When will home internet speeds catch up with demand?

Posted by Derek Mason

30th March 2021

Working from home is now perfectly normal, even though it may not be what many of us want. I know my engineers like to be in the office where it’s much easier for us all to collaborate, and for me to share my knowledge and experience with them.

But in many sectors people are happy to be working from home, and with the statistics we’ve seen, it’s clear that we need better connectivity in our homes. The construction industry needs to adapt to these rapid changes so that new build homes have the internet speeds this new era requires.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in March 2020, 1.7 million out of the 32.6 million people in employment were working mainly from home. That’s a mere 5% of employees. And only 30% of people had worked from home at some point.

We don’t need to check the statistics to know that those figures have changed dramatically. In fact, you can probably tell that more people are working from home by how sluggish your internet is. With 88% of global companies encouraging their employees to work from home, this is no surprise.

And we won’t all return to the office. We’ll never again see a situation where only 5% of people work from home. By 2025, the Centre for Economics & Business Research (CEBR) predicts that 6 million people (25% of the UK workforce) will be working from home on any given day.

If you’ve tried to work from home over the last 12 months, then you may already be aware that there will need to be infrastructure changes in order for this to be feasible. It’s not just employees and the self-employed who need to be accommodated. Students are engaging in more online learning, and during the height of the pandemic, half of patients accessed their GP or other healthcare services online.

A high-speed internet connection is now an essential utility, rather than a luxury. And the construction industry will play a key part in delivering this utility. If we want to future-proof the properties we build, then all new build homes must have access to a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connection. So fibre-optic cabling will have to run to every single property.

Currently, most fibre broadband runs only to the cabinet in the street, and the last section of cable is slow copper wire, which wasn’t designed to carry internet data.

New government legislation is planned that will ensure all new-build homes come with gigabit-speed broadband. This aims to remove the need to install broadband infrastructure retrospectively. Operators including Virgin Media and Openreach will contribute towards the costs.

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has said that this will “deliver internet speeds 200 times faster than you would need to watch an HD film on Netflix”.

This makes for a good headline, but I think many of us are more concerned with whether everyone in our household can successfully use Zoom or Teams at the same time – so that we can continue to do our jobs and run our businesses.

As Mikael Sandberg, Chairman at VX Fiber, puts it, “Homes that aren’t kitted out with high speed internet and data connections offering full fibre coverage, at the fastest speeds… quite simply are no longer fit for purpose.”

What are your thoughts? How is your internet bearing up? Is it fit for purpose, or have you struggled to work from home?

As always, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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