bring rural broadband up to scrtatch
We’ve come to rely on the internet today, for communicating, shopping, watching TV and a million over things. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say internet has become as basic a utility as a telephone, or mains electricity.
For most of us, fast broadband is easily accessible, and is competitively-priced – whether it’s via fiber or legacy phone networks, using ADSL.
But in rural areas, it’s not so simple. With lower population densities, the cost for telecom operators to roll out broadband networks is perceived as just too high in many areas. Even if you do get connected, the speed you can achieve depends on the distance to the local exchange or other infrastructure, so people in more remote areas struggle with slow connections.
How many Broadband options?
There are various different technologies that can be used for rural broadband. Most simply, the internet can be accessed using ADSL over existing copper phone lines, but to get an acceptable speed, the provider needs to upgrade the nearest exchange. In many rural areas, they’re not prepared to invest that money just for a few subscribers, leaving them stuck on slow, unreliable links.
Another option is the 4G mobile data network, accessed either via a router or SIM card in a phone, tablet or computer. But coverage is limited in rural areas, and many people can’t get a good enough signal. Satellite connections are an alternative, but the price is often prohibitively high.
This leaves fiber as the best solution for many people, although how accessible it is depends very much on which country you are in. The UK has fiber available to something like 90% of the population, although of course the 10% missing out are mostly in rural areas, whereas for some countries, like the USA, that percentage is far lower.
Fiber all the way
To address this issue, governments in different countries have placed legal requirements on the telcos to provide subsidised broadband, usually backed up with some kind of financial assistance. For example, the UK has for several years had a programme called Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). This has used £1.7bn of public money to help extend so-called ‘superfast’ broadband (defined as 24Mbps and above) to more than 5 million premises in rural areas since 2013.
More recently, in May 2019 the UK government launched a two-year programme called Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC), which provides £200m to support the roll out of full fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) connectivity in remote areas of the country. The government has also pledged to bring fiber to every home by 2025.
Is this kind of programme money well spent? It can be very expensive, with BT estimating the cost of connecting rural homes at typically £4,000 each, which is ten times the price for cities. FTTP is still not in common use in the UK, reaching only 7% of households.
But for areas where their only existing alternative is satellite broadband, it can look like good value. For example, Grimsay in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides islands has recently had fiber broadband installed – giving it fast internet access to replace its costly, slow satellite links. People here can now work remotely more easily, as well as run their businesses and appeal to tourists more. This can make an enormous difference to quality of life, as well as helping slow down or reverse the emigration of young people to cities, which is an issue both in countries like the UK, and in developing economies.
If we are to provide fast, reliable broadband to rural populations, fiber seems like the way to go in most cases. It can be relatively expensive to install, but is much cheaper in terms of operating costs than wireless or mobile solutions.
To help providers meet their cost targets, the technology they choose must be reliable, rugged and simple to use. Specifically for fiber connectors, Bulgin can provide many different options to meet the varied needs of new networks.
The 4000 series provides an industry-standard LC interface as specified by IEC 61754-20. To save time and simplify installation, the connectors are available as pre-terminated options, already connected to a suitable cable of up to 450m in length.