Internet connection ‘shocking’ and over a third have either never switched broadband provider, or have not switched for 5 years or more .

· Over a third still feel excluded within their communities due to a lack of digital skills, including not being able to access certain WhatsApp groups, social media and email.

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar Jonny says:

    I am constantly reminded of how poor broadband provision within central London is. Obviously there are problems with availability of fast services at broadband level pricing – which is being fixed slowly by G.Network, Hyperoptic, Community Fibre and Openreach FTTP – but even when these services do exist, the biggest issue in my experience is landlords seeing the wayleave process as a revenue generating activity. It’s not unusual for the wayleave process to take a year, and for solicitors acting on behalf of the building management company to want pay fees in excess of the annual cost of the connection for processing the paperwork.

  2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    What excuse exactly is there for London to have such patchy broadband in this day and age? Its not just 4g and 5g its even cable and openreach that’s generally poor.
    It should be the fastest in the world in London, why isn’t it?

    1. Avatar Bonjovy says:

      There is more fibre in the square mile than anywhere else. Issue is access to buildings both commercial and residential.

    2. Avatar Rahul says:

      Yeah, basically that’s the problem. There is Fibre available and many providers are interested to install. But delays in wayleave as a barrier means that people have to settle with FTTC instead.

      The problem is that even though the government have dropped the idea of Full Fibre by 2025 in favour of gigabit. It doesn’t make much of a difference because ultimately the wayleave barrier will still remain as an issue even if you considered DOCSIS 3.1/4. Virgin Media that is the second largest provider in the UK, they barely managed over 50% coverage and that’s after many years of establishment.

      This is why my building got upgraded to FTTC from EO Line several months ago. My management refused Hyperoptic, Openreach, CommunityFibre, etc even when supposedly they were planned for over 5 years.

      Openreach eventually gave up and upgraded us to FTTC. And the same goes with the building block next to me that has yet to be upgraded to FTTC! Because Openreach know that, that building will suffer from permission issues in the very same way as mine, it is now on plan for FTTC but cabinet is under review.

      The moment you get rid of the wayleave barrier then all the buildings managed by that particular company will get upgraded to FTTP, but until that doesn’t happen, these patches of buildings will remain unupgraded.

      This is an artificially created crisis all thanks to FTTC in the first place. There has been little emphasis on Full Fibre in the first place & why would there? We have FTTC that should serve us well, right? That’s why we are in this position because of this mentality!

      If you have to require permission from a management company to install Fibre in a private premises, this vicious cycle will continue eternally!

  3. Avatar GCot says:

    Most of us are lucky that the technology and connectivity was such that we could work from home. It would have been very different even 5 years ago.

    I think voth consumers and small businesses can suffer in the same way. They are not IT specialists. People complain that their broadband is bad, but then you find out it is actually their WiFi that is poor and they have a great sync speed.

    If you want to swap energy provider you can give exact readings of previous consumption or give the size of your house and the method of heating. You can then get a reasonable usage estimate.
    We need similar for data. E.g. being able to enter: 5 staff, all need intermittent video conferencing, continuous VoIP access and web based access to the company cloud based database, and getting an answer of 80Mb / 20Mb is your advised minimum.
    SMEs could then focus on what really matters to them when choosing a deal; SLAs, backup plans, cost, support packages etc.

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