Home North West Fixed wireless technology can heal the rift in Britain’s broadband revolution

Fixed wireless technology can heal the rift in Britain’s broadband revolution

By Natalie Duffield

Wistaston Road in Crewe is home to the slowest broadband in Britain, where hard-pressed residents have to manage with average speeds of just 0.25mbps per second and must wait days to download an HD film. That’s according to an annual broadband survey by price comparison site Uswitch, which reveals what we already know at WeLink: that Britain’s slowest streets aren’t always tucked away in the farthest corners of the country and the fastest can often be found in the most unlikely locations.

“Britain’s broadband keeps getting quicker every year, but parts of the country continue to be left behind,” said Ernest Oduko of Uswitch. “Residents of this year’s fastest street, Haul Fryn, could download a film in 47 seconds – where it would take those living in Wistaston Road more than 48 hours to do the same thing. At a time when so many of us rely on our broadband for work, streaming films and TV, and gaming, it’s hard to imagine how frustrating such a slow connection must be.”

Haul Fryn is a quiet, unassuming road in Birchgrove on the outskirts of Swansea, hardly the type of place associated with breakneck speeds yet its residents enjoyed an average of 882.03mbps over the last year, an incredible 3,567 times faster than Wistaston Road. Uswitch said the rollout of full-fibre broadband had dramatically increased the digital divide since 2019, when the fastest was a mere 830 times quicker than the slowest. “It’s great to witness the increased uptake of ultrafast broadband, but we don’t want to see large swathes of the country left behind on shoddy connections that aren’t cutting it for modern life,” added Mr Oduku of Uswitch.

We are seeing these extremes being played out across the UK, sometimes in the same places. Take Edinburgh for instance, where WeLink has rolled out Britain’s first major wireless gigabit broadband service in response to clear and pressing market need. Our analysis of the latest Ofcom data from the Connected Nations 2021 report shows 7,447 premises unable to get 30mbps broadband, an astonishing number for a capital city, including 423 unable to even receive 5mpbs. In contrast, our growing customer base in the same city centre is able to enjoy speeds of up to 1 gigabit. “Streaming is butter-smooth,” said early adopter and student Robbie Godsell. “I’m able to do everything that I couldn’t do before and it’s made a big improvement to my quality of life.”

The centuries-old buildings and thoroughfares that dominate many towns and cities can make it difficult for broadband providers trying to bring ultrafast connectivity to urban realms. Try laying fibre in a conservation area or indeed any densely populated location on time and on budget. The delays and disruption are legion as supply chains creak and rollouts struggle to stay on course. We believe fixed wireless – as featured by Uswitch in November – must play a vital role in helping the government meet its target for at least 85 per cent of UK premises to have access to gigabit broadband by 2025 by extending the reach of fibre connectivity into new locations and rolling out in double-quick time.

With homes and businesses increasingly dependent on cloud-based software to go shopping, entertain themselves, attend online lessons, see a doctor or connect with customers for their products, residents in places like Wistaston Road, for all of its charms, simply cannot afford to be left behind. Why should we have to wait until 2025 at the earliest to enjoy speeds as fast as the lucky people living in Haul Fryn?

Natalie Duffield is chief executive of WeLink Communications UK.