There’s a lot to think about with the future of broadband and Internet connections in the UK due to the way in which Internet usages is evolving. When broadband was first introduced in the United Kingdom, it took a while to be fully adopted as the number one way to access the Internet. A decade ago, broadband connections were used on computers and laptops, before the first smartphone was widely released, this meant that people would connect to the Internet either at home or in work and never on the move.
The uses, therefore, were limited to web based applications and internet enabled software. Many still just used the Internet occasionally to check email, although it was starting to become more popular to use the Internet to make purchases. It is strange to think that it was only a decade ago and we were not using broadband anywhere near its potential.
Today, broadband has far more uses in everyday life and is becoming more and more essential for everyday life. In a recent Which survey, 90% of responders said that broadband was essential and water and food were at 97% which is not too far away. Given that 90% of users responded that it was essential, what is it essential for?
Internet access is has progressed a lot since it first became commonplace a decade ago. Since smartphones have become widespread since Apple released the iPhone 3, it is now a lot more common to see people connected to mobile broadband on the move. This increase in mobile technology and its reliance on an Internet connection to perform many tasks has seen the shape of broadband change quite a lot.
Alongside mobile phone usage, we have also seen an improvement in entertainment technology, such as the introduction of catch-up television services like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. Many new services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have also become popular in households now, all meaning that a stronger Internet connection is needed in order to stream shows and films without any buffering or slow down.
Broadband speeds have increased quite a lot since it was originally introduced at 2Mb per second. Currently, it is possible to get up to 17Mb per second in most areas, and most areas will average around 40mb per second with a fibre broadband connection. This increase in speed has helped increase technology further in areas like gaming, which relies heavily on a reliable and fast broadband connection. The reason gaming requires such a good broadband connection is due to the amount of data required to play. Many games today are so graphic heavy that they can be up to 50Gb in size and the majority of games can be downloaded or at the very least updated via the Internet. It is still possible to buy the disc version of games in stores, and this is due to the fact that they are so large that many people cannot wait the hours it takes to download over a broadband connection.
Many smart gadgets are now popular in the United Kingdom with devices like smart watches taking off over recent years. These devices require internet connectivity or a Bluetooth connection to your phone to function fully. This improvement shows that we as a population are relying more and more upon a reliable internet connection on the move. Currently, a large proportion of the UK can access the Internet on the move with a 4G broadband connection. Average speeds for 4G are around 12MB per second, which is still very fast and comparable to most landline broadband connections. It is still problematic when in rural areas or dead zones however and mobile broadband may be none existent for some.
As we become more and more reliant on our mobile smartphones and accessing things like email and social media on the go, it is likely that we will see an increased need for fast mobile broadband. We have already seen an increase in the amount of mobile data we use and even over the last year, or 2 our mobile data packages have grown from 2gb to 15gb as standard.
While this increase is likely to be in part a tactic by many mobile operators to make you spend more, it is clear that there is an increased need to offer such large amounts of mobile data due to the way in which we use our mobile phones. It is not even uncommon to know one or two friends who never connect to the Internet at home and rely on a 4g connection to connect to the Internet.
As we start to rely more on mobile connections and increased amounts of data, will we start to see a shift in pricing and perhaps even start to see unlimited data on mobile phone packages? If we do, it will be interesting to see how landline broadband competes.
The real area of interest for this comes down to the speed and reliability of mobile broadband. With the introduction of 5g looking likely, we could see speeds eclipsing most fibre broadband packages and soon we could be turning to mobile broadband packages for the fastest broadband than companies like Virgin Media.
We recently saw BT Group take over EE in 2015 and this could point to a feeling within the industry that mobile networks could soon the only way to access the Internet. It, therefore, makes sense for telecommunications companies like BT to merger with them so that they can take control of that too. Should the day come that mobile broadband makes landline broadband, obsolete companies like BT will want to make sure they are not impacted in any way.