/ Technology

What are the barriers to adopting Gigabit-capable connections?

The Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) looks at the consumer and business barriers to adopting gigabit-capable connections. Here are the group’s next steps.

Some people don’t have a great experience with the broadband connections they have today. To help address this issue, and to ensure that the UK has the right broadband infrastructure to help support economic growth and consumer and business needs in the years to come, the government has set out its ambition for at least 85% of the UK to have access to gigabit-capable broadband connections by 2025.

The government, Ofcom and industry have all been taking steps to ensure the supply of these connections – including the government’s £5bn Project Gigabit which will help deliver these connections to the hardest to reach parts of the UK. However, for the benefits of gigabit-capable broadband to be realised, it is critical that consumers and business take-up these connections.

That’s why, in August 2020, the government asked Which?, alongside the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), to convene the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) to look at the consumer and business barriers to adopting gigabit-capable connections and what solutions might be needed to help them overcome these.

What is gigabit-capable broadband?

Today, we all rely on good connectivity for everyday tasks. This need for good connectivity is only set to continue, with more and more services moving online – including those which are critical for consumers such as banking.

The pandemic has meant that many of us have been in situations which stretched the capacity of our connectivity over the last few months with many people at home connected at the same time. Gigabit-capable broadband will allow our families to have several video conferences, watching the newest shows on Netflix and gaming, all at the same time.

Gigabit-capable broadband networks are not only capable of delivering much faster speeds (e.g. a 1Gbps connection can allow users to download a high definition film in under one minute), they are also more reliable and futureproofed than the connections most of us use today.

What has the GigaTAG recommended?

However, despite ever increasing demand for good connectivity, consumer engagement with the broadband market is low. 

Our research suggests that this is for a number of reasons including a lack of awareness of gigabit-capable broadband; that people don’t see a benefit in gigabit-capable broadband perhaps not understanding how it is different to the connection they have today, or not being willing to pay more; and there are also practical concerns, such as concerns about switching and not wanting to leave the current provider.

What might stop you from taking up Gigabit broadband?
Loading ... Loading ...

To help overcome some of these barriers that consumers face, the GigaTAG has today published a number of recommendations to help ensure that people are aware of these connections and the benefits they offer. It’s recommendations include:

🌐 Ofcom and the broadband industry should work together to develop common terminology to describe gigabit broadband and a core set of benefits this will help people better understand why they should buy a gigabit connection.

🌐 The government should enlist the help of local authorities, providing them with the tools they need to raise awareness and promote the benefits of upgrading to gigabit broadband. At the right time, the government should also undertake its own nationwide awareness-raising leading a coalition of stakeholders to work together on a national campaign;

🌐 In addition to ongoing work to introduce voluntary social tariffs, the government should conduct an evidence-based assessment of the existing and potential measures to support low-income households. This should include exploring the possibility of a targeted voucher scheme aimed at lower-income households, and;

🌐 Further consideration should be given to an employer-led scheme to support the uptake of gigabit broadband by offering employee discounts. This will also help businesses support remote working, which has boomed in the wake of the pandemic.

What are the next steps?

Which? is going to continue its work as part of the GigaTAG – the group will reconvene in six months to review progress on taking these recommendations forward, and we will meet on a biannual basis thereafter.

We will work with Ofcom, government and industry to help ensure that these recommendations are implemented, and that we are all ready to take advantage of these new connections when they become available.

Which of the solutions above do you think could have the biggest impact? Which one would make you more likely to take up gigabit-capable broadband?

Let us know in the comments.

Comments

For the past five years I have been using an FTTP service and currently have a download speed of 79 Gbps, which is slightly more than I pay for. It’s also very reliable. I could pay more for a gigabit service but it would be of no benefit and would just cost more.

I very much support the roll-out of FTTP to more homes, particularly those with slow and unreliable services but it seems unlikely that most of us will pay for gigabit services in the near future.

Em says:
17 June 2021

@wavechange – 79 Gbps? Sounds about 80x faster than FTTP can provide.

Or did you mean FTTC at 79 Mbps?

Yes, it should have been 79 Mbps but it was too late to correct it when I spotted the error.

Em says:
17 June 2021

LOL. Reminds me of the old joke about a student who was sent to the electronics store to get a 1 Farad capacitor. “Surely, you mean one mF?” “No, one Farad, 500V please.”

He got his capacitor, but they charged the earth for it.

I suppose there would be a hefty charge for a large capacitor. 🙂

the government should conduct an evidence-based assessment of the existing and potential measures to support low-income households. ”. What benefit would a normal household, low income or otherwise, get from gigabit-capable broadband? Is it essentially for streaming entertainment, gaming and the like? If so, I see no reason to support (subsidise) it.

“malcolm r! To the Telescreen! Now!”

“Gigabit-capable broadband will allow our families to have several video conferences, watching the newest shows on Netflix and gaming, all at the same time.”

So this new tech promotes the death of the traditional nuclear family as it allows each individual family member to go their separate ways in isolation within a common residence.

Methinks its promoters need to see if there is a more wholesome USP for consumer take up.

Business take up would be another matter, but not one Which? should be worrying about.

I do hope that any any existing gigabit internet users will post here to tell us how it benefits them for home uses, including working from home…

An example is that when Apple releases a new iOS version, which is typically around 4.5GB, I can download it in less than a minute.

I look at it the other way round. Why have slower speeds when a gigabit is available?

Thanks NFH. My view is simply never spend more than you need to.

True. But spending £40 on 1Gbps internet is like buying Champagne instead of cheap sparkling wine. On the other hand, I pay almost zero for my mobile phone service.

We now have a download speed of 976 Mbps. As we operate some nine computers, several tablets and a plethora of connected devices it makes sense to have the fastest we can. Updates are where the speed shows its value: instead of waiting interminable times for the TV updates, they’re in so fast we barely notice, and it also increases the socialisation potential of the connected utensils. The FF can now chat to the oven, instead of simply eyeing it up from afar.

Ian, do you get a similarly fast upload speed?

Only around 3-4Mbps upload. Mind you, blindingly fast compared with what we used to get.

As mine is a gigabit also on the upstream, I host web sites etc at home using my own hardware. I could run a server farm, but that would be too noisy for a residential environment.

I had not realised that Which? chairs the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG): https://consumerinsight.which.co.uk/articles/gigatag#membership

I hope that Which? will push for service providers to provide affordable tariffs for those who do not need gigabit speeds and unlimited data.

“The Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) will advise on a strategic, evidence based approach to stimulating demand among consumers and businesses for gigabit-capable broadband connections. ”

That looks like a marketing function, not a consumer rights one…

It’s just another example of the need to restore Which? as a consumers’ association that is proudly independent of commercial interests.

Phil says:
16 June 2021

Something which isn’t mentioned in the original article.

‘Stimulating demand’, ie profits for commercial organisations should not be part of Which? remit. Why are they doing this?

I currently can’t see any advantage to me. So I can download films etc faster but apart from the odd programme on iPlayer I rarely do this and just leave the computer to get on with it whilst I’m asleep or doing something else. If Which? want to do something in this area they could investigate the disparity in prices. A friend gets 900mb for £20 a month, in my area the same service would be £79 which is a ludicrous price. He lives in a city with a choice of providers, there’s competition, where I live the one provider has a monopoly.

I hope that Which? will put the same sort of effort and resources, together with workable proposals, into areas that are beneficial to consumers. This report and work seems to me to be essentially a business benefit; I do not see it that relevant to consumers, unless we regard gaming, entertainment, multi-tasking as an essential consumer need. I would suggest those consumers who can afford the entertainment, gaming, and have sufficient hardware to multi-task could also afford to pay for the service they would like.

Which? is about supporting consumers, not businesses, so I am not sure why they are so prominently involved in this work, unless it needs virtually none of their scarce resources.

I’ve had gigabit broadband at home for almost 7 years. Every other connection I use, for example in hotels, seems painfully slow in comparison. I currently pay £40 per month without a phone line, which I negotiated last Black Friday. And I’m still getting close to gigabit speeds, despite many more customers connecting in my area: https://www.speedtest.net/my-result/d/720778aa-a9c3-4a36-922d-02f0e9045b32

Having read Which? article and Conversations, I am none the wiser.
Perhaps Which? would have the courtesy to advise a numpty like me:
1. What is Gigabit broadband? Is it new technology?
2. Who supplies Gigabit service?
3. Is it currently available through existing Suppliers of broadband?
4. If so Where? Whom?
5. How can I check to find out?

I currently use Pulse 8 fibre to the box and get around 50-56Mbps.
Recently approached by Borderlink https://www.borderlink.co.uk/ They mentioned inter alia, Gigabit broadband. My first knowledge of it.
Having dismissed their approach, I have now sent off for more details.

Which? is certainly NOT doing a good job for existing clueless members.

These are actually quite useful questions @ggdad – as Laura’s piece says there’s not a lot of awareness among consumers about gigabit broadband in the first place, and we’ve started this discussion to hear what barriers are preventing people from taking up a faster broadband connection, if indeed it is something they would like to do.

There’s a policy angle to this as well, but hearing these sort of questions also helps Which? to identify where we can be of further help to people.

It doesn’t`help when companies like Netomnia on behalf of YouFibre come onto a housing estate where everything is underground and erect 40 ft high masts outside our homes to supply High Speed Broadband by overhead wires into our homes. This technology went out years ago. All done roughshod and without any consultation with residents.
Then they send leaflets out advertising speeds of 10,000 Mbps, yes 10,000 Mbps.

In Swindon, similar installations caused chaos for months by digging up pavements everywhere. Wires or fibres on the existing telephone poles would have caused much less disruption. As regards the latter, little if any notice or warning was given to local residents.

So far, the biggest claimed advantage for higher download speeds seems to be that software updates download more rapidly.

But all the devices I use manage to download updates as background tasks, so I personally do not see much of a benefit there.

I think this emerging tech just needs some new killer app before it will really gain much traction as a popular customer choice.

But, in turn, that might need an order of magnitude speed increase in home computing devices.

I’ve rarely found leaving updates to download as background tasks is very reliable; but then, until a week ago, the fastest speed we had was 7Mbps…

I have memories of having to take my home computers to work because it took so long to download software updates at home. In these days, software came on disks. It’s not just updates but software itself that we need to be able to download.

I like to control my updates and install them on a freshly booted PC when they have the greatest chance of success.

You will be finding out the delights (or not) of internet TV on demand then Ian.

At the moment, 40Mbps is enough for us to watch streamed 4K movies, but there are already moves into 8K and if too many take it up we will be struggling again on 40Mbps as that is the most we can get at the moment.

The goalposts are continually moving and keeping up with them will always be a problem.

I would question whether Which? should chair the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group [GigaTAG]. Taking the chairing role generally implies a degree of neutrality and conciliation between different interests. Which? is there to represent consumers unequivocally and while it is extremely useful to have a strong voice for consumers present in such discussions it would be better if it were not compromised by any need to align with powerful industry pressures on systems, terms and conditions and, above all, tariffs and customer service standards. I hope my misgivings are unfounded. I wonder why Ofcom is not chairing this coordinating body.

In terms of the uptake of gigabit broadband services, I think tariff is the most important issue which will govern the degree to which domestic users will wish, or need, to sign up. I feel there should be no commercial pressure on uptake, no sense of feeling inadequate, or in the slow lane, or disadvantaged, by not being on the highest available speed. This will not be necessary for everyone; possibly not even a majority of consumers will need gigabit speeds. There is no need for any missionary zeal attached to this as there is for faster broadband generally. That battle has not yet been won and I would have thought that should have been Which?’s priority. My view is that Which? has taken its foot off the pedal on equivalence of broadband service throughout the country and moved over to hitch itself to something it sees as more exciting and progressive, which it no doubt is if people need it and can afford it.

Households that are routinely and simultaneously using many computers and internet-driven devices will obviously find the additional capacity valuable and worth paying for. Whether an additional phone line or satellite connexion would provide the extra capacity required might be worth exploring in some cases.

I would suggest that a premium service like gigabit speeds should command a higher tariff and that the consumer interest should press for a proportionate reduction in the tariffs for slower broadband services.

The coronavirus lockdowns have shown that many households have been adversely affected [particularly in terms of education] by a lack of broadband capacity and speeds and by an entry price for connectivity that is beyond their means in both hardware and transmission costs. I should like to see equivalent effort directed to those issues.

Patrick Taylor says:
17 June 2021

I share Malcolm’s concerns about Which?s role. To be blunt the idea of a consumer charity getting into bed with a consortium of profit driven companies to
“ensure” anything worries me as it seems to put Which? on the wrong side of the table.

” We will work with Ofcom, government and industry to help ensure that these recommendations are implemented, and that we are all ready to take advantage of these new connections when they become available.”

Given Which?’s inability to address concerns directly within its remit as a consumer charity such as the appalling behaviour of major retailers like Currys , the possible plans of solictors to cap how much money may be returned to clients if there is a crook at the solicitors, the number of poorly completed new builds with issues, the importance of commonhold, and whether leasehold should be abolisshed for housing, and of course why the likes of Amazon can sell unsafe goods without consequences to Amazon, are perhaps ome of the far more pressing matters for consumers.

We may be fortunate not to be affected by one of these individual issues but the role of Which?, owned by the charity the Consumers Association, is surely to be far more hands on with genuine consumer issues. The low take-up of super-fast broadband is not the slightest problem for most of the population but it is for companies in the industry. Who is paying the staff’s salaries?

Em says:
17 June 2021

What is stopping me ? BT Openreach !

I would have upgraded to gigabit by now if it was available here. I can see the flightpath to Gatwick from where I live in Sussex. Hardly the back of beyond, but it’s an exchange serving a semi-rural area. Here’s what BT Openreach have to say:

“At the moment, we don’t have any plans to upgrade your area to full fibre, but provide your contact details and we’ll keep you up to date if things change – we add new locations into our build plan every three months.”

I can’t even pay for an FTTP connection if I was prepared to stump up the final 300 yards to the cabinet. That option was withdrawn a couple of years ago.

I think lack of service is the major barrier most of us face. Up to 40Mbps was a surprise when it happened so perhaps we will be equally surprised to find gigabit at some stage.

Em says:
17 June 2021

Gigabit broadband is still unnecessary for the vast majority of consumers who use it for domestic purposes.

Live streaming Sky and BT Sport need maybe 2 Mbps each – video conferencing a bit less as we don’t really want or need to see each other in High Definition. NOW TV disgracefully change an extra £3 per month for NOW Boost to obtain even this relatively glitch-free streaming speed.

Netflix and other content-on-demand services allow you to download before watching. It only takes a few minutes or can be set up to download episodes in advance.

Those requirements are easily within the capabilities of a FTTC connection. As long as you live within 500 yards of a cabinet, you can get a decent 30 Mbps download connection.

As for low-income houses needing subsidies for gigabit, will that extent to the multiple televisions, laptops, tablets and content subscriptions required to take advantage of these ultra-fast connections?

I support disadvantaged students who need a good laptop and broadband connection for Zoom conferencing. They are more deserving than most as it is a part of their education missed as a result of lockdown. But connections are only as fast as the slowest link. I am stuck with FTTC, whether I can afford to pay for a faster service or not. Subsidies would be better spent of quicker fibre rollout nationally. Once there is a critical mass of users, prices will become more affordable of their own accord.

I agree that gigabit internet is unecessary for most consumers. But so is Champagne. I am happy to pay £40 per month for gigabit internet in the same way that I’m happy to spend €40 on a bottle of Champagne. It’s a luxury for technically-minded people.

Should Which be aiding the marketing and sales growth of Champagne?

Porsche are one of their best buys………

Em says:
19 June 2021

I defend the right of anyone to spend their own money as they wish, as long as it does not harm other humans, animals and the environment. But I didn’t realize that Champagne is also available with subsidies for low income families. How do qualify?

I’m quite partial to Champagne, especially if someone else is paying.

Em says:
17 June 2021

The main reason I would want a gigabit connection is to provide improved upload speeds. The standard FTTC ADSL connection is about 5 times slower on the upstream link. So even “Superfast” broadband only gives about 12 Mbps upstream compared to 60 Mbps downstream speeds. That’s what the “A” stands for in ADSL – Asymmetric.

Why is this important?

If I am hosting a teleconference over FTTC broadband, the fastest I can transmit is capped by the upstream speed, regardless of how fast the viewers’ connection speed is.

Also for security. I try to schedule regular backups of my systems to the cloud. I struggle to do a full backup of one PC in less than 24 hours. Whilst a backup is in progress it compromises other services I might want to use. Then there are the other devices that should be backed up. And the occasional failures that occur over a long backup timeframe that require a restart. It’s currently unworkable to any degree that I would be comfortable with.

Again this is a consideration that would not really impact most consumers, but small businesses and the increasing numbers working from home.

ZA says:
18 June 2021

I have 200 Mb via Virgin. They do offer up to 500 Mb but it’s too pricey for me. Currently I pay £30 monthly, the 500Mb would cost me around £50 + monthly.

I would make the jump if I could as a faster Internet is much easier and comfortable.

One thing I have noticed is that even with a Samsung S20+ the Internet isn’t as fast as on my mum’s OnePlus phone.

It worries me that I might buy a faster connection only to be slowed down by my hardware which is top of the range.

Welcome to the world of consumerism and why we are forced to keep buying replacement tech when our old tech still functions adequately.

I have been staying with friends whose broadband service is supplied by Virgin. I checked the download speed and it was about 225 Mbps. Unfortunately the connection dropped occasionally and when I mentioned this I was told that this is a regular problem and creates problem when watching TV.

Much is said about broadband speed but perhaps an uninterrupted service is just as important.

I now find the salient factor is the speed of the servers I’m contacting.

That’s go to be better than the frustration of having a slow connection. 😉

Ian, you’re right. Apple has some of the fastest servers. If you download a 4.5GB iOS update, it is usually at full speed of your connection.

Patrick Taylor says:
23 June 2021

So overall there seems to be resounding feeling that this is not Which?’s remit but then what do subscribers matter? Perhaps someone can explain the rational of this move given that acting as an observer like the DCMS would seem more logical given its consumer champion role.

Which? (Chair)
Confederation of British Industry (vice-Chair)
Federation of Small Businesses (vice-Chair)
Ofcom
Broadband Stakeholder Group
Internet Service Providers’ Association
Be the Business
DCMS (observer)
Good Things Foundation (external advisor)

Anyway what is the quality of questions …

Questions for consumer groups
●What do you believe are the key issues consumers face when considering whether to upgrade their broadband connection? Might these issues be different for different groups of consumers? How do you think these may apply to gigabit connectivity? Please include any evidence you have to support these views.
●Do you have any evidence of the ways in which consumers can be successfully encouraged to adopt new technologies? How do you think this could be applied to gigabit take-up?
●What do you believe the key factors are that influence consumers’ broadband purchasing decisions?
●What role do you think consumer groups can play in helping to support take-up of gigabit capable connections?

Personally I think Which? staff can be better employed than assisting in market research for commercial entities. I do wonder what the Trustees of the Charity are doing or if they are even aware of this.

D Langford says:
25 June 2021

Returning for a moment to the original issue – for me, a gigabit connection would be great, IF one were available; but it isn’t.