INCA: UK broadband resilient during lockdown
June 26, 2020
By Colin Mann
As the UK gradually emerges from lockdown imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the performance of its broadband networks in the face of swelled demand has been praised by the national independent networks’ organisation.
The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) also commended the independent networks industry and its workforce – the #connectivitychampions – for their response in the face of Covid-19. The organisation is publishing inspirational stories of those who have been going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure broadband connectivity continues throughout the Covid-19 lockdown measures on its website.
“The lockdown restrictions have really driven home our reliance on stable broadband, for which independent operators play a significant role,” stated Malcolm Corbett, CEO of INCA. “They’ve let us keep in touch with otherwise unreachable loved ones, kept us working from home, ensured access to education services, health services and grocery deliveries. The lasting impact of the lockdown on our digital habits means the reliance on high-speed broadband access will only continue to grow.”
“The sustained resilience of independent networks has played a major part in ensuring that the country has kept running. This is thanks to both bravery of essential network workers, going into the field and responding to connectivity issues and ensuring the upkeep of broadband access, and measures taken by broadband providers to ensure customers have stayed connected,” added Corbett.
Ofcom’s Online Nation report shows that adults spent an average of four hours a day online during April, up from three-and-a-half in September 2019. Data use has been driven by streaming platforms and applications such as Zoom, which went from 659,000 users in January to 13 million in April. The report also suggests that lockdown has accelerated the longer-term adoption of services such as WhatsApp and Messenger as we ditch landline calls and text messages.
Yet despite major traffic increases – for example, of up to 60 per cent during weekdays – data has shown that speeds and latency have remained stable, with only minor changes reported by Ofcom. As reported by the INCA-Point Topic report earlier this year, the UK’s independent operators are estimated to have 476,000 live connections – showing the scale of families, individuals and businesses that have relied on the networks during lockdown.
Much of the sector’s work during the lockdown has been concentrated on attending sites that have lost service or ‘outages’, maintaining sites at risk of fault, and liaising with customers, housing associations and contractors to ensure that any work done is done as safely as possible.
“Today we celebrate our essential workers who across our business, and the independent networks industry as a whole, have gone above and beyond to ensure that vital Internet connections continue to remain in place,” declared County Broadband’s CEO, Lloyd Felton. “Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown measures, our teams have adapted quickly and responded to the increased demand growing our customer base by more than 10 per cent in the most rural and hardest to reach areas of Essex, and in early March removed data caps to ensure that our most vulnerable customers could access unlimited data packages. As Ofcom’s latest Internet usage report states, the surge in data demand continues to rise with no signs of it slowing down any time soon, in spite of government lockdown rules easing. Since lockdown began, our network has seen increases in traffic peaks of up to 78 per cent with a solid 25 per cent increase in average traffic. It comes as no surprise that more and more people are now dependent on their broadband connectivity.”
“The needs of these communities to work from home, access home learning programmes, stream films, play games and connect more devices will only continue and with it their reliance on access to reliable, speedy Internet connections as these challenging times prevail.”