Internet connectivity: an insight into the needs of today’s UK businesses

Internet | Marie Escaich on January 17, 2017

The provision of broadband access to businesses in the UK has recently come into sharp focus; whether it be the new plans outlined in the Autumn Statement for a full-fibre and 5G UK, or the on-going Ofcom/BT Openreach saga making national headlines.

In the UK today, we are beginning to understand how internet connectivity plays a key role in the successful performance of most businesses. From managing an e-commerce platform, to operating in the cloud or simply sending and receiving large amounts of data daily – reliable and good internet connectivity is key.

It’s timely then, that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just published its latest annual e-commerce and ICT activity report, offering insight into the internet use of almost 11,000 businesses across a range of industries in the UK.

Among other topics, it provides an interesting overview of how businesses access the internet and what connection speeds they currently enjoy.

Only 5.9% of organisations were using superfast broadband

Unsurprisingly, 99% of organisations with more than 50 employees were connected to the internet. The figure was lower – 94.7% – for those with between 10 and 49 employees, and dropped to 81.6% for those with less than 10.

Of these, the majority (80.7%) used a fixed broadband connection, a slight decline on the previous year’s 81.7%. Conversely, the use of mobile broadband using 3G or 4G was found to have risen from 46.9% to 55.6%.

However, while 16.9% of businesses had a connection speed of between 30Mbps and 100Mbps in 2015, the most common speed hovered anywhere between 2Mbps and 30Mbps. When 30Mbps is sufficient to download 1GB of files in under 5 minutes, 2 Mbps is just good enough for browsing.

Some small businesses may consider such speeds adequate as they are. However, with technology evolving at such a fast pace year-on-year and global data volumes growing exponentially, it seems like an unrealistic provision for the long-term. How can businesses that rely on this level of connectivity today be confident of their ability to grow and become more efficient in the future if much of the technology we relied on 5 years has already changed?

What broadband speed does a business really require?

Broadband speed is a simple balance of supply and demand. When more and more employees start using the same internet fixed speed connection, it begins to slow down. For example, 100Mbps might be fast enough to support around 25-30 employee devices all connecting to the internet at the same time, but only for non-bandwidth intensive activities such as browsing the web or sending emails. 100Mbps for another company of the same size, which constantly needs to upload large files and send numerous emails to clients while operating their website is not enough. Employees will undoubtedly become frustrated with unreliable and slow connections that do not allow them to perform simple tasks on a daily basis.

In addition to the selected broadband package itself, other factors will need to be taken into account such as how quickly can the internet be set up when moving into a new office or how likely is the internet to go down.

As the UK’s reliance on the internet and demand for faster connection speeds from fixed line and wireless broadband increases, businesses of all sizes will soon require faster and more reliable internet connectivity if they are to be able to compete and operate in an ever globalised economy.

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