Before you buy, know your broadband speed

Broadband is the fourth utility. London home buyers want fast, reliable internet. But don't assume it is always available.
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We have all become hooked on broadband. Fast connection to the internet has become as important as having a reliable electricity or water supply, with the Government estimating that 90 per cent of Londoners now consider home wifi essential for work and entertainment.

But while the latest fibre optic cable broadband is making connection faster and more reliable than old-style ADSL copper wire services, connectivity problems continue to plague some home owners in the capital, especially in apartment blocks. Residents complain of broadband speeds as low as 1.2 Megabits per second, or Mbps, says fibre optics provider Hyperoptic. Long cables between apartment blocks and telephone exchanges are often the cause. London homes worth £1 million or more can have up to 10 per cent of their value wiped off if broadband speeds are too slow for home working, streaming films or controlling domestic lighting and heating remotely, say estate agents. Broadband is considered the "fourth utility" by both tenants and prospective buyers - no longer a luxury but an essential service.


Up to speed: residents at the Montevetro building in Battersea now enjoy 1Gps

Hyperoptic is one of a growing number of firms that will install equipment in residential blocks - often for free - if enough leaseholders agree to buy their broadband service. It says it has installed 1Gbps (gigabits per second) broadband, which it claims will be 68 times faster than Britain's average speed of 14.7 Mbps, at 100 London locations including Greenwich Millennium Village, Albion Riverside in SW11, the Strata building in Elephant & Castle, and in apartment blocks in Knightsbridge. Fifty more are on the way. Residents at the Richard Rogersdesigned Montevetro building in Battersea once endured broadband speeds of less than 5Mbps. Now Hyperoptic has installed its 1Gbps service.


Quick connections: Zenith House in Colindale offers super-fast 1Gbps broadband

Super-fast broadband is a major selling point
Developers are realising they must build good connectivity into schemes. At Zenith House in Colindale, north London, Genesis is building 308 homes for sale, rent and shared ownership, and Hyperoptic is installing 1Gbps broadband. Genesis took 60 reservations on 72 flats offered for sale there this month and says fast broadband was a major selling point with all ages. Prices for the flats start at £200,000 for a one-bedroom home.

Watch out for mobile phone blind spots
Comparison websites such as Broadband Choices and USwitch give information on broadband services in specific postcodes, as do some property search sites. Lack of satellite TV, cable TV and mobile phone connectivity also make properties less attractive to potential buyers and tenants.

Guy Meacock, of buyers agency Prime Purchase, says high levels of building density and the use of scrambling devices by some businesses and residents to frustrate phone hacking can turn neighbouring properties into blind spots for mobile phone use, while many blocks of flats don't have cable TV because older residents don't want it. Buyers and renters should be aware that no matter which part of London they are considering, it is advisable to check what cable and satellite services are available before they seal the deal.

What slows you down
Contention: broadband networks are "contended", meaning they cannot be used to full capacity by every user, at the same time. This helps keep prices down, as generally speaking, demand varies. At peak times, your broadband may slow down. "Peak" in broadband terms can be in the evening, though this may vary according to where you live and who your provider is.

Congestion: if there are lots of people using the internet in your area at peak times, it may slow your speed down. This is most likely to be visible in small communities where the link from the telephone exchange back to the service provider is likely to be smaller. You will see congestion during major events, such as the World Cup.

Where you live: the distance from your home to the local telephone exchange is the most common factor affecting speed of broadband services as the signal degrades the further it needs to travel. If you have a fibreoptic broadband connection, you're likely to be less affected as the distances involved are shorter - from your home to the street cabinet, instead of to the exchange 

Quick connections: Zenith House in Colindale offers super-fast 1Gbps broadband
Up to speed: residents at the Montevetro building in Battersea now enjoy 1Gps

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