By Dan Howdle | Wednesday, September 9th 2020
Living in the countryside is bliss for many. Which is why so many aspire to it despite the rural premium on house prices. Peace and quiet. Birdsong. Fresh air. But if you live very remotely there are drawbacks that come with the territory. For one thing, you'll be leaning heavily on your car to get about. For another, there's a good chance your broadband is rubbish.
We're guessing that you live rurally or are thinking of living rurally, have slow broadband, and want to find out what your options are. And there are more options than simply fibre or ADSL. Here we will talk through those as well as establishing why countryside broadband is often so much slower than it is for those living in towns and cities. And of course how to get a good internet connection in rural areas.
To be fair the situation has gotten a lot better in recent years, with most village locations in the UK having access to fast fibre. However, those living in smaller villages, hamlets or completely isolated residences may still be suffering with speed issues. The reason for this is that broadband slows down the further you are from the nearest cabinet or exchange. Hamlets and isolated residences, or small villages sprawling over a wide area are likely to be further from the nearest cabinet or exchange than houses in a town or city.
There are three main technologies that can suffer slower speeds when it comes to countryside internet. There are more that can provide effective alternatives to these, which we will cover further down, but here are the primary technologies most of us use and why they might be slow where you live.
We will cover the best internet for rural areas in greater detail, each in its own section further down the page. First, though, her's a quick overview of the best broadband for rural areas in the UK that might or might not be available to you so you can get a handle on all of the options.
If you're on ADSL and it's very slow where you live and are considering upgrading to fibre, be warned – if you're suffering much slower speeds than those advertised already, fibre may not solve your problems. Still, you may find you get a little extra gas from the upgrade. Just check with your provider and they will be able to tell you the speeds you can expect from the upgrade on your specific line.
It's worth noting, too, that not all providers offer the same speed to your specific household. Some have their own equipment installed at the exchange and in the nearest cabinet, and this can affect the speed you get, even on very slow lines. Don't expect miracles, though. Virgin Media is the only operator not on Openreach (if you can get Virgin Media, your worries are over as it is very, very fast no matter where you are).
All other operators are on the Openreach network, so while speeds may vary a little, they won't vary a lot. If you're switching broadband or getting a new connection in a new home, your new provider will have to give you a speed estimate for your line during sign-up. Ensure they do, and if necessary back off and shop around for the fastest estimate for your rural wifi. You can use our rural postcode checker to begin that journey.
Whichever of the following types of mobile broadband you think might work as a viable alternative to a fixed line internet connection, they all share one thing in common: They all arrive via a mobile network and a SIM card, with the primary difference being the device it arrives at and what sort of need that serves.
The good news about satellite broadband is anyone can get it, and you'll get speeds of up to 33Mbps. And while it remains the best option for broadband access in rural areas, there are some significant downsides.
Comparatively expensive – Both for installation and monthly cost, for what you get, satellite broadband deals are significantly more expensive than similarly specced traditional broadband connections
Slower than fibre – With 30Mbps being the top speed, it is somewhat slower than a top fibre package, and many times slower than a connection via cable from Virgin Media
You need a dish on your home – Country homes are often beautiful to look at, and many would argue somewhat less so with a satellite dish bolted onto the side
Usually limited – Satellite broadband deals will usually limit you to a certain amount of data per month, similarly to your mobile data deal. The more you pay, the more higher this monthly limit will be
High latency – While fine for anything that doesn't require an instant response from the server such as streaming movies or browsing the internet, the latency (or delay) caused by the signal having to go to space and back means you won't be playing Call Of Duty or other fast reaction-focused online games
Having said all that, satellite broadband still remains a far preferable option if you cannot get more than a handful of Mbps by any other means and you can afford the monthly cost.
We've bundled these together because the chances are you cannot get them or cannot afford them. Both fixed wireless and community broadband projects require buy-in from the entire community. Bonded lines, on the other hand, are prohibitively expensive and do not offer substantial gains.
It depends on what you can get where you live, but generally if you can get an ADSL or fibre broadband connection that suits your needs, that should be your first choice. Failing that, some form of 4G or 5G mobile broadband, and failing both, satellite broadband is your only remaining option for getting good wifi in rural areas.
You can look at other options. If both ADSL and fibre are suffering severe slowdown due to your location, you should look into a 4G or 5G home broadband connection, and failing that a satellite broadband connection.
When it comes to fixed line broadband connections (ADSL or fibre), both rely to a lesser or greater extent on the copper wire that runs from the cabinet to your home. A long span of copper will make things slow down significantly, which is why rural homes in particular often have this issue.
Provided the settlement you live in comprises a few hundred or more homes, you should be able to get both ADSL and fibre. Smaller locations such as a small collection of homes, or a single, isolated home are more likely to suffer from slow broadband connections.
The ultimate aim is of course to ensure every home in Britain has a decent broadband connection. But when it comes to faster technologies, areas with a higher population come first, and areas with a low population come last. Rural internet connectivity is improving, but there is still some way to go, and one could argue that it may never fully catch up with the speed of connectivity you tend to find in towns and cities.