Is the infrastructure in place to support superfast broadband in the UK?

Are service providers really prepared for superfast pipes?

Superfast broadband is swiftly spreading across Britain, backed as it has been by major investment from the government, which first committed £2.5 billion to the cause back in 2010, followed by further funding since.

And capitalising on that government investment, companies such as BT and Virgin Media are themselves investing in fibre infrastructure, with the former offering customers packages topping 76Mbps, while Virgin now offers speeds of up to 152Mbps.

Wanting ever-faster data delivery is one thing, but with this comes an inevitable increase in data volumes being shared. The increased speed will also create a rise in data-rich services such as video streaming, VoIP and gaming – generating greater demand and placing pressure across the entire network. Operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) therefore need to ensure that they are not only investing in fibre infrastructure but also data centres.

As the government pushed back the superfast broadband deadline to 2017, operators and ISPs have been afforded time to implement the right data centre infrastructure that will support the broadband of the future. The question they need to ask is while superfast broadband has potential for consumers and businesses alike, do they really have the infrastructure in place to support it? If the answer is no then what should they look out for when trying to improve their data centre efficiencies?

Superfast is the future

With demand for streaming services and other high bandwidth activities increasing, the need for high capacity broadband is only set to grow. While the deployment of a fibre network to support this is important, the keyword here is capacity. Investing in building a next-generation fibre network will help networks avoid capacity crunch. However these networks must be supported by a data centre that can process the vast amounts of data, to ensure seamless delivery and excellent quality of service for users.

With the rise of social media, mobile content and the popularity of video, data volumes are already growing rapidly at a rate of around 50% year on year (ABI Research, 2014) – and the introduction of superfast broadband will no doubt cause data levels to explode.

However, volume is not the only issue that data centres are facing. Users want their data and they want it now. Some networks are already struggling with this pressure and it will only become harder as competition drives them to promise faster and faster broadband speeds. Operators and ISPs will need to work with data centres that are already prepared for the sheer velocity of data and the speed that will need to be carried between users and the edge of the network.

But alongside volume and velocity of data, operators and ISPs need to try and balance what is actually going to be needed versus the perceived demand. In order to do so they must invest in infrastructure that offers appropriate flexibility and compression capabilities. This will enable the data centres to support increased traffic and fluctuating data flow.

Finally, as a result of the ever-increasing use of data, the storage environment has become extremely complicated. Although operators are focused on deploying fibre-to-the-home, it is arguably more important that operators ensure their data centre networks are appropriately placed to deliver the high speed, availability and bandwidth behind the cables themselves.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

As the demand for superfast broadband therefore grows, operators must prepare for the vast amounts of data that these services will create – and fibre and cables are only part of the preparation story. Operators and ISPs need to design guaranteed, proven and robust data centre infrastructures – and quickly – that inspire confidence in their flexibility, scalability, availability and connectivity. And not just for the here and now. Operators have to begin provisioning for an even more data-intensive future.