The potential of broadband is effectively limitless. The reality for a lot of UK customers is quite different. We have, fortunately, become more educated about broadband availability in the last couple of years, allowing us to make informed decisions about the services we buy and what we can expect from them.
I’ve blogged recently about the key factor in this field being your distance from the exchange, which is pumping the signal out into your home. This is because unless you have access to a fibre optic service, signal strength weakens the further it gets from the source.
Fibre optic cable (which some still maintain, incidentally, was given to the world by aliens in the 1950s!) revolutionized the business of sending signals. A fibre optic cable is effectively an almost resistance-free strand of glass, which enables the sender to deliver a signal in a form so unpolluted it might as well be pristine.
Unfortunately fibre optic cabling is extremely expensive and until recently fibre optic broadband has simply been out of the question for most users. That’s because using fibre optic cabling required that your provider lays a cable specifically for you – so you had to bear the cost of having your equipment upgraded from exchange directly to your door.
Modern broadband availability is much more fluid, with some companies theoretically offering fibre optic cabling at affordable prices – and with all major providers striving to get a higher level of download speed to customers at home and in business environments.
They’re still reliant on the hardware extant in your area though. And that’s where its measurement comes into the equation.
SamKnows is probably the most famous non-profit broadband measurement service – a site initially started in 2004 by a graduate student who wanted to map the progress of development in the UK. These days, its technology is used to power this service comparison engines all over the internet – and its research informs the actions of the Government and major companies.
There are two basic factors in this field measurement – finding out where the closest exchange is to your postcode, and finding out what service providers operate in your area. By taking the different packages theoretically offered by those service providers, and measuring them against your home’s actual distance from the exchange, an accurate predication can be made about the kinds of services you will receive, and the speeds you can expect to get from them when they are installed.
You’ll find such a calculation on www.cable.co.uk, which allows you to find out if you get fibre optic cabling in your area; what major service providers deliver to you; and what the average speed they might give you will be.
The broadband supply industry has been revolutionized after Government scrutiny, which aims to close the gap between the UK and other developed nations enjoying speeds of as much as 100 Mbps. That’s still some way off here – but an average of around 5 Mbps is now the case for many UK homes.