Standard broadband can be slow or non-existent in the countryside. Being located far from the nearest town can leave you isolated when it comes to an adequate broadband connection, which can lead to a great deal of frustration and added expense.
You’re not limited to standard providers though - we’ve looked at the pros and cons of various rural broadband options that might be available in your area.
The main options for getting broadband in rural areas are:
- ADSL broadband
- Fibre Optic broadband
- Community broadband
- Mobile broadband
- Satellite broadband
ADSL broadband is the most common connection for many in the UK, and often the cheapest. It’s delivered directly through your telephone line, so as long as you have a phone line you should be able to get an ADSL connection.
Unfortunately, the speed of the ADSL connection depends on distance. The closer you are to the nearest telephone exchange, the faster the connection. You can check your broadband speed online.
So if a broadband speed test shows your line will only deliver something in the region of 2Mbps, you’ll probably manage basic internet functions like lightly browsing the web or sending a few emails. However, downloads will be slow, and you’ll probably struggle to use it for watching video without lots of frustrating buffering.
It’s important not to pay for more than you need though - if your phone line can only deliver 2Mbps, you’ll be paying for speeds your connection can’t reach if you choose an ADSL package with ‘up to’ 18Mbps.
Pros of ADSL
- Generally, it’s the cheapest option
- Most readily available choice in remote areas
Cons of ADSL
- Can be slow
- Gets slower the further you are from the exchange
Fibre optic broadband
There are two main types:
- Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) - this is where the fibre optic cable only connects to your nearest exchange. The cable from the exchange to your home will be standard copper
- Fibre to the premises (FTTP) - the fibre cable connects not only to the exchange, but also to your home or business
The line length to street cabinets in rural areas tend to be longer than those in towns and cities. As a result of this, you’re likely going to experience slower fibre broadband speed.
Pros of FTTC
- Increasingly available
- Provides a fast and reliable connection
Cons of FTTC
- Significantly slower or unavailable if you aren’t near a street-side cabinet
- Can be costly to install
Pros of FTTP
- Fastest possible connection
- Not affected by weather conditions
Cons of FTTP
- Very expensive to install
- Coverage is sparse
If you and your neighbours are keen to get an FTTP connection, you might want to think about sharing the cost between you.
Community broadband schemes can work well to deliver the very fastest connections to some of the most remote communities, but you’ll need a group of you to get together to make it cost effective.
There may also be funding available in your area for setting up a community broadband project.
Pros of community broadband
- Grants may be available
Cons of community broadband
- You’ll need to enlist quite a few like-minded households before applying for grants and funding
It could be worth getting in touch with your local authority to see if there are any government grants or funding available to get fibre broadband in your area.
Another option is simply to assemble together to pay for a private company to install fibre broadband and even FTTP connections to your area, giving all households involved the best possible speeds.
In some areas far from a telephone exchange, you might find mobile broadband is faster than ADSL and could offer a cost effective alternative.
However, mobile signals can be notoriously patchy in the countryside as well, so make sure you check with individual mobile phone providers to make sure you’ll have coverage before signing up for a long contract.
Pros of Mobile broadband
- No wired connection is required
- Can be speedy if there is good 4G coverage in the area
- More secure than a Wi-Fi connection as all data is encrypted
Cons of Mobile broadband
- Coverage can be patchy, and connections can be slow
- Can be expensive with download limits
Satellite broadband is used in the most remote locations where fixed line internet isn’t an option.
The main advantage of satellite is that it’s available anywhere - even if you can’t get a phone line to your cabin in the woods or offshore yacht.
Satellite broadband does have its limits though - it’s unlikely you’ll find an ‘unlimited’ broadband package, so you’ll have to pay attention to how much you download and upload each month.
Although medium to high speeds are achievable, satellite broadband can suffer from ‘latency’ - where there is a bit of a lag in the connection. This can make things like Skype chat or online gaming difficult. As the connection relies on the dish getting a clear view of the satellite, extreme weather can affect it, so you might find yourself without broadband if a storm hits.
To get satellite broadband, you’ll need to have a special dish and modem installed and installation costs can be quite high.
Pros of satellite broadband
- Establish a connection pretty much anywhere
- Can deliver high internet speeds
Cons of satellite broadband
- Special equipment and installation are required – which can be costly
- Signals can easily be affected by the weather