THE BLOG

Race Is on to Move Britain Into the Broadband Fast Lane

27/01/2014 15:36 GMT | Updated 29/03/2014 09:59 GMT

The fastest EVER broadband speed - 1.4 terabits per second - has just been recorded in a joint experiment between BT and Alcatel-Lucent. If you struggle to download films in under an hour and always avoid websites that use flash, this news might well irk you.

Because at that speed you could send 44 uncompressed high definition films in just one second - not struggle to download Coronation Street in less time than it takes to watch it.

For those of us enjoying living in the countryside, but not blessed with broadband speeds of anywhere close to 1.4Tbps, there's hope on the horizon. The Government has announced a £10million pot for businesses that want to build or design clever technology that will help deliver super speedy broadband to remote rural locations in Britain. The launch of this initiative coincides with the appointment of a new broadband chief exec at DCMS, Chris Townsend.

Let's face it, broadband speeds have always been a postcode lottery, condemning users to whatever speeds are available within their area. But our home broadband needs have greatly evolved since the days of dial-up, and broadband is now seen as the fourth utility. We need fast, reliable internet at home and at work, and we won't settle for slow download speeds and poor streaming quality.

Most British homes now have multiple people with multiple gadgets, all competing for bandwidth. It's not uncommon for households to have the family PC, a tablet, a smartphone, a smart TV and a games console all accessing the world wide web at once.

And the average user is getting younger - four million kids in Britain today learn how to use smartphones or tablets by the time they are three years old. No more Duplo for today's tots - with parents spending £5.6bn last year on gadgets for kids, it seems it's all about Candy Crush these days.

So Chris Townsend needs solutions - and fast. One of the main technologies being mooted as the saviour of streaming is super-fast mobile internet - aka 4G. Rolling this out to the least connected parts of Britain will give people an alternative to copper or fibre broadband.

This is exciting news for those out in the sticks who currently suffer the daily frustration of a poor connection - but despite the advantage of not needing a landline and the line rental charges this incurs, it could still come with a large bill attached.

For now at least, 4G would be incredibly expensive if it was used to the extent that a gadget-heavy, family home would need, especially as none of the 4G mobile deals come with unlimited data downloads. Although using 4G signal alleviates some of the problems associated with poor broadband quality, it is by no means the only option.

For those searching for faster broadband it's vital to know what's available in your area. Fibre-optic broadband is becoming more readily available and more affordable as providers understand that they need to be investing in fibre technology to retain, as well as attract, loyal broadband customers. Before long, the rapidly growing fibre optic infrastructure will be delivering a far superior internet service, regardless of whether you're based in central London or the Outer Hebrides.

And finally we have satellite broadband, which has yet to really take off in the UK. This might be down to the high costs compared to standard broadband, yet if providers were to offer a more competitive pricing model, it could well be the future for broadband. It is a great option for those who move regularly, such as students, because there is no need for a landline. However, a word of warning for the data-hungry household - most packages are restrictive on download limits.

Although it will be interesting to see what new technologies are brought to the table, these changes won't happen overnight. Until then, look at your options and do your homework - see what's available in your area and make sure you find a package that meets your needs. Avoid paying over the odds for extras you don't need but - if you have three iPads, four smartphones, an Xbox, and a family PC in your household - make sure your household is fully covered for all your streaming, browsing and download needs.