In 2021, communication and connectivity is unbound; happily, long-gone are the days of dial-up modems and waiting for your turn on the landline phone. Technological innovation means that being ‘connected’ is now a commodity rather than a luxury.

The pandemic has intensified the role and importance of being online; internet usage has increased in the UK by 78% in the last year.

Our expectations and demands have grown substantially – from hanging in the metaverse with people around the world, downloading entire box sets in a couple of minutes, to connecting to our working world (including servers, VPNs and the like) from home. 

As we *slowly* head towards a post-Covid world, what does our desire for connectivity alongside other industry developments mean for ISPs in the future?

Further change is afoot

Alongside the pandemic, there are two factors that are set to shake-up the broadband market: 

1).   Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) is coming!
FTTP is dramatically faster and more reliable internet (by today’s standards), delivered by fibre-optic cables straight into the home or business premises, rather than to a singular cabinet that supports multiple locations. We are already seeing new market entrants that specialise in FTTP and this will only increase; the UK Government plans to roll-out FTTP to 85% of properties by the end of 2025. So, as it continues to be introduced,  super-fast internet will increasingly become the norm. 

2).   Switching providers is getting easier
Regulatory body Ofcom is set to make switching internet providers a whole lot easier. They’re looking at ways to make the switching process less laborious, and some suggest it will be as easy as a single-mouse click.

With the ability to switch freely and easily, the pressure will be on for ISPs to satisfy consumers, and deliver across a range of their needs and expectations. On top of this, the market will be getting a whole lot more competitive, with FTTP offers from new entrants (like Hyperoptic and Telcom), established broadband brands, as well as other brands like John Lewis and The Post Office joining the market. 

In the future, speed won’t earn ISPs first-place

It doesn’t take long to think of an internet advert, right? They usually hit you with words like ‘superfast’, ‘quickest’ or ‘lightning speed’. Historically, speed has been a key differentiator for ISPs vying for our custom. Until recently, distinguishing broadband providers has been relatively simple: judgements are made on download speed, cost, and perhaps bundle options. 

However, as FTTP becomes more commonplace and more providers will be able to offer superfast and reliable service, speed will become much less of a differentiating factor.

With that in mind, FTTP brands will have to work harder to convince consumers to use them. Add Ofcom’s plans to make switching easier, focusing on attracting and retaining customers will be paramount.

Two areas are going to be key in helping offset these challenges:

1). Brand

The importance of ‘brand’ is going to increase dramatically. When speed differentiation no longer exists, what does the brand meaningfully offer? How does it align with people’s values and needs? These questions will be key to standing out and acting as a heuristic for people to make decisions within a crowded category. Developing a brand that creates powerful meaning will be fundamental to drive acquisition and ensure retention.

2). Product development and partnerships

Beyond brand, companies will need to be smart in their product development and who they partner with. Broadband will be central to underpinning emerging and bandwidth-heavy needs such as: home working, home automation, security, entertainment e.g. such as gaming and streaming. Understanding these spaces and who to work with will be critical to differentiating in the short-term.

Further out, and as broadband becomes faster, new behaviours and opportunities will arise. What will the role for connectivity and broadband be around electric self-driving cars? What about self-sustaining homes? What role could broadband providers have if digital-currencies and associated use cases become mainstream? What if virtual reality becomes more embedded in our home lives?

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With super-fast internet soon to become ubiquitous, and the world becoming more connected than ever, there will be opportunities for broadband providers to play a strong role in the near-term and in the future. Developing a meaningful brand will be critical, but so will anticipating and understanding the consumer needs of the future.

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