CUSTOMER GUIDES

Alternatives to Fibre Broadband

A comprehensive guide on what your options are, and how to select the right service.

Find out more below

FTTC & FTTP

Chances are if you are reading this article the following statement applies to your current situation.

‘I am looking for alternatives to Fibre Broadband because my business premises or property (or the property I am looking to purchase / lease ) does not currently have fibre available.’

So, which fibre broadband alternatives should you be considering?

Well first off, there isn’t one that is right for everyone, but there are a number of different solutions available for businesses, homeworkers and consumers to choose from, depending on a number of criteria.

Solutions available at your geographic location, usage requirements and what you are willing to spend are all factors that influence what is right for you. If you are covered by the Government’s current fibre rollout plans, you might simply want to wait, hang tight and hope that they deliver on time (good luck with that!). If there is a Government grant available that will contribute towards you having a faster service, this is also something to take into account.

The purpose of this post is to try and educate you on what is available in the UK market and to help you identify what’s the best option for you – without having to speak with any service provider, ourselves included.

We hope that it will save you some time.

 

 

ADSL / Broadband

ADSL / Broadband is a service delivered over copper telephone lines and is currently available to pretty much everyone. A lot of you looking for an alternate solution will most likely have this product.

Why is my broadband so slow all of a sudden?

A few years ago ADSL Broadband might have been enough, but now maybe your usage requirements have changed and you feel that the service has just gotten slower and slower.

This has occurred because of Contention (more users and households joining and sharing the same bandwidth from the same exchange) and increased bandwidth usage per user (the average individual uses >100 times more bandwidth than they did 10 to 15 years ago and this trend will continue).

BT’s improvements to your current broadband solution

BT is continuing a decade-long program of upgrading its exchanges and street cabinets to FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) which, unless you are very far from the exchange (see below), will mean that you can replace your ADSL with FTTC. It is worth regularly asking your ISP and/or BT about their plans so that you can get an idea about how long you need to wait.

There are also other firms like Gigaclear and Wildanet (in Cornwall) that are rolling out fibre to rural areas – they may also be an option.

Factors that affect the performance of your broadband

With ADSL and other copper based services (even FTTC) the speed you receive can be influenced by many factors.

Rural Broadband Factors:

For rural users the biggest factor is the distance you are away from the cabinet (the green BT box you see on the side of the road,) or the exchange. The further you are away, the slower your service will be. To further clarify, “distance” here is not just physical distance, but rather the actual length of the copper wire connecting your premises or property to the cabinet or exchange.

If your connection’s performance issues are distance related, even if your exchange and local cabinet is upgraded to fibre, the length of the copper will mean you will continue to get a slow speed.

Factors affecting City and Suburban Areas:

For users in more built up areas, your service may have gotten slower and slower simply because more people are now connecting to the internet in the area. It’s not uncommon for businesses that suffer from slow internet in built up areas to experience the slowest service when you most need it, as everyone is on the internet at the same time.

Multiple Broadband lines: The incorrect approach businesses make and how to fix it

It’s quite common for businesses to try and buy multiple lines of the same service – we have seen this happen with retail businesses like farm shops, for example.

If you are running a business and have multiple ADSL lines, there are now solutions available to aggregate these lines into a single service. It is also possible to combine with services delivered over other mediums such as 4G/5G or fixed wireless.

Such combinations can effectively offer a higher single bandwidth service with reasonable latency and also, if combining other mediums, additional resiliency.

We at Integra can discuss this with you and likely provide a quick and easy solution.

Key Connectivity Facts

Price (8/10) – Cheap, but can be expensive if multiple broadband lines are installed.
Speed (2/10) – Average upto 5.5Mbps Upload, upto 17Mbps Download.
Stability (4/10) – Variable.
Installation Speed (7/10) – 2 to 4 Weeks.
Latency (5/10) – Varies from provider to provider. Also depends on contention (number of users and households concurently using) and distance from the cabinet/exchange.
Accessibility (7/10) – High.
Install Cost (10/10) – Low.

FTTC & FTTP

For most, this is the number one choice. However if you are reading this article you may already have identified that it’s not an available option.

What is FTTC?

FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) means that BT or another ISP has put fibre into the street cabinet. The service is then provided to each premises over copper. The fibre that goes into the cabinet means that the cabinet will have much greater bandwidth capacity. This in turn will mean that slow speeds that were contention related will be alleviated, as users attached to that cabinet are now sharing a much larger bandwidth allocation.

What is FTTP?

FTTP (fibre to the premises) is the same but it also replaces the final copper connection to the home or business with fibre. This provides more capacity between the premises and the cabinet and/or exchange and alleviates any issues caused by cable distance from the cabinet.

FTTP & FTTC Contention

It is however worth noting that although both of the above are usually a huge improvement over ADSL, they are still contended services which means that users can expect the speeds to slow over time as

  1. More users connect to their cabinets and exchanges
  2. Data usage per user continues its inevitable increase.

It is up to ISPs and BT to manage the contention to an acceptable standard. Depending on where your premises are, BT’s priorities, and the current state of their infrastructure, sometimes they do a good job at this, sometimes not.

How to get FTTC or FTTP

If it is available, it’s usually the cheapest, fastest solution. 9 times out of 10 some variant of this will be a very good choice for most SME’s. If you do not currently have it, you should be asking your ISP when it is available and encouraging your neighbours to do the same.

Key Connectivity Facts

Price (10/10) – Cheap.
Speed (10/10) – Ultrafast (300 Mbps-1000Gbps), Superfast (>24Mbps)
Stability (9/10) – Good.
Installation Speed (7/10) – 2 to 4 Weeks.
Latency (8/10) – Acceptable for Zoom, Teams and VOIP.
Accessibility (7/10) – Available in most urban and suburban places.
Install Cost (10/10) – Low.

Ethernet

A more expensive solution and a solid choice for businesses that take their connectivity seriously. Unfortunately getting Ethernet products installed on time and at a reasonable price is a challenge.

Dedicated Internet Connection (DIA)

Ethernet circuits provide a dedicated internet connection where you are not affected by others (there is no contention). You will get a 1:1 contention ratio, which in simple terms means that your service will not be compromised when other users in the area are using the internet.

Symmetrical Upload and Download Speeds

Your upload speeds will be the same speed as your downloads making it ideal for users that need to send large files and use online collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Painful Installation Costs

These products can be delivered to most locations, but sometimes they come with eye wateringly high excess construction charges. Its also worth noting that you will only know what the excess construction charges are after you have ordered the service and BT or another provider has been out to do a physical survey, which may take days or weeks.

Though you have the option to cancel the order with no penalty if the charges are high and you do not wish to proceed, if you do not proceed, you will have wasted that time when you could potentially have ordered an alternative service.

Potential for long install times:

You may need a plan B if you’re in a rush.

With installation times ranging anywhere from 15 – 90 days, or in some cases even longer, if you need connectivity quickly it would be prudent to speak to a service provider that can provide a solution with an alternate connectivity option to bridge the gap.

Key Connectivity Facts

Price (5/10) – Can be hundreds or even thousands of pounds a month.
Speed (10/10) – Increments up to 1000Mbps, Upload upto 1000Mbps, Download in 10 and 100Mbps increments.
Stability (10/10) – Excellent and supported with a business class SLA.
Installation Speed (2/10) – 15 to 90 Days. Can be much longer, with freqent problems.
Latency (10/10) – Excellent
Accessibility (5/10) – Available in most urban and suburban places.
Install Cost (1/10) – High and very high, depending on Excess Construction Charges.

Fixed Wireless

Of all the services being discussed in the post, because of the variability among the providers, these companies require the most research to determine their quality of service and reputation..

Over the past 20 years, to meet the requirement for internet access, alternative ISPs including fixed wireless ISPs have sprung up in different parts of the UK, some focusing on B2B and some focussing on B2C.

There has been a lot of innovation and product development of wireless and microwave equipment and as a result there are many different types of fixed wireless service available.

Types of Fixed Wireless

If you have one, your provider may offer a contended service, similar to ADSL, where you are sharing bandwidth with other users in your area. Depending on how well your ISP manages demand, speeds may suffer at busy times. This type of service is typically delivered via an antenna on the side of or roof of your building.

If it is not properly installed, not only may you face slow speeds but also suffer from latency issues, which will make Zoom and Teams calls difficult.

Some B2B wireless ISPs offer an uncontended service utilising OFCOM regulated microwaves or gigabit point to point radios. These types of services will be similar in performance and price to an ethernet service. Often they can be delivered faster and without the unpredictable cost of excess construction charges.

Which Wireless Provider is best?

It is worth finding out if one is offering service in your area, understanding what kind of service they offer and then checking local reviews. In our experience there are some excellent providers who provide excellent, reliable internet connectivity with very responsive customer service.

On the other hand, many unfortunately overcontend their network and are difficult if not impossible to get a hold of when there is a customer service issue.

Key Connectivity Facts

Price (5/10) – Ranges from cheap to expensive depending on type of service
Speed (10/10) – Ultrafast (300 Mbps-1000Gbps), Superfast (>24Mbps)
Stability (9/10) – Good
Installation Speed (7/10) – 2 to 4 Weeks
Latency (8/10) – Acceptable for Zoom, Teams and VOIP
Accessibility (7/10) – Available in most urban and suburban places.
Install Cost (10/10) – Low

4G Consumer Solution

A cheap option that can be quickly installed. A service for consumers who can’t really justify spending a lot per month for a service.

Where to buy a 4g Consumer Solution

4G Consumer Solutions are easy to source. Here at Integra we provide our ‘Integra Lite service’ which comes with unlimited data.

You can also get a service from any of the major mobile providers like EE, Three, 02 or Vodafone.

This is similar to using your phone as a hotspot. Many providers supply dedicated routers that utilise a sim card to provide both internet access and wifi. The quality of the signal will be affected by walls and windows so it will be up to you to find the best place to locate your unit.

4G Data package considerations

Quite often data is capped, so if you don’t upgrade to an unlimited package top-ups can become pricey very quickly.

Don’t expect any help when your service drops out

With no support, if you are a business running any critical functions like card payment terminals or VoIP we would highly recommend getting a more durable solution.

Key Connectivity Facts

Price (10/10) – Cheap
Speed (4/10) – Upto 20 or 30Mbps
Stability (4/10) – Variable
Installation Speed (10/10) – Can be same day
Latency (6/10) – Variable depending on network and coverage
Accessibility (6/10) – Where there is 4g coverage, internal installation can result in a poor signal
Install Cost (10/10) – Low

Satellite Broadband

Living in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands without even a mobile mast in sight? If so, Satellite Broadband is the solution for you.

Is Satellite Broadband for me?

Satellite is the best solution for properties that are truly remote. If there is no fibre and no mobile masts where a service provider can get good connectivity from, then it’s probably the only solution available to you.

Satellite Broadband Technology

The problem with current satellite solutions available is that, although they have very high headline download speeds, the satellites are so far from earth that physics just means that latency is a problem.

If you use your satellite connection to watch Netflix or Youtube, you will probably have a good experience. However if you need it for VOIP, Zoom, or Teams, it will not be suitable because of the time it takes the packets to literally cross the universe.

Starlink Internet

There is hope in Satellite Broadband with services such as Elon Musk’s Starlink which will utilise LEO or low orbit satellites. These satellites will be much closer to earth which should enable a level of latency which will be acceptable for latency dependent applications like VOIP and Teams.

Starlink is in the process of launching satellites and service in the UK and should be available in the next year or two. They are currently taking deposits and signups. The service requires thousands of satellites to achieve full 24 hour coverage at the lower orbit level.

Starlink Internet Cost

Starlink is priced at around £85 per month and the installation is expensive due to the mechanical complexity of the receiver that needs to be installed (it needs to robotically repoint itself as different satellites come in and out of its line of site.)

Key Connectivity Facts

Price (5/10) – Expensive compared to broadband
Speed (8/10) – We will see but should be as good or better than FTTC or FTTP
Stability (3/10) – Currently poor, but no reason to think in the future this will not improve dramatically.
Installation Speed (7/10) – 2 to 4 Weeks – depends on provider.
Latency (4/10) – Currently Poor, but should improve in the future.
Accessibility (5/10) – Varies from provider to provider.
Install Cost (7/10) – Medium to High, again depends on the solution and the provider

Integra Connect – Bonded 4G SD-WAN

An excellent business grade alternative to FTTC, FTTP or ADSL in areas where those services are poorly provisioned but where there is a good 4G service.

The Integra service is a 4G or 5G based service utilising 2 SIMs from 2 different providers, utilising a commercial grade SDWAN router to combine the 2 mobile data services into a single higher capacity service.

The service is aimed at SME’s and home workers that require reliable connectivity at an affordable price.

How does Integra provide higher bandwidth than a normal 4g service?

Increased bandwidth capacity is achieved by:

  • Combining 2 SIMs delivered over 2 antennas into one service. The SDWAN router combines these 2 services dynamically and automatically;
  • Installing the appropriate commercial grade antenna to achieve the optimal signal. This may be an outdoor directional antenna in areas where the 4g towers are sparse or an omni directional antenna in more built up areas. The installation engineer will test this thoroughly on installation to achieve the optimal antenna type and placement;
  • Use of a commercial grade SDWAN router

Multi-Connectivity Resilience

An additional feature is resiliency – should there be any problem with one of the SIM provider’s service, the other one takes over enabling seamless continuity of service.

If an existing ADSL line is available on-site we can easily integrate it into our network providing extra bandwidth and reliabilty.

Business grade customer support

Unlike consumer 4g services, Integra comes with a business grade SLA.

Key Connectivity Facts

Price (7/10) – Low, but slightly more expensive than ADSL or FTTC due to multi-carrier connectivity – £99+Vat pm
Speed (7/10) – Typically Upto 60Mbps Download / 40Mbps. Can be as high as 150Mbps
Stability (9/10) – Good
Installation Speed (9/10) – Under 14 days
Latency (8/10) – Good, but depends on the location and network coverage
Accessibility (9/10) -Available everywhere apart from the most rural locations.
Install Cost (7/10) – £800+Vat one off charge. No Excess Construction Charges

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