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Options for rural broadband

Broadband Genie contributor Jamie Kavanagh, a contributor from Broadband Genie goes through the broadband options available for those struggling with slow connections in rural areas.

If you live in the country it is easy to feel disappointed when you see people in your nearest town enjoying 300Mbps broadband speeds while you struggle to get 2 or 3Mbps. Superfast broadband seems to mean different things to those in rural areas than it does for those in towns and cities and it's usually the countryside that loses out.

It isn't all bad news though. New providers and new technologies are offering alternatives to the standard broadband options. The Universal Service Obligation is forcing providers to improve services across the board and providers are gradually rolling out faster services into rural areas. It is a slow process, much like downloading something on your current connection, but it is improving.

Why is rural broadband slower?

There are several reasons why rural areas suffer with slower broadband speeds. Much of it comes down to cost. While providers are permitted to subsidise rural connections with profits they make from urban customers, it is still often uneconomical to lay fibre in those areas where only a few customers would pay for the service.

Other reasons include:
  • Cost prohibits providers from laying cable in many rural areas.
  • The distance between properties in rural areas means it is much more expensive to connect them to faster broadband.
  • Distances between properties and street cabinets means slower connection speeds. The further from a cabinet you are, the slower your connection will be.
  • Some rural properties do not connect to a cabinet at all but directly to the exchange. This means that even if fibre was available in your area, you could not connect to it.
How to get faster rural broadband

Traditional broadband connections may be gradually improving but will rely on you being patient enough to wait. In the meantime, there are viable alternatives that can speed up your connection. Here are a few viable options for rural broadband.

Pay for a faster connection

BT, Virgin Media and other providers may be willing to lay cable or provide a faster connection to your property but only if you pay for it. Depending on where you live, this could be a reasonable cost or many thousands of pounds. If you are willing to invest the cash it is worth discussing your needs with a provider.

In some rural areas residents have split the cost of a fibre optic installation to provide very fast access to their entire community. Projects such as B4RN and Gigaclear also work with rural villages to install modern broadband services.

Go wireless with 4G

If you have a decent mobile signal, you may be able to use 4G wireless to provide an internet connection. The cost has reduced significantly over the past few years and included data has become more generous. If the signal is strong enough you can supercharge your internet access through mobile. If your property has thick walls, you can use a mobile repeater to gain access to 4G within your home. You can also consider high gain antennas or LTE aerials which can help boost the signal further.

Fixed Wireless Access

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is offered by private companies who offer this service to rural areas across Great Britain. FWA does away with expensive cables and fixed lines. Instead it uses secure wireless connections to provide internet access. Costs vary between companies but can be as low as £24.99 for a 40Mbps connection.

Satellite broadband

Satellite broadband is the connection of last resort due to its expense but if all other options are closed to you, it may be worth considering. The majority of the UK is able to access satellite broadband and speeds are increasing while costs are slowly decreasing. It is still an expensive option and isn't suitable for all uses but is a viable option if none of the other connection types are available to you.

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