Why is the internet so bad? As a bit of a geek I get asked this by family and friends all the time, and there isn’t always one answer but in general it comes down to Scotland being a rather odd shape for internet geographically.
In the house you have a router, we’re quite lucky that a while back the service providers got into a bit of a quality war and our consumer kit in houses isn’t dreadful, it may not have many features but the two that they fight over is home network coverage and stability. Usefully these are the two folks care about most. So we will skip on. Poor endpoints aren’t our issue these days. In other countries with larger household footprints – it’s a major issue.
Connectivity in Scotland is roughly split three ways.
- You’re on the ancient copper, aluminium, tin archaic network that BT/Openreach have absolutely sweated to it’s final breath.
- You’re on a new fibre network, either Openreach, Virgin or an altnet.
- 5G / Satellite
If you’re on the first, it comes down to age, rather than investing your line rental for the entire period you paid it, companies wasted it on giving themselves more money, fighting against modernisation, and building a larger companies. The copper network that gets sold as “fibre to the cabinet” is just an ancient mess that’s not fit for future use. There is no fix.
If you’re on the second, welcome to the gold standard, which is future proof and is a best case scenario. However it’s unlikely you are on this and if you are – it’s likely you’re paying a lot more to fund its continual development and rollout. You likely have very few issues unless on the older Virgin Hybrid Fibre Coax network – however they are replacing that out so in time it will fix.
The third is the most interesting. 5G is faster than most home connections, it’s also usually a bit faster and requires less hardware than the other two methods. Satellite mostly can be arguably the same but is a bit more expensive but with Starlink will enjoy many of the same benefits.
5G requires very little kit, and very little infrastructure compared to building out a whole network for internet to every door. It’s easier to deploy in the most part as masts can be attached to buildings or put at the end of streets. You don’t need to trench to every house under old pavements.
It has some issues with range, which is what causes the issue with its rollout. Mobile networks don’t make as much as landline networks – and therefore don’t have capital to spend on deployments as quickly as I think they’d like. However they do spend more than they need to. We have 4 major networks, which means that 4 sets of kit get deployed, occasionally they do a deal and share or use a ‘mast’ company to provide them space for their kit, but on the whole – we have 4 sets of the same kit.
5G/Wi-Fi Internet works on spectrum, the more spectrum, the better the connection. Oddly the companies never share this while it’s technically possible and would result in a massive improvement to everyone’s service.
With Independence we could establish the Scottish Mobile Network, its only role would be to sell access to mobile networks, full spectrum, owning all the masts and ground work. Allowing for networks to compete on deals, handsets, customer service and extras – a position they’d all love to be in. They genuinely do not like being responsible for networks or ground works. This moves the assets to be national infrastructure, and the marketing to be a mobile companies wheelhouse.
Scotland is the loss making part of a UK mobile network, as we only have a few areas of density, huge rural areas and some empty areas. We could reduce the cost of deployment with a national network by 75%. Meaning better and cheaper access for all. The same could be said for the current Fibre strategy where multiple companies dig up the same paths to lay their own cables – when again a Scottish Fibre Network, could benefit not just the consumer but these massive companies.
It’s a simple fix really, with less disruption, better service and costs a whole lot less. Scotland would also benefit massively from owning its own infrastructure and not being at the whim of random corporations and their lacklustre rollout schedules.
With this in mind, we could deploy some chunky cabling and bring in big data, we have a lot of space, a good amount of fresh water that can be used for cooling before being returned, and a great geographic location to link the artic, Europe and North America.
All this would be cheaper for the customer both corporate and domestic – as Scotland is naturally going to be cheaper than London (the current digital lead), in a digital world where data travels in the microsecond – a huge economic shift to Scotland can be brought around rather simply.
Not only can Scotland fix its internet, it can make a huge amount of money for the state while it does so.