already exists, especially as high density, urban areas who can pay the most are being serviced with FTTP first. We cannot leave behind those businesses

that are already being neglected, and we need to close the digital gap, while also pursuing nationwide full fibre. But how can we achieve this?

Connections for many, not top speeds for few It has been predicted that with the UK in the early stages of full-fibre rollout, compared to other countries already a long way ahead, the UK will likely slip further down the speed league table next year. And if we do reach nationwide full fibre status by the proposed 2033 target date, we still have 15 years to go. We therefore have to make the most of what we have, and maximise the existing copper infrastructure to provide fast, reliable FTTC connections for everybody, until FTTP is well within reach. For example, hybrid-fibre technology

The 2013 installation of a fibre cabinet for superfast broadband in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

likes of cloud-enabled Office 365 and VoIP technology. Te increased speeds that FTTP allows

can enable businesses to utilise new soſtware that may not have been feasible in the past, uncovering newfound advantages and efficiencies, whilst being prepared for whatever may come in the future.

Te challenge Full fibre provision comes with its challenges. Right now, installation of FTTP is too expensive and too slow to deploy for many businesses to operate, which presents a huge barrier for many. Tis is where initiatives such as the

government’s £67 million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, in which small and medium- sized businesses can claim up to £3,000 off the cost of upgrading to FTTP, are helping to make full fibre more accessible. Whilst such schemes contribute to the

democratisation of fibre, FTTP deployment still requires huge investment. It might be easy for ISPs to call on more political support, but there are still some home truths providers @fibresystemsmag

need to face: they must be honest and practical about who will pick up the cost of full fibre without leaving the end-user with sky-high prices. Until this is established, consideration must be given as to how to support businesses’ connectivity requirements in the meantime.

Te connectivity divide While full fibre is the gold standard that we are all undoubtedly striving for, the reality is that businesses, particularly in rural or hard to reach areas, are currently not receiving adequate speeds to successfully run their business day to day, let alone being equipped with gigabit-potential speeds. In fact, research by the British Chambers of Commerce revealed that 25 per cent of UK businesses don’t have access to reliable broadband in the first place, and firms in rural areas are at least twice as likely to have unreliable connections as those in towns, inner cities and suburban areas. While there is clearly a need for the country

to catch up in fibre delivery, we must be wary of widening the connectivity divide that

delivers ultrafast broadband over copper lines, offering comparable speeds to FTTP connections, without costly inconvenience and disruption to businesses. But Openreach decided to scale back its rollout to focus on FTTP deployment. With full fibre taking priority, this runs the risk of leaving rural areas in the broadband dark ages, while others steam ahead in connectivity. Tere is no question that full fibre is the

future of broadband, but its provision and how this is handled presents a real balancing act. Te elephant in the room is that, simply, cost remains a huge barrier for many. If the transition is not managed properly, we could be heading towards a greater connectivity divide than already exists. Providers have an obligation to help

support businesses in between times, and equip them with the best possible speeds for all, right now, while aggressively pursuing FTTP status. Equally, the government must continue to implement initiatives to democratise full fibre access, to bring this within the reach of the many, rather than the select few. n

James Warner is director of sales, marketing and product at Glide Business

Issue 23 n Spring 2019 n FiBRE SYSTEMS 15

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