In a world where satellite operators and network operators are stating they will be providing coverage and connectivity to the most rural and remote parts of the globe, how come so many are still unable to connect their businesses in the UK?
The latest figures from the NFO state that only 17% of UK farmers have access to superfast broadband with 30% of those that do have access to broadband having speeds of only 2Mbps or less. Yet the majority of farmers believe broadband and mobile connectivity is essential for their current and future business. There is an unbelievable amount of technology in a Combine harvester that could be monitored anywhere in the world, but this relies on having a method for connectivity- cellular, broadband or satellite.
Its not just the farming community in rural areas who need to be considered for the future. With more people than ever working from home, or using home as a base, connecting them to the rest of the world is essential. Leaving rural areas without reliable sufficient connectivity could pose a threat to economic growth and social mobility.
But despite the government making promises on delivering better connectivity on one hand, on the other they are removing the incentives for farmers to aid in this promise themselves. Mobile network operators are reducing the rents for installing masts and the required infrastructure thanks to new legislation, so why should landowners sacrifice space for mobile network operators?
‘Agri-tech’ is one of the most common focuses for companies within the M2M communications industry, so we need to make sure we are enabling and educating those working at the front line. As well as providing the necessary tools and cost effective solutions to help them grow and benefit from some of the most innovative solutions in the world. Farmers do not want to sacrifice a corner of a field for a mast, just because it could provide cellular coverage to a neighbouring farm, but there maybe another solution. Suppliers should be talking to the end users, to understand what is really needed by the ones utilising the technology and also what is practical.
Education and partnership is often key. I think it is great to start seeing and working with companies that have historically considered themselves competitors now collaborating to help resolve connectivity gaps.
Fibre backhaul is often regarded as the preferred approach for backhauling any mobile basestations connectivity however many providers are now exploring alternative technologies such as Microwave and Satellite to aid in connecting locations that are possibly the most challenging. These are often quicker and cheaper in the short term to install and provide a robust reliable solution, whilst addressing the connectivity problems that are faced by so many in the rural communities.
Lets hope we will start seeing reliable LTE and even 5G connectivity in our villages very soon.