Tech City UK Blog

Everyone Agrees That High-Speed Broadband is Crucial for a Digital Business to Grow. We Believe it is as Basic a Need as Water and Electricity.

Strong connectivity is the lifeblood of our sector.

But getting fast broadband installed can present a few challenges, especially if you’re working in Shoreditch in East London. You may need to make some decisions about how to get the best broadband to your workplace—fast.

The good news is there are now ways to get high-speed broadband into your building faster.

Tech City UK is working with the broadband providers to make sure they understand the needs of entrepreneurs and digital businesses. Our aim is to push these providers into bringing faster, more cost-effective broadband solutions to market.

In this blog post, we explain:

  1. What the challenges are
  2. How to get the right broadband for your business now

Part 1: What’s the broadband landscape of Shoreditch and why does it present challenges?

Locations with a high density of startups – like Shoreditch – present a particular challenge for broadband infrastructure and investment

  • Service providers experience high churn rates from small businesses – which are often understandably less willing (or able) to commit to long-term business contracts
  • This can make it difficult for the broadband providers to build strong internal business cases for additional investment in an area
  • While there is no shortage of core Internet connectivity within the Shoreditch cluster, the connection from the core to individual buildings, even for “fibre” products, is still mainly dependent on existing copper infrastructure
  • This reliance on copper lines and often sharing connections has a substantial impact on the actual speeds you’ll get on a daily basis
  • To get superfast broadband can mean digging up the roads

For many startups, getting a direct connection to your building may be the best solution to getting faster broadband.

But digging up roads in London to lay new connections is time-consuming and expensive. In most of Shoreditch, large corporates or savvy landlords have funded the installation of fibre connectivity into their own buildings. For smaller premises, older buildings, or those only recently being used as office locations, a lack of connectivity can still present issues.

The importance of high-quality broadband for competitiveness is key to Kim Goody, owner of Soho Square Studios – an audio post-production house in the heart of London’s creative community:

“We’re a small family run team and I believe we offer a level of service and creativity that the bigger multinationals in our industry just can’t match. However, we need to be able to keep up with them technologically.”

So what is superfast broadband and how is it delivered?

Broadband Delivery UK defines superfast broadband as having a potential headline access speed of at least 20Mbps, with no upper limit. The government has reported that 73% of business premises in the UK have access to superfast broadband services, and that average speeds almost trebled between May 2010 and May 2013.

But we know it’s not a perfect world from our conversations and surveys of the community. And one of the biggest issues when buying superfast broadband is installation time.

So how does superfast broadband get installed?

Understanding the complexity of installation and the dilemma it can present for the service providers, explains why at times, businesses experience such long installation times.

First, a connection is needed between the building and the point of interconnect, i.e. the broader network. The most common ways to deliver superfast broadband are via fibre and copper cable (more on this in our next post). Figure 1 below shows the connection points required to deliver the most common services for home and business users.

Depending on where your home or office is, cable and fibre to the cabinet may already exist, or be scheduled for installation soon – however this requires a plan and investment from service providers.

Figure 1 – the connection points needed to delivered superfast broadband to buildings

Fibre-to-the-cabinet-or-Fibre-to-the-premises

It gets more complicated if service providers need to lay new lines or obtain a landlord’s permission to get into your building. In densely populated areas with older buildings, physically getting the connection in can be tricky and disruptive.

Fibre to the premises extends the length of the fibre optic cable all the way to your building. This means a faster connection. However, it’s also more expensive – especially if your building doesn’t already have a fibre connection or is a long way from a fibre cabinet.

Getting broadband installed also requires engaging your landlord. Anthony Impey, Managing Partner of Optimity, a London based ISP, comments:

The documents required between the landlord of a particular building and a network operator can involve protracted lead times and significant costs. These documents (known as wayleave agreements) set the parameters by which a network operator can install their service in a particular building at a particular time. At their core, these agreements need to offer the landlord a level of indemnity by the network operator (usually set at £10m). Despite this relatively simple requirement, getting agreement can be particularly difficult, with network operators frequently requesting onerous terms and landlords charging excessive legal fees.”

Approaches to wayleave on the part of landlords can vary massively. To avoid unnecessary heartache or delay, check what connections are available and what would be required to connect a new service before you sign a lease.

That’s our quick lowdown on getting broadband infrastructure installed. Getting access to broadband services will depend on the topography of the area where you are based, and whether a service provider can install a new connection easily.

We’d like to hear from you about your experience of connecting your business.  Please get in touch via info@techcityuk.com, using the subject line Broadband, and we will do what we can to help bring your issue to the attention of the service providers.