The UK's broadband capabilities should be a major issue for any business. Without fast, reliable technology to link companies with customers, partners and suppliers around the world, firms will struggle to be competitive with their better-connected peers.
Yet in many parts of the country, securing the services they need still proves challenging. While the government claims to have met its target of ensuring 95 per cent of homes and businesses in the country have access to 'superfast' broadband by the end of 2017, many premises still miss out. However, even those that have been covered may find the speeds available are below what they need.
Britain falling behind with FTTP
The main issue is that the upgrades taking place in the majority of the country use fibre-to-the-cabinet technology, which still relies on legacy copper wire technology to connect the exchange to end-users, which creates bottlenecks and limits the speed available.
The alternative is full fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology, which ensures an optical connection right to the business' door. Yet this is something that's only available to a small minority at present. According to a report from Ofcom, FTTP penetration in the UK stood at just three per cent at the end of 2017, compared with 97 per cent in Japan and 86 per cent in Portugal.
Clearly, there is a long way to go before the UK's businesses can take advantage of full FTTP technology. But efforts are being made to address this gap. Chancellor Philip Hammond stated recently that the government's goal is to have nationwide availability of FTTP by 2033, with an interim goal of connecting 15 million premises with the technology by 2025.
Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry Annual Dinner in May, Mr Hammond said this is an "ambitious" target, but the current mix of fibre and copper connectivity will not benefit either consumers or the industry.
"We must now take the next big leap forward," he continued, adding: "Full-fibre networks are faster, more reliable, and cheaper to operate than their copper predecessors."
The benefits of ultrafast connectivity
Having access to the speed and reliability afforded by FTTP connectivity brings with it a wide range of benefits for business, which will be essential as digital operations become a larger part of the way every firm works.
For example, the improved upload speeds this can provide make working with the cloud, managing backups and sharing large files between groups of collaborators much easier. And, in the event something does go wrong within a network, this technology ensures that servers can be restored from cloud-based backup tools in a fraction of the time it would take a standard connection.
Elsewhere, this technology enables businesses to be much more agile and responsive, allowing them to react quickly to changing demands and ensure everyone in the company can perform their tasks online without any bottlenecks or slowdowns.
While it may still be some time before every premises in the country is able to take full advantage of full FTTP connectivity, those that do gain access to it could find it one of the most transformative technologies since the arrival of broadband.