UK broadband well prepared for video conferencing from home

23 July 2020 2 min. read
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The coronavirus lockdown has placed an added emphasis on the need for quality broadband provision – especially when it comes to enabling workers to participate in video conferences from their homes. According to a new study, fewer than 3% of the UK’s lines do not have the capacity for standard definition video calls, while 99% do have the throughput processing rate required to support it.

The state of the UK’s internet connectivity has been a source of major debate over the last year. While advances in broadband technology have the potential to yield super-fast connections to the citizens and businesses of Britain, the laissez-faire approach of the UK Government to the market has left private providers chasing short-term profitability had long left much of the nation’s digital infrastructure frustratingly slow.

According to a new report from German origin consultancy Umlaut, however, despite previous studies suggesting the UK’s broadband was not exactly world-leading, it has come through the sudden stress-test placed on it by 2020 relatively well. The study of over 300,000 broadband lines in the UK between March and May 2020 found that the vast majority of British connections are well equipped to host video conference calls – an essential part of business under the Covid-19 lockdown.


In terms of capacity – the tight upper bound on the rate at which information can be reliably transmitted over a communication channel – more than 97% of UK lines were found to provide at least standard definition (SD) quality (0.6 Mbit/s) – the minimum quality needed for a regular video call. Problematically, video conferences typically take place with more than two users, and require high definition quality (1.5 Mbit/s) or high quality high definition (3Mbit/s) in order to do that – and the number of connections with the capacity for that falls to around 90% as a result.

Meanwhile, in terms of throughput – the rate of production or the rate at which something is processed – the numbers remain roughly the same. The problem in both cases, however, is if video conferences require ultra-high definition connections to take place. In the event of an extended, extra-large conference call, around half of connections Umlaut surveyed were capable of this. Geographically, English users were narrowly more likely to receive UHD services than those in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales – a disparity likely due to the higher level of investment sunk into England’s digital infrastructure by the Westminster Government.


Commenting on the findings, experts from Umlaut concluded, “Coronavirus has contributed to the fact that more and more people are working from home. It can be assumed that work from home will increasingly find its place in the world of work… The speeds are perfectly adequate for a large part of the video conferencing applications in most households. Only one in ten connections are facing limitations when consumers are using them to work from home.”