Monday, 9 March 2009

Welsh internet speeds let down users


Wales has the second slowest internet speed in the UK according to recent findings, despite Cardiff having one of the highest broadband speeds nationally.

Broadband think tank Point Topic found 26.9 per cent of homes in Wales are unable to reach internet speeds of 2Mbps or above, compared with London, where only 1.2 per cent cannot reach that speed.

West Wales has struggled to keep up with Cardiff's internet speeds

Wales was beaten only by Northern Ireland, where 32.2 per cent of people are out of range of 2Mbps. This is despite the Government’s pledge that all homes will have broadband by 2012.

Ian Wood, marketing manager of the Cardiff branch of Epitiro, a broadband communications company, said: “There are three ways of getting broadband, cable, mobile and through your telephone line. In rural areas, cable services don’t run and mobile reception is patchy, so they only have telephone lines.

“It is up to who is providing the telephone service to get the internet up and running to speed. But in Wales there are a lot of small remote rural sites, which makes it difficult to improve connectivity, as there are financial obstacles, and it may not be economically viable to invest heavily in improving communications there.”

Mr Wood thinks the government’s 2012 broadband pledge is feasible because of the growth of mobile broadband.

“If an area can get mobile coverage, then they can get broadband, apart from the odd exception where there’s a house up a mountain. But for 99 per cent of the population, this is doable,” he said.

Although Wales may have one of the lowest internet speeds on average, Cardiff was the first trial city of BT’s 21st Century Network in 2006, its next generation internet network, promising speeds of up to 24Mbps.

Cole Whitelaw, 28, digital marketing manager for Future Publishing, also believes the idea of broadband in every house by 2012 is realistic, although he acknowledges West Wales web users have had to endure patchy internet service.

Mr Whitelaw said: “I have first-hand experience of a community in West Wales really struggling to get the infrastructure brought up to a standard that allows broadband. That said, after almost two years of waiting they are likely to be on broadband very soon, and so three years is a realistic undertaking.

“Without a decent broadband connection, Welsh web surfers will miss out.”

Mr Whitelaw, who was based in Cardiff before moving to Bath to join Future Publishing, said support for internet start-ups in South Wales is excellent.

“I think education and computing ability are the main areas the Welsh Assembly can focus on to help the general populous enjoy more online time,” he said. “A higher profile presence for those innovators seeking funding would reward those Welsh entrepreneurs who are struggling to find their audience in Wales.”

This was published in the Cardiff Evening News, Cardiff Journalism School's training newspaper

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