What are the best Internet options for country living? Well, as you will probably know, we live in the countryside in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and struggle with a very slow ADSL BT broadband connection of 1.2mbps download. We’re not alone. We are one of the forgotten 4% (which amounts to 1.1 million homes) that can’t access internet speeds over 10mbps. You see home internet in rural areas is one of the hardest and costly to serve for internet service providers, so it hasn’t always made the best business sense for them. Thankfully the Government has stepped in (at least in Scotland) and made a pledge to serve 100% of homes with super fast internet (classed as 24mbps download) by 2020 and so far they’re on target.
What Internet Options are there in Rural Areas?
Now those of you in the countryside may already be familiar with the fact that you don’t have to have broadband from a fixed line. These days there are a number of options, such as Satellite broadband (from company’s such as Tooway and Avanti). Although a good option, due to it’s costly infrastructure (well they have to launch and maintain a satellite after all!) the packages are quite expensive for the speeds you get… and they are data capped. So you could look to spend anywhere between £20 – £140 per month (for 5GB and 150GB data caps respectively), plus the upfront cost of the hardware. Broadband speed can vary… Standard packages you are looking to get 15mbps download with a 2mbps upload. Sure some of the packages are uncapped at night, but unless you’re a night owl that won’t really be helpful. We live in a society where we are used to having things at our fingertips.
Data capped: Yes to 150GB
Speeds download/upload: 15mbps/2mbps average
Price: £20-£140 per month plus upfront costs and optional installation of circa £200
4G mobile broadband
Now 4G broadband has come on massively in the last 12 months thanks to EE mainly. They seem to have targeted the ‘notspots’ and offer a range of 4G data only sims and sim card routers, with good data heavy plans, such as 100GB for £45 per month and 200GB for £60 per month. Vodafone is offering half the data for the same price (at time of publishing) so you can see EE mean business with their mobile broadband. They also offer an additional service to have an external antenna fitted to your building to maximise signal strength to your sim card router. This service is £100 one off fee and if on the visit they can’t improve your speed, or increase it to your liking, then they refund you £90… So it’s worth a go. We had one fitted and get up to 50mbps download and 17mbps upload. Due to the data cap, I keep a close eye on it and use it solely for work but it’s a great option. I also recommend that you get your own sim card router (we have this one from Amazon), as we found the one that came with the package overheated from being on 24/7 and started to play up after 6 months.
Data capped: Yes to 200GB
Speeds download/upload: 28mbps/9.29mbps average
Price: £40-£60 per month plus optional external aerial £100
There are a number of independent companies in the UK with their own fixed wireless network. Working based on line of sight from relays and transmitters to get a broadband connection to your rural home. Packages span 5mbps to 20mbps with costs of £20-£37 per month and most offer unlimited data. If you can pick up on a local transmitter then this is a great solution on both cost and data.
Data capped: Unlimited
Speeds download/upload: 20mbps/5mbps best packages
Price: £20-£37 per month plus £150 installation fee on average
FTTP (Fibre to the Premise)
Now I think it’s safe to say we are all mainly familiar with the traditional Internet service providers supplying via cables. In fact it’s likely that what you have currently is FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) and then copper cable the rest of the way to your house… which is too far to benefit from the speed provided to the cabinet. Well FTTP stands for Fibre to the Premise and is a direct fibre cable from your property to the exchange. Currently these are lines capable of 1GBPS download, although packages only exist for up to 330mbps download at the moment, it’s fairly future proof in that respect. This is what is currently being rolled out in our area and we are waiting with baited breath for it to go live. There are a number of companies offering this service, which can have hefty installation costs and depends on the distance to the exchange or nearest fibre node. You can either request a quote from an FTTP service supplier, or complete a community fibre form on the Openreach site and go in together with your neighbours to share the cost of this. At the moment in the UK there is a gigabit voucher scheme, where a £3,000 voucher is granted to registered business addresses and a £500 voucher to residential addresses. So it’s worth checking in your area to see if any neighbours work from home and have a business registered there. It may be that you could collect enough from the vouchers to make this viable for you. Openreach also grant up to £30,000 towards the install if there is a school on your line that will benefit.
Data capped: Unlimited
Speeds download/upload: 100mbps/30mbps lowest package
Price: £40-£60 per month initially (if using the voucher scheme criteria) then you can drop down to any ISP package to suit. Installation costs are bespoke and depend on distance and can be tens or hundreds of thousands.
How can I check what is the best Rural Broadband For Me?
First up you will want to find out what speed you should be getting from your lined connection, if you have one. You can find out using the BT ADSL checker (even if you aren’t with BT). Look either of ADSL or VDSL (depending if you are copper or fibre… You may only have ADSL). For reference mine says 1-3.5mbps download available ADSL but says VDSL is planned with a download of 4mbps. I get 1.2mbps when I test the speed from my router using Ookla, so I’m within range.
Next it’s worth checking on the Openreach site to see the status of broadband in your area. This will establish if you are in scope for an upgrade and you can contact Openreach via their web form also for more information.
You may also have a government body, such as Superfast Scotland, Superfast Cornwall etc who have more localised roll out plans. As well as the infrastructure contact at your local council.
Once you have got a better idea of the picture in your area you can make a decision based on whether there is a solution coming within the year, or something more permanent. Also check your data usage with your existing ISP, to work out whether you would be fine on a data capped plan and that you select the correct plan for your needs.