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Is Britain’s broadband nightmare finally over?

Britain’s broadband problems are well-documented. In London, where many of the country’s biggest businesses are set up, many have struggled to get the internet required to run their companies.

On Friday, BT announced they would be trialling new broadband technology in Shoreditch, an area in which internet has been notoriously sub-par.

The technology itself could be a game-changer for London’s broadband woes. One of the problems with installing fibre optic in London buildings is that businesses have to get planning permission from a number of stakeholders before it can go ahead.

This solution circumvents that problem and could be the broadband technology London startups have been waiting for.

While many have been celebrating the potential arrival of faster speeds and better connectivity via new FTTRn technology (more on this later), the extent of the trial is still shrouded in mystery.

Mixed messages

There is particular confusion about who exactly will be picking the companies and buildings that take part in the trial and about how many will in fact be taking part.

On Friday, BT revealed they would be asking Tech City UK to help them reveal which companies were in most need of better internet.

However, Tech City UK are adamant they will have no say in who takes part in the trial.

A spokesperson for the organisation said their role in the process is solely to make tech businesses in the area aware that the trial exists.

We spoke to BT about the mixed messages. Having confirmed to us this Tuesday that they would be working with Tech City UK in deciding who would be taking part, BT now say that they’ll “be monitoring demand for fibre based services amongst businesses in the area alongside Tech City to help determine the locations for the trial”.

Poor broadband

It’s no secret that broadband can be at best patchy in an area that the government and Tech City UK have put a lot of effort in making business-ready.

While Boris Johnson has promised that London will be pioneering 5G technology, many companies would be happy if their offices could get the level of connectivity their phones currently do with 4G.

Businesses who feel their broadband is poor, of which there are a substantial number according to the Guardian, can express their interest in taking part through the BT Openreach website.

BT were unable to tell us how many businesses or buildings would be taking part in the trial. They also said it was “too early to say” what the criteria would be for those that are chosen.

They added that fibre is available in two thirds of premises in the boroughs that house parts of Tech City and that they have plans to extend the coverage over the next two years.

FTTRn technology

It is worth noting that FTTRn technology is not just being trialled in East London. BT will also be conducting trials in rural areas where the existing solutions are currently not feasible.

The trial in question is for Fibre to the Remote node technology that BT believes shows real promise for getting fibre broadband to areas when fibre is otherwise not available.

It brings fibre closer to homes or businesses by using a smaller piece of street furniture, as opposed to a street cabinet, further on in the copper network.

FTTRn means that the (non-fibre) copper wires have to travel less far and therefore maintain better connection speeds.

How you can get involved

What Tech City UK hopes to achieve is raising awareness that trials are taking place, and having as many companies as possible who struggle with their internet to express interest so that BT are made the aware of the extent of the problems.

They also have plans to engage with other superfast broadband providers such as Virgin and Optimity in an effort to “make sure the needs of Tech City businesses are heard.”

If you are interested in taking part in the trial, you can register interest here.

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