Broadband or a pub?
What infrastructure do you need in place in order to support your business? Do you rely on a good catchment area and the wide availability of parking in order to bring employees and customers to your door? Are good road and rail links of prime importance, or would fast and stable broadband and telephone communications come top of your list?
Whilst the answer will vary from business to business you may find that your needs don’t always align with the priorities set down by your local authority. So much so that a recent survey by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) into sustainable villages has found that whilst 92% of local authorities include the availability of a pub in their assessment matrix, just 18% see broadband as a factor worthy of consideration.
We have to admit that it is hardly surprising that the humble telephone box came bottom of the list obtained by the CLA. In fact, what is more surprising is that 2% of local authorities still include phone box availability at all when assessing village sustainability. At the other end of the scale, post offices came top of the list at 98%, closely followed by primary school, food shop and GP services; all at 96%.
Now this survey was looking at the sustainability of villages and therefore responses are perhaps more skewed towards individuals living in villages rather than businesses. Nevertheless, with so little emphasis placed on broadband there is a concern that rural areas are in danger of being left behind in the technology race. Whilst Ofcom is working on delivering the Universal Service Obligation which should deliver broadband to the hardest to reach premises in rural areas, implementation is still at least a year off. In the meantime businesses in areas with poor broadband availability are not able to compete on a level playing field, thereby potentially hampering the ability for rural businesses to expand and bring employment to rural areas. As the CLA report comments “If we are to truly understand what makes a place sustainable in the 21st century we must use 21st century criteria.”
Let’s just look at one area where lack of fast broadband can hamper businesses. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) enables businesses to make telephone calls over the internet. This potentially brings cost savings; thereby encouraging open communications which could boost business efficiency. For example VoIP calls between users on the same network are free meaning that a business could link its central office with home workers or key suppliers without incurring the cost of phone calls or having to pay for multiple line rentals. And even if the recipient isn’t on a VoIP system there is still the potential for cost savings whether the business call is made within the UK or to an overseas customer, supplier or employee.
However, VoIP does require a stable broadband connection with a reasonable bandwidth; Callagenix recommends a bandwidth of 100K bits per second upload and download for business grade calls. And obviously, the more people you have working within your business who are making calls on a regular basis the greater the bandwidth which you will require. VoIP is rapidly becoming the default way to transmit calls. By linking it to a business telephony system it can help to bring cost savings and flexibility to business communications.