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Understanding The Challenges of Rural Internet

Rural Ireland for National Broadband Ireland

According to CSO 8% of households in Ireland doesn’t have Internet connection. Out of the 92% that have, fixed connection is the most common (85%) in comparison to mobile broaband (42%). National Broadband Ireland, carrying on the task set up by National Broadband Plan of bringing broadband connectivity to underserved areas of Ireland, is attempting to bring over 146,000 km of fibre optic cables to connect those who still have no access to high speed Internet connection.

Obviously, the most underserved areas are those of rural Ireland which constitute almost 40% of the total of Irish population.

High-speed rural internet can increase incomes and reduce unemployment. Access to proper broadband connectivity became even more important since the lockdowns when many organisations allowed their employees to work from home. We learnt we can work from home while still being productive. But not without access to Internet.

People living in urban areas started enjoying a seamless experience of remote work. All they needed were a PC or laptop and a dependable internet connection. For people living in rural areas, the experience was different due to the pathetic speeds of their internet connections. Many rural area internet providers are also looking for a solution to address this speed issue. 

What Makes Rural Area Internet Connection Slow? 

Poor infrastructure is the main reason behind the slow internet connectivity in rural areas. While urban areas of Dublin or Cork can pick from many different providers and technologies, often within the same experience of ultrafast FTTH broadband, rural areas cannot be picky. If there is Fibre broadband available, it’s usually “fibre to the cabinet” or FTTC.  The fibre optic cables flow to a street cabinet and often copper wires connect the cabinet to a user’s properties or business premises. If the property or business premise is far away from the street cabinet, the internet connection would be slow. In some areas, the rural internet providers use an ASDL line. This system sends the signals through copper phone line when the user’s place is too far from the nearest street cabinet. 

The reality is that often rural communities do not have any choice when it comes to choosing the internet providers. In some areas, options are so limited that the users are compelled to hire services from the only available service provider. Such areas, not served by any big commerical broadband supplier, often have to rely on point-to-point connectivity or satellite broadband.

National Broadband Ireland

National Broadband Ireland is an organisation with a single goal, to design, build and operate high-speed Fibre broadband network for rural Ireland. It carries out the goal set up by National Broadban Plan to subsidise commerical development of braodband infrastructure in intervention areas that lack high speed connectivity. According to National Broadband Ireland, the organisation will serve nearly half a million premises. Eventually.

Is it Possible to Improve the Internet Speed in Remote Areas? 

There are ways of getting better speeds, better service in rural areas but they are not always what rural residents are looking for. There is a reason why National Broadband Ireland builds fibre optic infrastructure, it is currently one of the most efficient ways of delivering high speed Internet with almost unlimited data usage.

Obviously, one may use mobile data to boost the signal. Or rather to improve the experience. Mobile data comes usually in the form of 4G LTE broadband and this kind of connection has its own issues, mainly congestion. LTE was not designed to sustain continuous broadband connection, especially where several devices are connected.

Is 5G a solution to National Broadband Ireland delayed rollout?

5G connectivity may provide a competitive edge to the current state of affairs. Fifth generation of mobile networks is something to watch. Currently areas of Dublin, Cork, Wexfor or Galway can already avail of speeds reaching 500Mbps while many others, like Trim (Co Meath) or Nenagh (Co Tipperary) are getting around 150Mbps. These download speeds can easily compete with FTTC and even with FTTH (like SIRO) broadband connectivity.

Does Rural Broadband have Impact on Local Businesses? 

These days, many farming businesses, as well as any other businessess in rural areas, require good rural broadband connectivity to be competitive and profitable. They need dependable internet connection to boost their productivity. For meeting such requirements, the best rural internet providers should understand the local areas; they should have a clear insight into their IT infrastructure. They should offer useful recommendations to improve their customers’ business. And they need to understand local requirements. Sometimes it’s as simple as recommending an external antenna. Other times a whole new approach is needed. Or a different provider.

With rural internet connectivity, you cannot expect a one-size-fits-all approach. The service providers collaborate with their clients to find the best and affordable solutions.  Moreover, with the help of the government, the broadband infrastructures in the rural areas should be further improved for better internet connectivity.  

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