UK lockdown highlights need for full fibre broadband – report

Created June 24, 2020
News and Business

Research commissioned by Ciena and conducted by Opinium in May 2020, has highlighted the massive demand for improved broadband as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. Researchers found that among the 1,000 respondents surveyed before and during lockdown, seven out of 10 (69%) British adults are now working from home at least some of the time, up from 9% before COVID-19 lockdown measures took effect. This 776% increase is not just a temporary change as more than two-thirds (68%) expect to work remotely more often even after lockdown restrictions ease, says Opinium. Of these people, over three in five (62%) believe this will be all the time or much more frequently than before the pandemic.



The transition to working remotely has generally been positive, with the research revealing that only a quarter (27%) of workers find it difficult, says Opinium. This figure was lower for private-sector workers (24%) compared to public-sector workers (33%). One reason that some may have found the transition challenging is the lack of access to the enterprise-grade internet connectivity found in their office. The research also revealed that more than a quarter (26%) have taken steps to improve their home internet since the lockdown came into effect. The most common changes are: upgrading broadband packages (10%), purchasing a wireless/WiFi extension or booster kit (8%), switching to a different broadband provider (8%), and purchasing a new wireless/WiFi router (8%), demonstrating that British workers are willing to spend money to get faster, more reliable connectivity at home.


Jamie Jefferies, General Manager and Vice President, EMEA at Ciena, says, “Before the pandemic, networks were still under a great amount of pressure – caused by new use cases such as IoT, the cloud and 5G. However, there is no denying the staggering surge in traffic service providers have had to facilitate over the past few months. This demand is not going to go away over-night and it has pushed forward the need for network transformation. Old legacy systems only make it harder for network providers and enterprises to keep up. We need to enable network transformation through fibre – creating agile and adaptable networks that will support demand both today and in the future. Performance is heavily predicted on the availability of fibre and if we are going to continue to improve the coverage, capacity and overall Quality of Experience in networking, then we need the unlimited bandwidth that fibre-based networks offer. The pandemic has certainly pushed this need forward and highlighted just how critical networking is.”



Jeffries told Optical Connections, “It is not just remote working which has caused the surge in bandwidth demand. Our research in the UK market has highlighted that during lockdown one of the biggest spikes in internet traffic came from gaming. Through our research we also identified a significant surge in the number of people watching You Tube videos or video game streams – which grew by 33% as a result of lockdown. Most research across the board has shown that on average gaming traffic is on the rise.”

The research also found that 62% of British adults are doing more video calls to connect with colleagues and loved ones, 51% are watching more news and current affairs, and 49% are watching more TV and movies online. While this is unsurprising given the restrictions on social activities put in place during lockdown, the increased use of internet-reliant entertainment is putting more demand on home broadband.


Press reports suggest that some people working from home could decide, with the cooperation of their employers, to move away from large cities permanently and work solely from home if rural broadband provision is comparable to that in urban centres. This, combined with a growth in rural-based businesses, could force infrastructure providers to rethink their rollout strategies, particularly in terms of geographical provision.

This view is strongly held by Evan Wienburg, CEO at Truespeed, a provider of full fibre infrastructure in the South West of England. He says, “If people are to embrace a more blended home/office model, as the Ciena report indicates, nationwide access to gigabit-capable broadband is crucial. Infrastructure providers must take heed of where demand is high and need is greatest, and focus their rollout in harder to reach and often more rural areas alongside continuing to build in urban conurbations. Smaller independent providers – like Truespeed – are already focusing on these areas. And we’ve seen a huge surge in enquiries for our service during the Covid-19 lockdown. That’s because people are quickly realising that fibre-optic networks deliver the kind of ultrafast, reliable connectivity 24/7 that they need to be able to work from home successfully, wherever they’re located.”

Jefferies agrees, saying, “This shift also has a significant impact on businesses and network providers. Until now, high-speed broadband and bandwidth were primarily focused around urban areas, particularly in big cities like London, where there is a high density of businesses that require enterprise-grade connectivity. With more people working remotely, both short and longer-term, employers and network providers will need to change how they deliver connectivity to users.”


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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.