Getting – and staying – well connected for business

Robert George from your AF Telecoms team deals with both the pain and gain from broadband and explains what he does to help Members get the best internet connections for their business.

Every day when I talk to Members the most emotive subject we discuss is broadband – the damage a slow or unreliable internet connection can cause a rural business cannot be understated.

The range of problems is vast, it includes the obvious frustrations of things like a connection buffering while trying to participate in online meetings, or when trying to watch TV streaming services, but the financial and reputational damage is really where it hurts. If you cannot process card payments, you cannot make a sale. If you don’t receive a weather update you risk wasting expensive crop protection products. If holiday makers or wedding guests leave a scathing online review of your venue due to poor Wi-Fi, your diversification project fails. All these things can feel deeply unfair and have long-lasting impacts.

With the oncoming pressure from the national Openreach landline switch-off project, many Members are wondering how they can overcome the limitations caused by poor connectivity.

Diagnosing the issues

When a Member raises the subject of connectivity with me, I start an analysis process to assess their options.

The first stage is always to check Openreach’s standard infrastructure using an online tool. I input a property’s landline number or postcode, and occasionally I discover the Member is unaware their local exchange has been upgraded and they can switch from basic broadband to a fibre broadband service such as Fibre To The Cabinet*, SoGEA** or even Fibre To The Premises***. When that happens it’s a delight to be able to pass on the good news! I then help them pick a suitable package and get an order underway – our suppliers will then liaise with the Member regarding the on-site installation work.

If Openreach’s infrastructure fails to deliver what is needed – all is not lost. There are still a number of options – sometimes it is possible to order an ‘on demand’ version of Fibre To The Premises (FTTPoD) – this suits a larger business as it can involve some fairly significant costs – initially Openreach would charge £500 to carry out a survey, then they will submit a quote for connecting a site to their nearest fibre network – this could be a few hundred pounds, or a few thousand – the only way to know is to get a survey.

It is also possible to arrange a survey for a type of broadband called a Leased Line, which is a dedicated ‘private’ internet connection, with speeds up to 1000MBPS. With an average monthly fee of around £400 it is not for everyone, but it has identical upload and download speeds and is actively monitored for faults by Openreach – the only type of broadband which has this feature. Our suppliers can quote for this type of service, and if the monthly cost is acceptable Openreach will survey for free. They will also cover the first £2800 of installation fees. If they identify any further costs these are quoted to the Member to accept or decline – if they are declined the job is cancelled at no cost to the Member.

Where FTTPoD or a Leased Line is not available or appropriate the next option is to check 4G/5G mobile data speeds in the area. For Members in East Anglia we have an additional option called ItsWISP – a ‘point-to-point’ service which uses radio waves to transmit signal to a property. You don’t need a landline for either of these solutions. ItsWISP relies on a line of sight to the local transmitter (there are many of them, all around East Anglia). Mobile data needs a good mobile signal, but as our suppliers use all the main UK networks, and can install high gain external antenna to draw in the best local signal, it is rare to find a location where this doesn’t work.

The final option is satellite broadband. This really is a last resort as it is expensive, and has some limitations (latency being the main one) but there are very few instances where a connection cannot be established.

Opening up options

Once a reliable broadband connection has been achieved, a world of new options opens up.

Wi-Fi networking
Once a reliable broadband connection is established, the next stage is often to ensure the property has a reliable Wi-Fi network within the building itself, ensuring a strong signal in all areas. This could be a simple plug-in solution for a small house or office. For a larger property, or a property with thick walls or foil backed insulation, it may be more suitable to have a number of Wi-Fi nodes professionally installed and maintained. It is also possible to have external grade Wi-Fi nodes for coverage outside – such as a farm office or camping ground. Our suppliers can carry out site surveys and build a bespoke solution to meet your needs.

Digital telephony
Voice over the internet or ‘VoIP’ is a way of making a standard landline number work over the internet. This can be as simple as an app on your mobile phone, enabling you to use your landline number anywhere you go. Or you could have a fully hosted system with desk phones in your home or office. Running your landline over the internet enables you reduce core operating costs and improve functionality.

Openreach will be ceasing standard landline services from 2025, so getting ahead of the curve and switching to VoIP as soon as your broadband connection allows is a good idea. AF’s suppliers will help Members manage the transition to the new technology, with solutions scaled to suit your business needs.

Digital CCTV systems
Monitor your farm stores and sheds remotely on your phone or tablet using digital cameras.

Some terms explained

*Fibre To the Cabinet (FTTC)
Where your standard landline is a fibre cable from the exchange to the local green box, with copper from the green box to you. The line still has a telephone number and can be used for calls as well as broadband. Maximum broadband speeds are up to around 80MBPS.

**SoGEA broadband
This is the same as FTTC, but the landline number has been ceased, or ported to VoIP making the line a broadband-only service, and not one you can use for calls.

***Fibre To The Premises (FTTP)
This is a brand new, full fibre optic line installed into a property with a new master socket and no telephone number – all existing services may become redundant and can be ceased when FTTP goes live. Maximum speeds are around 1000MBPS.

Let us do the work

Whether you need a review of your internet connectivity, or to discuss the options outlined above to see if they could work for your business, get in touch with your AF Telecoms team. Email or call
01603 881 909. 


Robert George   Telecoms Business Development Specialist 01603 881 973