SMEs in the South West are hindered by poor network connections, FSB report shows

By Nick Batten on 14 November, 2019

Small businesses in the South West are being held back by poor broadband and mobile connections, according to new research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The findings, revealed in FSB’s new digital infrastructure report, Lost Connectionshow that 41% in the South West are struggling with broadband speeds that are insufficient for their current business requirements. Almost half (44%) in the region say their broadband is not good enough for their future needs.

The report also explores mobile connectivity, with data showing over half (56%) of small firms in the region cannot get a good connection on their mobile phones.

Connection issues are crushing the growth and productivity of small business owners, with more than one in three (32%) reporting how poor mobile and broadband connection has prevented them from contacting or being contacted by existing customers – or even potential new clients.

A similar number (30%) said poor connection is a barrier to growing their business, while over a quarter (26%) of small firms are saying that poor mobile coverage has led to a loss of business or sales.

FSB says that, with over half (52%) of business owners revealing they want to adopt full-fibre when it becomes available in their area, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ambitious promise of nationwide full-fibre or gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 must be kept. The body is calling on Government, industry and regulators to work together to remove barriers to the roll-out of full-fibre, to resolve the productivity puzzle and ensure no one is left behind.

FSB is also calling for a public commitment from Government that every premises will receive download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps) by the end of 2021.

Additionally, to help improve network coverage and attempt to get rid of ‘not spots’ in rural areas, FSB is supporting the idea of a shared rural network among the four large mobile network operators to try to bridge the gap in phone reception.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said, “Unfortunately, an unreliable internet connection and poor phone signal are familiar challenges for small businesses across the UK.

“Government is promising ambitious full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband targets, which are very much welcomed, but now must translate words into action to help millions of small businesses.”

Peter Boucher, Chief Executive Officer of Swindon-based Excalibur Communications, added, “Excalibur welcomes the FSB Lost Connection Report that outlines the poor access to fast broadband that many smaller UK businesses experience. Working in the SME space, it’s a challenge we are familiar with for a significant number of customers and one that we are already taking steps to overcome.”