Latest Ofcom report shows decent broadband is a concern for small businesses

15 Dec 2017

The Connected Nations report found that a lack of decent broadband is a particular concern for small businesses. Small businesses increasingly rely on broadband and business WiFi, but a disproportionate number cannot access even a basic service. We estimate that almost 230,000 small businesses (7%) cannot receive decent broadband. A key benefit of the USO will be to address this concern. We see a similar pattern for superfast broadband, where around 500,000 small businesses (16%) do not have access, compared to 9% of premises as a whole.

Neil McManus of GHM says: “Our business WiFi has guaranteed coverage and speed but many businesses are really struggling with the speed of their broadband if they don’t dedicated services.”

Broadband coverage for small businesses has continued to increase, but has lagged behind the wider population.

This is a significant concern, resulting in download speeds which are insufficient to run key activities for certain types of small business: We estimate that around 230,000 small businesses (7%) cannot receive a decent broadband service, compared with 4% for the population as a whole. These will benefit from the UK Government’s planned broadband USO; and some 2.7 million small businesses (84%) have access to superfast services, compared to
91% for the population as a whole.

Coverage is lower for those in business parks and trading estates, where only 74% of small businesses can access superfast services. Almost 65,000 small businesses in business parks and trading estates do not have access to a decent broadband service. However, businesses that are situated in serviced office space may be able to take advantage of shared leased line connections that offer at least superfast speeds.

Smartphone access to the net also needed to improve, it said, as many only got weak signals when travelling.

“Broadband coverage is improving, but our findings show there’s still urgent work required before people and businesses get the services they need,” said Steve Unger, Ofcom’s technology chief, in a statement.

The UK’s appetite for data has grown at a huge rate in the last 12 months, found the report.

The average amount of data carried across UK networks grew by 52% during that period.

Now, about 58% of premises can get a 4G signal indoors – up from 40% in 2016.

However, it said, many people struggled to receive good coverage when they were out and about. Currently only 43% of the UK’s landmass can get signals from all four mobile operators.

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