Faster, minimum broadband speeds are on the cards for rural Sussex businesses when the Digital Economy Bill becomes law.
It originally proposed 10Mbps as the minimum download speed for everyone in the UK but now the House of Lords has voted to increase it to 30Mbps. The Bill is soon to receive Royal Assent.
Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn slipped in the eleventh-hour amendment. He suggested that adhering to the 10Mbps minimum would mean Britain would soon be living in the past and unable to cope with growing demand for bandwidth.
Companies in rural parts of East Sussex and Kent who can’t get sufficient bandwidth – owing to it not being commercially-viable for BT or any other service provider – should welcome the new law. It entitles them to 30Mbps even if their service provider makes no money out of it.
The only drawback is, very few service providers appear willing to fund this universal service obligation (USO). Many have argued that it should be paid for from the public purse. So, until this thorny issue is resolved, the timescale for roll-out of the minimum standard remains uncertain.
Gary Jowett from Computer & Network Consultants in Brighton says: “Any company planning to move to a rural business park in the next couple of years where the broadband is slow should not depend on the new legislation to provide all the answers. They should check out all the available options by seeking advice from an independent consultant.”
Could 5G be the answer?
Wireless technology could be an interim measure for businesses in the slow lane to consider. The rollout of 4G has already convinced a lot of people that mobile connectivity can support enterprise-grade connections. The next speed boost will be 5G enabling a step change to the speed and reliability of mobile communications.
The 5G speeds achieved so far have only been under laboratory conditions but commercial rollout isn’t that far away. Many believe 5G will be with us by 2020.
So 5G may become a cost-effective way to deliver the higher minimum download speeds established in the Digital Economy Bill especially if existing 4G and 3G radio towers can be used to locate the new technology, to minimise the need for additional engineering work and planning permissions.
The International Telecommunication Union which sets global standards has issued its draft proposals for 5G which state that a 5G cell should support a minimum peak data rate of 20Gbps for downloads and 10Gbps for uploads.
Gary adds: “With 5G not far off, wireless connectivity is a serious option for expanding companies. 5G users would share only a portion of the 20Gbps bandwidth but they would still have 100Mbps for downloads and 50Mbps for uploading files. It makes the revised USO minimum in the Digital Economy Bill much more realistic as a goal. However, the elephant in the room is this: when will the minimum be available and how much will businesses be charged to use it?”