What is the Digital Divide?

Those living in towns and cities are lucky enough to have access to high speed broadband from a wide choice of providers.

But those living in rural locations are not so fortunate. They typically have to struggle with frustratingly slow internet connections.

This disparity between urban and rural broadband is known as the Digital Divide.

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The Digital Divide explained further

If you live in a town or any location that’s more densely populated, you’ll be used to having a fast internet connection. It’s simply what you expect and you don’t even bother thinking about it.

But if you live or work in a more rural location, things are liable to be very different. Your broadband speeds are likely to be painfully slow and you just can’t use the internet the way others take for granted. This is because of the cost of putting in landline-based high speed broadband infrastructure.

What are the causes of the Digital Divide?

It’s important to understand that the broadband that most UK homes and businesses have is delivered from a fibre-connected streetside cabinet down a property’s copper telephone landline. If your property is next to that cabinet, you’ll be able to get broadband performance around 70 Mbps - and even if you’re say 1,000 metres away, you should still see speeds around the 30 Mbps mark.

Problems start when your property is over a kilometre away from the cabinet serving it. In such cases, the broadband signals travelling along your landline get unavoidably weaker through something called attenuation as they pass down that long run of copper wire. Your internet speeds are then bound to be frustratingly slow.

The only landline-based solution is to have another cabinet deployed nearer your property - but that’s a very expensive and time-consuming operation, costing tens of thousands of pounds and taking many months. In cases where going to those lengths would only benefit a handful of properties, infrastructure providers just aren’t going to bother, because it would make no commercial sense.

This is precisely why more widely scattered homes and businesses are very liable to suffer with frustratingly slow internet - and why they’re not likely to get a traditional solution any time soon (if ever). And this is a problem primarily faced by more rurally located properties, which are simply excluded from being able to benefit from the ever-growing number of advantages that a fast broadband service offers.

Shouldn’t the Government be doing something about this?

In our view, absolutely yes. However, the Government’s stated aim is to ensure a full fibre service is provided to 85% of the approximately 30 million UK properties by the end of 2025. “Full fibre” means that a property is connected by fibre-optic cable all the way to the local exchange and no copper landline is involved at all.

This is if anything an even more expensive process, so again it will only be carried out where property densities are the greatest. Leaving aside the fact that the target is a highly ambitious one to start with, unfortunately the properties that are set to benefit are the easier ones to do and which therefore already have high quality broadband.

This means that the 15% (or 4.5 million) homes and businesses that are going to miss out will in the vast majority of cases be the ones that currently have slower internet speeds - and that includes the 600,000 UK properties which according to Ofcom still can’t even get broadband above 10 Mbps.

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What alternative solutions exist to bridge the Digital Divide and end broadband inequality?

Right now? For homes and businesses with the slowest current internet speeds, the immediate answer is 4G broadband.

Broadband delivered over 4G is by far the best rural broadband solution for the vast majority of more remote properties. With an average performance of 25 Mbps download, it is already available to over 98% of UK properties - including those in areas of weaker 4G coverage. What’s more, 4G broadband is very cost-effective to install and best of all, it can be up and running within a matter of days.

Fast 4G Broadband

There is a further solution that’s just starting to be rolled out - and that’s 5G broadband.

However, this won’t be the ultrafast (100+ Mbps) 5G that you’ll see being advertised today for use in major towns and cities. The sort of 5G that will cover the majority of UK properties is lower speed than that, but will still deliver performance around the 50+ Mbps level. Learn more about rural 5G broadband services that are coming soon.

5G Broadband For Rural Areas

So although 4G- and 5G-delivered broadband can be a bit more costly to get started with when compared with landline broadband, if you want near-instant high speed internet connectivity in a rural location, these represent your best options by far.

At National Broadband, we’re specialists committed to ensuring that no home or business is trapped on the wrong side of the Digital Divide. Get in touch and find out what we can do for you.

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