The UK's rural broadband problem header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

Living in the countryside is a dream for people all across the UK. The peace, quiet and relaxed pace of rural life is a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of big city life and many Brits who make the move would never think of going back.

Yet for all of its advantages, a number of countryside residents suffer from a significant problem - slow and unreliable broadband. Despite the technological advances that have been made in the UK in recent years, a lot of people in rural areas are unable to make the most of the internet due to poor quality connections.

However, that may soon be a thing of the past, as satellite broadband technology is now more than capable of bringing a fast and reliable service to even the most remote corners of the UK. We take a look at Britain's rural broadband problem and how satellite can help to solve it below.

A clear divide

A new study by the telecommunications watchdog Ofcom has highlighted the gulf that exists between rural and urban broadband. It found the typical connection speed in city centres in May 2013 was 25.6 Mbps and 17.9 Mbps in suburban locations.

Yet in the countryside, the average service reaches just 9.9 Mbs, which isn't far off being three times slower than that for large cities. One positive is that this is an improvement on the figures recorded last year, when the typical rural connection reached just 5.9 Mbps. 

However, Ofcom warned this divide between urban and countryside broadband is likely to increase in the near future, before reducing "over time".

Is the government doing enough?

The need for improved internet access in rural areas has been recognised by the government, which aims to roll out super-fast connections to 90 per cent of the country through its Broadband Delivery UK programme.

Originally scheduled for completion in 2015, the project now looks set to go on until 2017, meaning communities will be forced to continue with slow and unreliable services for longer than expected. Furthermore, the final ten per cent of areas not covered by the scheme are only set to receive a minimum service of two Mbps, which is well below the UK average.

A recent parliamentary inquiry by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called for the government to take more action on rural broadband to prevent countryside residents falling behind their urban counterparts.

Anne McIntosh, chair of the committee, commented: "Broadband has become a basic utility, yet thousands of people in rural communities have ridiculously slow speeds or no connection at all."

Satellite is an ideal alternative

While the UK clearly has a rural broadband problem, waiting for government action is not the only way to solve it. The Tooway satellite broadband service provided by Avonline is ideally suited for countryside use and is available now.

Capable of providing speeds of up to 20 Mbps, all this technology requires to function is a small satellite dish and modem, meaning there's no need for the time consuming and expensive infrastructural work that often holds back other forms of broadband in rural areas..

Indeed, the advantages of satellite have been recognised by Oliver Johnson, chief executive of broadband analyst firm Point Topic, who commented in July: "Now that 20 megabit bandwidths are commonly on offer and some tariffs offer customers unlimited data, the case for satellite broadband has, in our view, reached a tipping point."

Posted by Mark Wynn