Coronavirus: UK comms regulator launches national campaign to assist home workers

Ofcom, with the backing of government, broadband and mobile industries, launches guide for teleworkers to get the most from connections

As millions more people across the country work and learn from home in order to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, UK communications regulator Ofcom has launched a national information campaign, backed by government and industry, to help broadband and mobile users get the most from their home networks.

The UK’s broadband and mobile providers have so far expressed confidence that their networks can take the strain of extra home working. Yet just days after the government advised all those who could work from home to do so, there have been reports of outages in the mobile sector, and BT and Virgin have felt the need to issue assurances that they have capacity to keep broadband networks up and running.

BT said it had overbuilt its network to compensate for people’s love of high-definition streaming content, video gaming and other bandwidth-hungry applications. It emphasised that the online conferencing services and video-calling applications that teleworkers were likely to use consume far less bandwidth than the abovementioned applications.

However, Ofcom said telecoms companies are constantly monitoring traffic on their networks, taking steps to ensure it is managed effectively and that customers continue to receive a normal service as mobile networks see shifting patterns of demand as a result of the response to the coronavirus.

Recognising that broadband and mobile networks face increased demand because of the pandemic, with many families online together during the day for home working and schooling, Ofcom’s Stay Connected campaign explains a range of practical tips and advice to help people get the speeds and reception they need for video streaming, virtual meetings or voice calls at a time when broadband and mobile have never been more important in helping everyone communicate.

If offers seven basic tips: use a landline or Wi-Fi calls if possible; move routers clear of other devices; lower the demands on connection by switching off Wi-Fi capability of devices not in use; try wired rather than wireless connections; plug a router directly into a main phone socket; test broadband line capability and run a speed test using Ofcom’s official mobile and broadband checker; and get advice from broadband providers.

Melanie Dawes, chief executive at Ofcom, said: “Families across the country are going online together this week, often juggling work and keeping children busy at the same time. So we are encouraging people to read our advice on getting the most from their broadband, home phones and mobiles – and to share it with friends, families and colleagues, to help them stay connected too.”

Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, added: “Right now, we need people to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. Reliable internet speeds will be crucial so we can work from home where possible, stay connected with our families and keep up to date with the latest health information.

“I urge everyone to read Ofcom’s helpful tips and advice to ensure they get the most out of their broadband and mobile internet connections during these unprecedented times.”

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