Are you getting superfast broadband? If not why not?

This article was first published on EamonnMallie.com

Availability of superfast broadband within Northern Ireland97% of Northern Ireland residents have access to superfast broadband1, the highest proportion of any region within the UK. So why are only 60% of Northern Ireland households taking up this service?

Ofcom have published “The first Communications Infrastructure Report” which details lots of interesting facts that no local news outlet seems to be paying much attention to.
Access to the Internet is pretty much a human right these days and you can access the Internet for free at your local library. What student would prepare for an assignment without conducting some form of Internet research? I’d guess that nearly every single office job requires the Internet whether for email or browsing.
The Internet, therefore, is as much a utility as our water supply and is an essential every day service that we need.

So why then has there not been a media frenzy about these figures? Naturally the report does not cater for the need of our tabloid media but it definitely does need reported on.

The BBC reported “Northern Ireland broadband service criticised” which is a misleading headline in my opinion. Yes the report suggests that more could (and should) be done to improve access to broadband, but 97% of us here in NI already have access to superfast broadband. I have it and I’m about to get upgraded to a 30Mbit/s connection. What have you got? 1 in 4 have less than 2Mbit/s which means that you will really struggle to stream video online and most likely your skype call will be pixelated. In my view this is unacceptable and easily rectified with a simple call to your ISP.

National broadband measures

Percentage receiving less than 2Mbit/s

 

 

Percentage receiving less than 2Mbit/s
Each area has been ranked from 1 to 5 on the percentage of broadband connections that have modem sync speeds of less than 2.2Mbit/s.

1= less than 5%
2= 5% – less than 10%
3= 10% – less than 15%
4= 15% – less than 20%
5= 20% or more

Of course there will be those who argue that you simply don’t need superfast broadband. This is shortsighted and fails to recognise the benefits that come with a fast connection to the Internet. Superfast broadband is now more affordable and the consumer is in a strong position to take advantage of this without having to stretch their budget. Ofcom also reveal that on average we download 17 Gigabytes of data every month. That’s equivalent to about 11 or 12 hours viewing of iPlayer per month. As each year passes we consume more and more content online (up sevenfold in five years) thus making superfast broadband all the more important if you want to watch video online.
Hands up if you have an Internet connected TV? I know it’s not just me. If you have a games console, a Blu-Ray player, an Apple TV or have recently bought your TV then you can probably watch YouTube and other online video content from the comfort of your sofa.

Lots of us have laptops, mobile phones and tablet computers and we use them while we are watching television. I would wager that the majority of the time we are using the Internet on those devices either browsing facebook, playing words with friends, updating all of those apps you downloaded from the App store or even sending an email. OK so nobody sends email anymore, but you get the point, we need the Internet just to go about our normal everyday tasks. If you are a typical household with a mummy and daddy and 2.1 teenagers you’re going to need superfast broadband just to keep everyone happy.

The family I’ve just mentioned will all have mobile phones and statistically speaking more than 2 will have a smartphone and in a couple of years (maybe even just one) everyone will have a smartphone. This will not only apply pressure to the home wifi network but will see massive demand for 3G (and soon 4G) services. In other words, we just can’t get enough Internet!

But, we in Northern Ireland are a bit screwed when it comes to mobile Internet.
If you want 3G on the road you better not actually need it outside Belfast and the main roads.

3G coverage in Northern Ireland

3G coverage by geographic area

 

 

 

3G coverage by geographic area
Each area has been ranked from 1 to 5 on the level of mobile coverage.

1= 90% or more
2= 70% – less than 90%
3= 50% – less than 70%
4= 25% – less than 50%
5= less than 25%

Mobile coverage based on predicted coverage

So how does this actually affect us? Generally speaking when we are at home we can make the best use of the Internet, whether that be watching a High Definition movie or making a video call to a friend who lives on the other side of the world. However, this report should be highlighted not because of how I can get access to the Internet on a personal level, but for the stark reality that many businesses and those who travel for their work are not able to make use of superfast broadband connections whether in the office or from their car. This impacts the local economy. This means we are not as competitive and this means jobs are on the line. You only need to have a quick look at a recruitment agency to see that IT plays an important role within our local economy. The wider view is of course that the Internet provides access to a global market. We can now sell services overseas with literally the click of a mouse. The Internet provides opportunity and superfast broadband will enable our local businesses to compete on the global stage which ultimately will boost the local economy. Simple. Well not quite, but I hope you understand how crucial it is that we not only have access to superfast broadband but that we also avail of its service.
Feel free to leave a comment on the issue of broadband access and whether you think it really matters to the local economy or not.
Ofcom have published the press release The state of the communications nation and their report The first Communications Infrastructure Report but I’d highly recommend you visit
http://maps.ofcom.org.uk/ and see for yourself what level of access you currently have.
1BDUK defines Superfast Broadband as having a potential headline access speed of at least 24Mbps, with no upper limit.

I am a web publisher from Belfast interested in all things to do with the web.

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Chris Taylor

About.Me

Chris Taylor

Hi I'm Chris Taylor and I'm a web publisher from Belfast and you can find me all over the web (although I'm taking a break from twitter) at the sites below.

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