Dark fibre — existing but currently unused fibre networks capable of being transformed into leased lines — has hit the headlines recently for the many benefits it could bring for businesses, but an aspect that hasn’t been explored in much detail to date is how dark fibre could actually go beyond this and have a significant impact upon the economy; an economy that’s still struggling to get back on its own two feet.
For years the UK has been behind most of Europe’s average for internet speed. As frustrating as that is for home users who may experience drops or slow speeds, the impact can be detrimental to UK businesses and subsequently has a serious impact on the growth of the economy, especially in the age of technology.
What is dark fibre & who needs it?
Dark Fibre or unlit fibre is referring to fibre optic cables or Ethernet cables that are laid but have no network provider running data through. These dark fibre optic network cables are usually laid by Internet Service Providers who are trying to future proof. The main cost for providers is the installation so when they are installing a leased line for a customer they will often install a dark fibre line too.
Its usually used to create a private network that is run by the operator over optical fibre lines. However, not everyone needs dark fibre – the typical customers include government agencies, fintech companies and anyone else who has specific networking requirements. It requires a high level of knowledge around networking and IT so if you don’t already know about it the chances are you don’t need it.
The UK Economy
Following a part recovery from the 2007 financial crisis, the UK was once again hit by shock waves with the Brexit vote. Although there are today signs of economic recovery, experts are seemingly going back and forth on whether another recession is likely.
The good news, however, is that there are definite signs that we can’t ignore which suggest a positive future, including the sharp rise in UK start up ventures, with the number of active companies increasing from 3,139,630 at the tail end of 2014, to 3,260,879 just 6 months later. Survival rates for these companies now stands at a 3 year high. The question is: why?
Of course, there are many reasons for this improvement, including increased lending from banks, but another aspect that’s important to take into account is better digital infrastructure. SMEs need suitable and reliable infrastructure in place to enable them to grow and develop, and that’s exactly what dark fibre is providing; an existing, ready-made network that’s ready to get to work whenever a business is.
Addressing the Coverage Gap
It would be irresponsible to say that leased lines and dark fibre were wholly responsible for this improved digital infrastructure. In fact, this has been a process that has been ongoing for many years, and bought us the next generation of both wireless and fixed services. However, these improvements failed to address the coverage gap. This is something that dark fibre and leased lines can do — and will.
For bigger businesses and, the digital infrastructure improvement may not seem too significant. After all, the current leased line market is, undoubtedly, aimed at larger businesses. For smaller enterprises, however, the massive growth of the dark fibre network, which could make it quicker, easier, and cheaper to install a leased line, is a very exciting prospect, and one that SMEs should all be keeping an eye on.
Leased Line Prices Falling
The increase in fibre broadband services has certainly helped start ups and small businesses who don’t really use much or have many employees. It also shows no signs of slowing down with FTTC & FTTP increasing in popularity and availability throughout the UK.
However the contention and unreliability of broadband has also seen the popularity of dedicated leased lines soar and prices have decreased rapidly too. Many areas of the UK can now get 100Mb for under £250 a month which would have been completely unheard of 5 years ago.
Another way to get a cheaper leased line is a wires only quote – this will give you the fibre line and installation but you supply your own router and network. It is a job that requires expert IT knowledge so if you don’t have the existing expertise we would not recommend you to try this!