Moving Past ADSL

Building new Digital Foundations

Over the last couple of months our blog has featured a lot of news about the emerging efforts and programmes aiming to spread ultrafast fibre connectivity across the UK, developing an effective foundation from which a more digitally engaged society can develop. Through programmes like the LFFN, hundreds of millions in funding is being allocated for the construction of networks able to deliver ultrafast speeds to businesses, schools and consumers.

The development of a strong digital foundation opens up the doors to a huge range of improvements. Overall, fibre rollouts create a major economic improvement whilst also giving users access to an ever-developing range of digital services, creating more connected communities.

With many of these programmes just starting out, it’s maybe a little too early to start talking about the full results, outside of a few key exceptions (with construction well underway for our LFFN-backed West Sussex DarkLight network). However, one of the larger, most positive changes we expect to see in the next few years deserves some attention - the end of ADSL connectivity, and a full switchover to fibre-based services.

Moving towards full fibre

ADSL connectivity is a copper-based option for Internet connectivity. When first available, ADSL was a vast step up from the standard, offering a major increase in speeds, along with lower costs in many cases. However, in the years since businesses, schools and increasingly home users have required better-performing connectivity, with high-bandwidth-demanding services like Netflix driving a significantly different approach to Internet performance.

At this point, technology has advanced to the point where we can confidently call certain fibre-based connectivity options future-proof - like our DarkLight service, for instance. DarkLight is designed so that users can upgrade their speeds whenever necessary, completely removing the cost of subsequent installation work.

At the moment, we’re able to provide any given DarkLight user with 10 Gbps performance - a level of speed that practically no businesses and schools will need to use for years (possibly decades) to come. However, we will, in all likelihood, eventually reach a point when 10 Gbps is not sufficient for users. By then, we’ll be adjusting DarkLight, ensuring that our service can handle even faster speeds - again, with no extra construction for customers.

End of ADSL copper internet cables vs ultra-fast fibre optic connectivity

Eventually, we expect to see a full replacement of the copper-based ADSL network with advanced fibre, giving users access to ultrafast speeds while helping to hugely cut down costs, essentially generating an effective foundation for subsequent digital development. This year, we have seen the launch of several new government initiatives to support the creation of an effective, full-fibre national network, following the success of countries like Singapore in doing so.

While this full rollout will take years to accomplish, it’ll create a major change, driving more effective and varied digital engagement across the UK, which we are looking forward to supporting, both through the high-quality services we provide and through our community-focused work with organisations like Bradford BID.

There are many people who don’t even have access to ADSL-level connectivity, with dialup still the only easily available Internet option across several parts of the country. We are proud to be working to help rectify this problem, ensuring that people in rural areas are able to get access to fibre connectivity through supporting Gigaclear, a company working to build ultrafast fibre networks throughout rural areas.

It’s also worth being aware of certain mistaken beliefs about fibre. For a long time, ISPs have been allowed to advertise services only partially using fibre as being entirely fibre, leading many to believe that they have access to the ultrafast connectivity they expect. In truth, real fibre connectivity - and the vast benefits it offers, is only active on a relatively small scale. Our partners at CityFibre have been working to help change this, giving customers a more realistic picture of what services they’re actually getting.

The fully actualised rollout of a national fibre network to replace ADSL will not happen for a long time, but it is, crucially, in sight.