One of the biggest lessons from months of living through a pandemic has been the critical importance of digital connectivity in keeping businesses running. And, despite the fact we all now have serious Zoom fatigue, the chances of returning to ‘normal’ office life any time soon remains slim, especially as local restrictions continue to be imposed.
Throughout this time, internet access has enabled so many of us to keep working. Research has found 43 per cent of employees say that, even once COVID-19 is under control, they would like to increase the amount of home-working they do. As a result, we will continue to see a great deal of video conferencing and digital business.
Yet, using apps like Skype and Zoom can be an endlessly frustrating experience, with lagging, buffering and dropped connections regularly interrupting our working day. This is the reality for many citizens across Scotland, given the fact just 16 per cent of homes nationwide currently have access to future-proof full fibre network infrastructure.
As the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, CityFibre is providing a solution by building game-changing networks across the country – including six cities in Scotland. With network projects in over 60 cities and construction underway to reach up to 8 million homes, CityFibre is future-proofing the UK. Something which is regularly discussed at government level, given its importance in driving the nation forward.
Powering our ambitions
While the term ‘fibre broadband’ is thrown around a lot, often when providers mention fibre, they are referring to connections that are only partly fibre (known as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet). These connections usually include some copper wiring for the final stretch to your home, which is a major factor in lagging and dropped connections. In fact, it was not even designed to carry internet services in the first place.
Full fibre is different. There is no copper wire involved at any stage. Instead, fibre connections are used for the entire length of the journey, straight into your home or business. That allows for Gigabit capable ‘lightning speed’ services and superior reliability. Simply put, full fibre gives you what you think you may be getting, or expect, from part fibre connections.
The UK is making real progress in the adoption of full fibre. However, we still lag behind our global neighbours. In 2019, the UK ranked 34th in the worldwide broadband speed table, behind a host of European countries. The average speed in the UK was 22.37Mbps, which compared unfavourably to Sweden – Europe’s top ranked country – which had an average speed of 55.18Mbps. Indeed, in the Scandinavian nation, full fibre coverage is more than 70 per cent, with the UK only now reaching the 16 per cent mark. This is why the government’s £5bn investment and commitment to roll out full fibre broadband to every UK home is so important.
It’s imperative we make up ground especially when you consider how data hungry we are as a nation. In fact, PwC says we’re expected to consume more data than any other Western European country over the next four years. Having robust, fast and future-proof digital connections is essential to keep feeding that appetite.
Today there are around fifteen million ‘smart homes’ in the UK, i.e. a home where key features such as lighting and heating can be voice activated or controlled through phone apps, and nearly half of homeowners have said they intend to upgrade their homes with more intelligent technology. Right now, the majority of smart home technology is used inside the house, but fifteen per cent of users manage their house remotely at least once a day. Even so, we are still only scratching the surface of how the smart home will change the way we live. And with our homes now being an office for many of us, the potential is endless.
The difference full fibre can make
Full fibre can revolutionise life in the UK. When it comes to business, many companies are struggling with data-heavy tasks and significant server strain, meaning employees are tapping their fingers while waiting for a file to be downloaded. Full fibre eliminates the problem, sending even the largest files at lightning speed. Recently, research from the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) found that areas with good connectivity (500 Mbits/s) had lower long term unemployment, better productivity and were more attractive to companies looking to relocate. Moreover, because it is future-proof, it can continue to support companies, however high their data consumption needs grow.
Beyond increased productivity, widescale full fibre connectivity gives employees the ability to work from home without worrying about their connection letting them down, providing vital flexibility and reassurance as the pandemic continues well into 2021 or if their employer opts for working from home to be a long-term arrangement. This allows businesses to reduce overheads while giving employees a superior work/life balance. Simultaneously, having more remote working will expand the talent pool that companies are able to access, which is especially important when it comes to the growing digital skills shortage.
Those benefits extend further still, with our full fibre network set to underpin Scotland’s implementation of Smart City solutions. With full fibre, it’s possible for local authorities to support a range of programmes that make a genuine difference for all citizens. There are plenty of examples across the globe, from digital tech making parking problems a thing of the past in South Korea’s biggest city, smart waste management trucks on New York’s roads or revolutionising the use of public transport in Iceland.
Across Scotland, implementation will be driven by the specific needs of the local population, whether that’s a focus on traffic management, CCTV or something else entirely. What we do know is this will all be powered by full fibre.
Adding value to Scotland
There will be genuine economic benefits too as a result of full fibre – something which has taken on extra importance in the wake of COVID-19. According to research we commissioned with economic consultancy Regeneris, full fibre networks will have a significant impact over the next 15 years.
Smart City initiatives could add as much as £1.5bn locally. Access to full fibre could also unlock £640m in business productivity and innovation, while a further £647m could be driven from start-ups, with the enhanced connectivity making it easier and cheaper to establish new businesses.
All of this demonstrates that Scotland’s economic recovery will be built upon digital foundations, helping to create new jobs and encourage enterprising start-ups. Lightning fast internet access is essential for a world in which remote working is the new normal and digital shopfronts the primary way for new businesses to generate customers.
The importance of full fibre was underlined by the fact that CityFibre contractors were designated as key workers during the first 2020 lockdown, enabling them to continue installing cables and bringing households and businesses online without interruption.
To find out more about how CityFibre is supporting Scotland’s economic recovery by rolling out city-wide full fibre, visit