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Frequently Asked Questions

 Frequently Asked Questions

 

Broadband technologies

1. What is next generation broadband?

2. Why is next generation broadband better? 

3. How fast is Next Generation Broadband?

4. What is fast copper?

5. What's the difference between fibre, mobile, wireless and satellite broadband?

Improving your broadband speed

6. How can I get a better broadband service?

7. I’m not happy with the service of my supplier / provider

8. How do I find out what is happening in my area?

9. What can I do about slow broadband speeds?

Support for communities and businesses 

10.  How can my community get funding for super-fast broadband?

11. How can I access business support?

Terminology

12. Knowing your megabits from your megabytes 

13. Glossary

Technology

 

1. What is next generation broadband?

Next Generation broadband, sometimes called ‘superfast’ broadband, is the next generation of broadband technology.

Next generation broadband uses fibre-optic cable which is significantly faster than the services most of us use today. Traditional broadband uses copper telephone lines. Next generation broadband usually means anything over 25 Megabits per second (Mbps). Usually it can deliver upload and download speeds between 40Mbps to 100Mbps. As technology develops, it is likely that even faster speeds will be achieved.

Although not strictly ‘next generation’, high speed broadband can be delivered using other technologies. Radio-wireless, satellite and advanced copper solutions can also be used to deliver faster broadband services.

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2. Why is next generation broadband better?

Simply put, Next Generation Broadband is faster and can deliver more data. Current broadband services, delivered over copper telephone cables, can achieve speeds as high as 20 Mbps. However, this type of broadband is known as a distance-limited technology.

This means that someone who is a long way from the local telephone exchange won’t enjoy the same speeds as someone living much closer. The length of cable between you and the local exchange directly affects the speeds you will be able to receive.

Fibre-optic cable uses a completely different type of technology. Each cable is made up of fibres as thick as a human hair. Although incredibly fine, these fibres can transmit huge volumes of data over very long distances.

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3. How fast is Next Generation Broadband?

The type of connection you have to fibre-optic broadband determines the kinds of speed you can enjoy.

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) uses fibre optic cable from the telephone exchange to the street cabinet, which is like a junction box. A short length of copper cable connects your premises to the street cabinet. Speeds between 40 Mbps and 80 Mbps can be achieved using Fibre to the Cabinet.

A faster connection, known as Fibre To The Premises (FTTP), uses fibre cable all the way from the exchange to your local street cabinet then to your house. Speeds of over 100Mbps can be realised using FTTP. 

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4. What is fast copper?

This is an enhanced version of a technology known as Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). Using more powerful equipment in the exchange it increases broadband speeds up to 20Mbps. 

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5. What's the difference between fibre, mobile, wireless and satellite broadband?

FIBRE

Fibre broadband is delivered through thin glass pipes known as fibre optic cable, using waves of light. This technology is generally regarded as the successor to DSL broadband, which is delivered over the copper telephone network. DSL broadband speeds are limited to around 24 Mbps.

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and Fibre to the home (FTTH) are the two main methods of fibre broadband deployment in the UK. Current fibre services on the market offer speeds ranging from 40 Mbps to 100 Mbps, with faster services being trialled.

MOBILE

Mobile broadband is delivered through the mobile phone network. Existing mobile broadband services (3G) offer broadband speeds broadly comparable with current fixed-line services - around 7 or 8 Mbps. The fourth generation of mobile broadband technology, (4G), is currently being rolled out. It is also known as LTE (Long Term Evolution). Theoretically it can provide bandwidth of up to 100 Mbps, but 'real-life' speeds will probably be determined by how close you are to a mobile base-station and the number of users accessing the service.

WIRELESS

Wireless broadband is delivered through radio waves. Developments in fixed wireless access are concentrated on WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology. WiMax technology is currently capable of speeds up to 75 Mbps, whilst the latest versions under development could offer even faster speeds.

SATELLITE

Satellite broadband is delivered by a satellite in orbit around the earth which communicates with a computer via a satellite dish on the person's premises. The capability of current satellite broadband services is around 10 Mbps, however, the next generation could potentially deliver speeds of up to 50 Mbps.

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Improving your broadband speed

6. How can I get a better broadband service?

Your Internet Service Provider will be able to advise on whether it is possible to obtain better broadband speeds from your local BT exchange, perhaps by moving to a different package.

Information from the Sam Knows website will show the types of broadband services available from your local exchange and if any improvements are planned.

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7. I’m not happy with the service from my supplier / provider: what can I do? 

If you have been in touch with your network supplier or internet service provider, and feel you are not making satisfactory progress, you may wish to consider contacting the regulator Ofcom. 

Ofcom is the communications regulator – it regulates the TV and radio sectors, fixed line telecoms, mobiles, postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate. Ofcom Scotland is based in Glasgow and can be contacted online or by telephone: 0141 229 7400.

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8. How do I find out what is happening in my area?

The Sam Knows website  is regularly updated with expansion plans by the main ISPs.  The website has a search facility which allows you to search for your area by exchange or postcode.

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9. Slow broadband speeds

During peak times, such as the early evening, broadband speeds usually drop as more people are online. Later in the evening and during the day speeds typically improve. 

If you think your broadband speed is less than it should be, there are a number of practical things you can do: 

1) Check there are no faults on your telephone line.

Faults can be a cause of reduced broadband speeds. Contact your internet service provider to check there are no faults on your line.

You should also test your current broadband speed and measure this against what your Internet Service Provider thinks you should be able to receive.

2) Wi-fi routers and wiring

Use of ‘Wi-Fi’ routers has been shown to reduce broadband speeds by up to 30%. A wired connection from your broadband master socket to your computer may provide an increase in speeds. Having several devices simultaneously using your broadband connection (e.g. computers, gaming consoles, tablets, iPods, smartphones etc) will reduce broadband speeds for everyone.

Electrical wiring can cause interference for broadband. BT sells a device known as an i-Plate, which is fitted inside your BT master socket that helps to ensure your broadband speed is as fast as it can be. You can find out more here.

Finally, check the cabling you are using to connect your equipment and ensure software is up-to-date on your computer. Equally, if you are using a wireless router, check that it’s firmware is also up-to-date. Your Internet Service Provider should be able to provide advice on this.

3) Testing your broadband speed

There are many online broadband speed checkers available online. Most simply test your speed at a single moment in time.

On satellite connections, most speed testers will not give accurate results. The supplier will be able to advise on how to accurately capture your broadband speed and provide assistance if there are any technical problems. Information from a broadband speed tester will show the speeds you receive. This can be compared to what your exchange delivers and what speeds BT estimate your line should receive.

To find out what broadband speeds your telephone line is capable of receiving, you can use BT’s free online broadband testing tool.

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Support for Community and Business broadband

10. How can my community get funding for super-fast broadband?

Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) is a one-stop-shop service for rural community groups, providing them with the information and advice they need to find solutions for broadband delivery in their areas. 

A Start-Up Fund of £5m is being made available over three years from 2012 to support the project.   CBS provides a suite of support mechanisms including advice, guidance and toolkits; an online and telephone resource; and a network of staff on the ground delivering hands on advice and support locally to communities.

CBS is initially targeted at communities in the 10-15% sector of the population least likely to benefit from a next generation broadband (NGB) solution under the Scottish Government’s Step Change Programme and provides an opportunity for those communities to take greater ownership, progress more quickly and trial innovative technology and business models.

CBS is a partnership between Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Enterprise, COSLA and Local Government.  HIE will be the key delivery agent for this programme across Scotland. 

When does Community Broadband Scotland go live?

CBS went live in October 2012 with a new telephone helpline and website delivering advice and practical support. A dedicated team of staff working on the ground has been added to provide hands on assistance to groups in need.

What support is available to Community Groups?

As well as advice and practical support, communities are eligible to apply for seed funding under the initiative to enable them to obtain greater access to the internet in their area. It is not intended that CBS will provide 100% funding for community projects and an important part of Community Broadband Scotland is to provide advice and guidance on the range of financial issues and to help communities to identify and source funding.

How does my community apply for CBS funding?

Communities are able to apply for funding on a rolling basis.   CBS partners selected a small number of community projects in October as part of a pioneer phase and CBS is working with these communities to help them fashion broadband solutions for their area and assist them in delivery.  The learning extracted from this will inform wider roll out and refine the learning and advice offered to communities.

Funding rounds are run on an open competition basis.

What criteria will be used?

Projects will be selected by a Project Team, comprising CBS partners and key stakeholders, including the Carnegie Trust, academics and industry experts.  

CBS aims to support different community models, and identify solutions to a range of issues, including:

  • Both high and low capacity community organisations
  • Communities with and without existing revenue streams
  • Dispersed and concentrated settlement pattern
  • Different local authority areas [Scotland-wide]
  • Different technologies: fibre, wireless, satellite, white space, 4G, etc
  • Innovative ways of utilising existing infrastructure e.g. Scottish Water, Network Rail or JANET
  • Organisational structure: Co-operative, BenCom, SCIO, Company Limited by Guarantee
  • Business models: capital financed via wind farm or other income, community shares, partnership/joint venture
  • Service delivery: community run service or service contracted out.

Where can I find out more information?

Further information will be provided on this website and on the CBS website at http://www.hie.co.uk/community-support/community-broadband-scotland. Please contact 0800 917 3688 for further information.

Other sources of support

For community-level projects in rural areas, LEADER may be the most applicable scheme.  LEADER is part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme (2007-2013). It aims to increase the capacity of local rural community and business networks to build knowledge and skills and encourage innovation and co-operation to tackle local development objectives.  A full list of contacts for LEADER Local Action Groups is available here.

The Scottish National Rural Network website has a dedicated section on funding for rural community groups  outlining major funders and sources of advice and help. The Big Society Broadband resource also provides useful information about funding and other case studies from community groups.

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11. How can I access business support?

SG is working with delivery partners – Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise – to develop a programme to ensure that businesses across Scotland have the skills and aspiration to enable them to innovate and compete in the global digital economy and to take full advantage of the opportunities which Next Generation Broadband will offer. 

There are two business support projects being developed – one that covers the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. This will officially launch in later in 2012. Discussions with Business Gateway to deliver a programme to cover the rest of Scotland are ongoing and it is anticipated that a programme will be launched before the end of March 2012.

You should contact Business Gateway or Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the first instance.

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Terminology

12. Knowing your megabits from your megabytes

Bits and bytes both relate to data, the difference being that we measure speed in bits and storage capacity or computer memory in bytes.

A 'bit' is a unit of electronic data. The speed of a communications link is the speed at which electronic data can be transferred and is often represented as bits per second. So a 512Kbps broadband connection means up to 512 thousand bits of information per second can be transmitted.

Bytes relate to data storage. Hard drive capacities or memory sizes in computers, smartphones or tablet computers are represented as Megabytes or Gigabytes. 1 megabyte = 1,048,576 bytes. 1 Gigabyte =  1,024 Megabytes. 1 Terrabyte = 1024 Gigabytes.

13. Glossary of terms and abbreviations

Scotland's Digital Future contains a glossary covering many terms and abbreviations commonly referred to.