The Covid-19 pandemic, extreme wintry weather, and technological innovations are shining spotlights on the desperate need for full-fibre broadband like never before. But unlike most of the world, only a fraction of UK homes and businesses can access the future-ready digital infrastructure.
As a community broadband provider, it’s one of our missions to clear up the ingrained confusion between copper-based superfast broadband and full-fibre Hyperfast broadband. The perpetual tug-of-war has been holding us back for too long.
One uses Victorian copper telephone lines to deliver the internet, buffering Zoom and Netflix. The other delivers fibre optics to your doorstep, offering bullet-proof, lightning-fast speeds.
But from national newspapers to local village meetings, we often see a conflation of the two. It’s understandable for some, inexcusable for others. We hope our mythbuster is an invaluable educational tool that drives ambition and action.
Myth 1: Superfast is the same as Hyperfast but just a bit slower
First, the infrastructure. There are two types: old and new. The old is FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet). This is the basis of superfast broadband. It dates back to the Victorian period and currently delivers the internet to around 88% of UK premises. Fibre cables are sent to green roadside cabinets and distributed by old copper cables to premises. It’s known as the ‘last mile’.
The new infrastructure, the one we’re building in hundreds of rural communities, is FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises). This is the bedrock of Hyperfast full-fibre broadband. Fibre optic cables are connected directly into properties and offices – even in difficult-to-reach areas.
Second, the speeds. Superfast speeds halve every 600 metres from the cabinet, can dip below 10mbps, and uploads are usually much slower than downloads.
In contrast, Hyperfast speeds are up to 18 times faster than superfast, providing up to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps). That’s fast enough to download HD films in minutes, rather than hours. It’s also symmetrical – meaning uploads are just as quick as downloads.
Myth 2: Hyperfast will cut out and be just as unreliable
For three decades, urban and rural areas have suffered from ‘evening and weekend peaks’ – when the FTTC network faces significant strain. The physical nature of degraded copper wiring – shared with your neighbour designed for telephone calls, not mass communication – leads to unreliability as it cannot cope with the high-speed, high-demand data transmission.
But with FTTP and Hyperfast broadband, fibre optic cables are immune to the vulnerabilities to which superfast is exposed. The small flexible strands of glass transmit data over greater distances and through private dedicated lines. It’s less likely to suffer power outages, can withstand temperature changes, and can even be submerged in water.
Myth 3: The ‘infrastructure revolution’ won’t ever happen near me
A flagship government pledge is for the entire UK to have access to gigabit-capable speeds by 2025 to catch up with the rest of the world. They are relying on the likes of specialist providers like County Broadband to accelerate these plans and rollout Hyperfast broadband.
We are engaging with growing numbers of rural communities as our full-fibre network expands across East Anglia. We are demand-led, meaning a certain threshold of all homes and businesses in each village must give us the green light to trigger the start of construction work and eventual connection.
We have already connected thousands of premises in Essex and have exciting plans in progression in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and beyond.
Myth 4: It’s a waste of public money and there’s no demand
Ok, we’ve sneaked in two myths here. But for good reason. Firstly, unlike superfast broadband which is propped up by local taxpayer funds, our Hyperfast networks are built and provided at no cost to the taxpayer because of the £46 million private investment in our network from Aviva Investors.
Secondly, we’re receiving positive engagement from every village covered in our rollout and aim to connect 20,000 premises in East Anglia by the end of 2020. Furthermore, our surveys of rural communities are finding that around 60% of people are regularly frustrated with their broadband service and a quarter need faster networks right now, let alone over the next five years and getting future-ready.
A lack of understanding of full-fibre broadband is arguably partially responsible for the UK often lagging near the bottom of worldwide league tables for internet speeds and reliability.
We hope our ongoing educational efforts to debunk the myths of superfast and Hyperfast can help provide the long-awaited catalyst that finally extinguishes the deep-seated confusion that still surrounds our fourth indispensable utility.