While the main focus for superfast broadband has been on those providers who are of a size they can easily provide a service to the whole UK or a region at least, there are lots of smaller regional players who are providing services in areas where even with BDUK investment it is likely that a 2 Mbps solution or satellite services only would be offered. In some cases there are also services appearing in the cities that surpass what BT and Virgin Media plan to be offering in the next year or two, with 1 Gbps available in some areas.
Point Topic has researched into the numbers for the alternative 'niche' providers, and has concluded that at the end of 2011, there was around 8,400 fibre based superfast end-user connections, a rise of 85% since the middle of the year.
"This connections number is small fry compared with the big network owners BT and Virgin Media, but it is highly significant for the communities being reached, some of which would otherwise run the risk of being left without superfast broadband, at least for some years to come.
There is evidence, including from BT, that take up of superfast services is highest in those areas previously experiencing poor speeds of 2Mbps or below, and this bodes well for those addressing such markets and aiming to make the business case stake up."Annelise Berendt, Senior Analyst at Point Topic
There are of course the various fixed wireless services, which are often easier to set-up in rural areas, particularly if an alternative network is available at a reasonable price in the area.
We suspect that a great many of these alternative networks owe their existence to the relatively slow speed of ADSL roll-outs in the UK at the start of the millenium. Those people will have moved on, and seen the advantages of faster broadband, which is less about getting a single big file a few seconds faster, but more about being able to do multiple things at the same time. Or expressed another way, not annoying a brother who is playing Call of Duty online when you watch YouTube videos and cause gaming latency to shoot through the roof.
With most BDUK funded projects still 12 months from delivering any connections, and many areas likely to not benefit until late 2014, the community projects still have plenty of time to establish a presence and show what can be done, when less red tape is involved. This is particularly the case for those living in the most rural 10% of the UK, though the last 10% may not be all rural, there is a distinct danger that small slow-spots may exist in cities and towns, where the cost of provision is too far above average.