Using 4G broadband to infill broadband white problem areas

County councils and other regional authorities are at the sharp end when it comes to overseeing the roll-out of improved broadband to all homes and businesses falling under their areas of responsibility.

But despite their best efforts, in every part of the UK there remain numerous properties where it is proving impossible to provide good quality connectivity at an affordable cost and within an acceptable timeframe.

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Free downloadable eBook

We've created a 17 page eBook specifically written for regional and national broadband authorities. It explains why existing central Government policy is failing to help those most in need, informs on how alternative broadband delivery technologies can be leveraged to solve the problems of poor rural connectivity and lays out how this can be done nigh on immediately and highly cost-effectively.

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It is also available as a free download to be shared with colleagues.

An ideal infill solution for harder to reach properties already exists - 4G broadband

As most will be aware, there are two central Government programs currently in place geared towards rolling out broadband improvements nationwide. These are Project Gigabit and the Universal Service Obligation (or USO) - and more on these later.

Sadly both programs fail when it comes to providing improved broadband for more difficult to reach homes and businesses. As might be expected, these premises very much tend to be more rurally located and significantly, it's these properties that are the most in need because they almost inevitably have the worst current landline broadband speeds.

Happily a solution to provide the most digitally disadvantaged homes and businesses under any regional authority's remit with majorly improved connectivity already exists. It's immediately deployable and at a very low capital outlay per premises. That's broadband delivered over 4G.

The core advantages of 4G broadband

Between them, the four national mobile network operators now have around 99% of all UK premises covered by 4G.

With the right equipment, 4G can be effectively used to provide a primary broadband connection for one fixed location such as a home or business.

This includes more rural areas where 4G coverage is weaker and where smartphones may not work reliably due to low signal strength. In such cases a small outdoor directional antenna is professionally installed at each property to latch onto and amplify available 4G signals.

4G speeds at any given property are entirely dependant on location-specific factors such as proximity, transmission power and bandwidth of the transmitting mast, local topography etc. Therefore 4G broadband performance for any individual location cannot be guaranteed.

However, what can be stated are average 4G broadband speeds when measured across the entire country as a whole. Nowadays these exceed 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.

It is important to note that these are average performance figures. We ourselves have many customers delightedly enjoying 4G broadband speeds far higher than this and if any customer is fortunate enough to be covered by a mast that has been 4G LTE-A enabled (also known as 4G+), then it is more than possible for them to experience speeds in excess of 100 Mbps.

On the other hand, we also have customers who don't see 4G broadband performance quite reaching the 25 Mbps national average - but who are still more than happy with the service provided because it is such an improvement over what they get from fixed landline broadband.

4G broadband should not be viewed as an alternative to a full fibre FTTP broadband service, or to a good quality FTTC service. However in more rural locations where provisioning full fibre is both cost- and time-prohibitive and where properties are too far away from the streetside cabinet serving them for FTTC broadband to work satisfactorily, 4G broadband is quite rightly seen as the ideal alternative broadband solution.

One of the central problems facing county councils and regional authorities when procuring new fibre-based broadband deployments is that the major infrastructure providers require densely populated catchment areas in order to make new deployments commercially viable for them to undertake. Either that or the costs of such works will be unsupportably large.

4G broadband is entirely different. It is happily provisionable on a 'single property at a time' basis, with no need at all for there to be multiple closely grouped premises in order for deployments to be commercially worthwhile.

Another major issue with deploying new fibre-based broadband services - whether full fibre to the premises (FTTP) or fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) - is the length of time that this takes.

Taking into account planning, a typical new fibre deployment of either type will take anywhere between 18 months and several years from start to finish. Such a lengthy provisioning timescale significantly adds to the frustration and anger felt by those already suffering from the greatest levels of digital disadvantage caused by slow broadband.

Furthermore, even if a contract to provision a broadband white area has been awarded in good faith by a regional authority to a provider, things can and do still go wrong - and sometimes more than once, as this Phase 2 procurement in North and North East Somerset very clearly demonstrates.

Again, 4G broadband could not be any more different. In every event, it is deployable in no more than a week a or so, with the service being made live within only a matter of days at any given property from the date of initial order placement.

Compared to the several billion pounds being spent on Project Gigabit, the UK Government's full fibre roll-out program, the 'per premises' capex cost of providing a single property with a fast and reliable 4G broadband connection is less than £250 + VAT. And that price doesn't change, regardless of whether it's one single property being connected or a small cluster.

As is immediately obvious, comparatively speaking this is an extremely small level of expenditure and yet it is literally all that is needed to provide a life-changingly improved 4G broadband service to those homes and businesses which currently have the worst landline broadband speeds and which consequently are those most in need of assistance.

Some county councils and regional authorities have already recognised the significant value of 4G broadband as a very rapid and highly cost-effective means to enable their most digitally deprived properties with a majorly improved broadband connection.

The Welsh Assembly continues to run its Access Broadband Cymru subsidy scheme and the Scottish Government manages a very similar program with its Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme. 4G broadband forms a major proportion of solutions being supplied to broadband-starved homes and businesses in both regions under these programs (and we at National Broadband are an approved supplier to both).

Counties such as Herefordshire have taken additional action to fund the provision of much improved broadband over 4G to some of their harder to reach properties, which again had been let down by the failure of the originally contracted fibre provider to deliver. If the county council had not taken such proactive measures, those properties (and voters) would still be left stuck for the foreseeable future on the wrong side of the so-called 'Digital Divide'.

Why it makes sense to partner with us to infill your most problematic broadband white areas

At National Broadband, we focus exclusively on using the UK's 4G and 5G networks to provide a primary broadband connection to a fixed home or business location. We've got 20+ years of experience using alternative broadband delivery technologies to get the best broadband possible to those who need it the most.

We don't have hundreds of other products and services to distract us and dilute our expertise. That's how we've got so good at what we've chosen to do. And looking at Trustpilot, our customers would seem to agree.

Importantly, we have relationships with all the UK's mobile operators. This allows us to carefully select the best network in terms of coverage and performance for each individual property's precise location.

Moreover, if for any reason the network we originally provision does not deliver adequate performance, it's simple for us to switch the connection over to an alternative network, thus making sure that the best 4G broadband service possible is provided at any given location.

This is a key reason why dealing with a specialist provider like National Broadband makes all the difference when it comes to supplying good broadband to harder to reach properties. We already have thousands of customers scattered across the entire UK to whom we're providing fast and reliable connectivity over the mobile networks, even though signal levels may be weak to nigh on non-existent where they are.

We're able to do this because after more than two decades of experience, we fully understand that properties in more rural locations which have weaker 4G signal each requires a unique and custom solution. First we carefully check to identify the best-performing network for each individual location, then we specify the equipment required to deliver the best performance and finally wherever necessary, we arrange expert installation.

This ability to provide that bespoke approach which every individual property needs is something you'll only find with a dedicated and specialist Internet Service Provider.

The net result is hugely improved broadband - and that includes at locations where smartphones may only show the very flakiest of coverage (or even no coverage at all).

National Broadband has considerable experience of working with both central and regional government bodies in terms of providing high quality broadband to more difficult to reach 'white' areas, so we are very familiar with such types of interactions.

We were a founder supplier both to BDUK's all too short-lived Better Broadband Voucher Scheme (BBVS) and to Connecting Devon & Somerset's regionally run equivalent scheme. We remain a supplier under the Welsh Assembly's Access Broadband Cymru scheme (ABC) and the Scottish Government's Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (R100 SBVS), plus we are a provider to the current CDS Mobile Boost project.

We are also well-used to the obligatory post-installation audit and verification processes that form an essential part of any regional or central government broadband improvement project, before any payments are made to approved suppliers.

In fact with our blessing, BDUK itself replicated our own internally devised verification processes to assure performance quality and delivery success throughout the lifetime of its nationwide BBVS scheme.

Perhaps the most important thing to be aware of is the genuinely life-changing and enabling difference that 4G-based broadband makes to the lives of the digitally deprived. This is something that our customers are more than ready to confirm, as can be clearly seen from the reviews that they have left for us on Trustpilot.

And if more detailed evidence is needed of the majorly beneficial effects that a much improved broadband connection provides to broadband-starved homes and businesses, we have a number of real-world case studies from all around the UK.

How to provide better broadband for all homes and businesses within your area

If you're a county council or other regional body tasked with overseeing the roll-out of much improved broadband to all properties within your area, you will no doubt already be aware that there are numerous hard to reach homes and businesses falling under your remit that simply aren't covered either by central government projects or existing local procurements.

To quantify this, latest Ofcom figures reveal that there are well over 500,000 properties scattered all over the UK which still cannot access what it has defined as 'decent' broadband speeds of 10 Mbps or greater via a landline.

And this is precisely where 4G broadband shows its true value with its ability to provide a much faster broadband connection to those most in need.

Of course 4G-based broadband is not the fastest type of connection there is, but it's deployable almost immediately, almost anywhere and at a capex cost of under £250 per property. Moreover, it's not so much the absolute broadband speed provided that's important, but rather the hugely enabling improvement in connectivity that 4G broadband immediately provides to those trapped on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

So if you have frustrated residents and businesses in broadband white areas with no sign of any connectivity improvement being possible in the foreseeable future, get in touch with us and find out how we can help.

Remember, it makes no difference whether you're looking to solve the broadband issues of a good-sized village of say a hundred properties, or a smaller hamlet of ten, or even one single property - we are more than prepared to partner with you to deliver a solution in each case.

Contact us on 03333 447700 or at

The UK government's current broadband strategy and why it's failing those most in need

With the ever-increasing prevalance of the internet in all our lives, good quality digital connectivity is by now as crucial to businesses and individual households as any other utility.

Access to high speed and reliable broadband brings a host of advantages. Well-connected communities enjoy improved educational, professional and personal outcomes and so see higher levels of economic growth and social wellbeing. In stark contrast, rural areas stuck in the digital slow lane are less attractive places to live and work, so risk being left behind as other areas reap the benefits of the digital revolution.

This is why the UK Government has quite correctly set itself the goal of building the nation a world-class digital infrastructure. Sadly it's clear that current plans to connect up the entire UK are simply not comprehensive enough and leave all too many UK properties trapped in digital deprivation.

Ofcom continues to quantify the stark gap between digital 'haves' and 'have nots', with its latest Connected Nations update stating that over 500,000 UK properties still have no access to what it has defined as a 'decent' fixed line broadband service running at 10 Mbps or more. This lack of connectivity is far more prevalent in rural areas, with well over half of broadband-starved properties being more rurally located.

Project Gigabit

The Government remains committed to its 'Levelling Up' agenda, which is meant to include improving broadband connectivity for all. However, its initial self-set target of delivering gigabit-capable broadband to all UK properties by 2025 had to be reduced. Latest objectives are for 85% of UK properties to be gigabit-capable by the end of 2025, with a further and much less concrete aim to get 'as close to as possible' to 100% by 2030.

To reach this revised goal, the Government plans to invest up to £5 billion into Project Gigabit, a scheme solely focussed on rolling out new full fibre (FTTP) connections. Unfortunately it is already clear that for at least the next three years, 15% of UK properties will not benefit.

Worse still, these homes and businesses that will miss out very much tend to be those with the poorest current broadband speeds, so are in fact the ones most needing assistance. Yet there seems to be no plan to to level up digital connectivity for this sizeable minority.

Sadly, current government strategy has inherent flaws preventing it from helping the most digitally deprived. Because of its exclusively fibre-centric approach to digital connectivity, Project Gigabit inevitably encounters issues when trying to connect rural communities where the need is greatest.

Provisioning the infrastructure required to connect more remote properties with fibre broadband is both cost-prohibitive and time-inefficient. Consequently, all too many of the projects commissioned under Project Gigabit are merely targeting premises in densely populated and easy to reach locations.

Prioritising the improving of connectivity for such areas is in many ways an odd choice, since these already tend to have perfectly good broadband speeds well above the national average. However, doing so is far simpler and also much more commercially attractive for major infrastructure providers, when compared to digitally enabling more remote communities in far greater need.

In contrast, effective funding is simply not being made available to help those harder to reach areas where improved connectivity is most needed. As a result, current policy is in fact liable to increase digital inequality, rather than lessen it.

The Universal Service Obligation

The Universal Service Obligation (or USO) is a scheme that was intended as a safety net, giving any home or business the legal right to demand access to a broadband service running at a minimum of 10 Mbps from one of the two appointed providers (KCom for the area surrounding Hull and BT Openreach for the rest of the country).

Unfortunately, although giving UK homes and businesses the right to demand access to decent broadband, in reality the USO regularly utterly fails to help those in rural areas who are most in need of better broadband.

That's because there are two massive problems with the USO, namely costs and timescales.

The current scheme only allows maximum funding per property of £3,400 towards the cost of building or upgrading any necessary network infrastructure. Sadly, getting fibre-based broadband to many rural properties is far more costly than that, so people are then expected to cover any expense over that level themselves. These additional costs regularly run into the tens of thousands of pounds, making obtaining better broadband via the USO completely unaffordable for all too many people.

As just one typical example, here's a press story on one Derbyshire resident who was quoted a staggering £40,000 to get a better broadband service under the USO. He contacted us and to his considerable relief, we were able to provide him with a fast 4G-based broadband service in a matter of days and at a set-up cost of less than £250 + VAT. This is not at all unusual - we come across similar cases every single week and as this article in the Sunday Times shows, some residents are quoted completely ludicrous costs in the hundreds of thousands of pounds under the USO.

And even if a property is fortunate enough to be in a location where that maximum £3,400 threshold would be enough to cover all infrastructure costs, actually getting an improved broadband connection could easily take up to two years or more. Surely that is far too long to wait for something as important and as enabling as better broadband, which could be provided within a matter of days.

Would you like to find out more about the potential of using 4G broadband to infill problematic broadband white areas?

Call on 03333 447700 or email at