A starter pack for businesses
Starting or running a business can be a daunting task, and when it comes to communications it’s important to understand the basics in order to help you get your business off the ground.
Not everyone can be an expert on connectivity and communications products, so this starter pack, which is aimed at smaller businesses with ten employees or fewer, will help you gain some initial understanding.
Depending on the kind of business you are, before you start you are going to need to plan how customers can contact and connect with you. Do you want to take calls? Do you need a website, an email address, or online order facilities?
You’ll need to sort out a contract with a provider before you get going, so make sure you allow sufficient time to set this up.
Remember: Not all providers will allow you to use a residential tariff for business purposes. This also applies to mobile contracts, so check carefully before you buy.
A fixed line is a wired connection between your business premises and the nearest telephone exchange , via a street cabinet. The most common example is your standard phone line (landline).
Many businesses have landlines and many of those are traditional landline services delivered over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
Some businesses also have a landline service that is delivered over a broadband connection, rather than the traditional PSTN, and is called voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP).
If you are thinking of changing your landline services, consider your need to move to VoIP. Industry is moving away from the PSTN towards VoIP. Indeed BT has announced that it will retire its PSTN by December 2025. So, speak to telephone providers to see what solutions they can offer you.
More information on the migration to VoIP is available on our website.
Business mobile phones function in exactly the same way as residential mobile phones. However, there can be advantages in business mobile pricing and tariffs, and they may come with additional support as part of a contract.
Mobiles phones are likely to be particularly important to your business if you don’t have a fixed office, or you need to stay in contact on the move. Some providers offer facilities which allow you to pick up calls from your office phone on your mobile (and vice versa), and provide a local landline number for your mobile.
To help keep you and your employees connected on the move, Ofcom’s interactive tool allows you to quickly find the predicted mobile coverage for each of the main mobile operators (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) at 100m intervals in any postcode in the UK.
You can check:
- Voice and data (including 5G) coverage by mobile operator; and
- coverage inside and outside buildings.
This tool can help you compare providers before you choose a provider that best meets the needs of your business and commit to a contract.
You'll also find mobile coverage predictions on provider websites, and further advice on maximising indoor mobile coverage in Ofcom’s dedicated guide.
Broadband is a way of connecting to the internet. It allows information to be carried to your personal computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart TV or other internet-enabled device.
Broadband technology is the same for residential users and for businesses; however you may not always be allowed to use a residential package for business activity.
What are the different types of broadband?
Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or full fibre has fibre optic cables right into your premises, and is generally capable of faster speeds than Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband.
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) has fibre optic cables between the exchange and the street cabinet, and then copper cable into your business premises. It’s usually capable of up to 80Mbit/s, but speeds can degrade.
Cable broadband uses fibre optic and coaxial cables to deliver superfast broadband services, as well as TV and phone services, direct to homes.
Unlike with ADSL, speeds tend not to degrade with distance. Cable technology can deliver very fast broadband speeds.
ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) is the most commonly available type of broadband, delivered through the copper wires of your phone line. It’s usually capable of up to 24Mbit/s
Speeds will vary depending on how far you are from your nearest telephone exchange, so if the package contains an ‘up to’ speed, you may not get as fast a speed as is advertised. Remember to ask the provider for a speed check to get an indication of what the line to your premises is capable of.
Type of broadband
Fixed broadband technologies that can provide this service
10 Mbit/s download;
Making a high definition video call using applications like Zoom, Teams, WhatsApp or Facetime. Downloading a 1 hour HD TV episode (1GB) in almost a quarter of an hour.
At least 30 Mbit/s download
One person streaming 4K/UHD video. Downloading 1 hour HD TV episode in under 4 and half minutes. Several devices working simultaneously.
1 Gbit/s and above download
It is feasible to download a full 4K film (100GB) in under 15mins. May be delivered over technologies that give greater reliability and that are future proofed as more high demand services are developed.
HFC Cable (when upgraded to DOCSIS3.1)
What type of broadband should I get for my business?
Full fibre, FTTC and cable broadband all offer faster speeds than ADSL services, but they generally cost a little more.
The need for full fibre will depend on what kind of business you are, and what you want to do with your connection and communications services. See our box on the right for an explanation of usage requirements. You can check if full fibre is available in your area from providers’ websites when entering your postcode, or from the Ofcom checker.
As providers roll out new networks, eventually, in many cases broadband services will be moved to full fibre or other gigafast services. Speak to providers to see what is available if you want to future proof your broadband service.
Connectivity is constantly improving in the UK, but for some businesses, for example those located in rural areas, there may still be limitations on the business services and products that are available.
Most premises in the UK can get FTTC or ADSL broadband over the Openreach operated copper network (and from KCOM in Kingston upon Hull)
Cable broadband, supplied over the Virgin Media network, and FTTP broadband, supplied over Openreach and alternate network provider networks is increasingly available to UK premises.
Full fibre services are being extended to an ever-increasing number of business premises; you can use the resources on our choosing a service and provider page to find out if you can get them.
Whether you’re a business setting up new premises or looking to relocate, Ofcom’s interactive tool allows you to check the availability of different broadband services in a particular area by simply entering a postcode.
Similarly, if you’re looking to upgrade your business's current broadband package, you can check whether faster services are locally available.
If you or your employees travel regularly and need to access the internet or send emails on the move, the tool also shows 3G, 4G and 5G mobile broadband coverage for any postcode in the UK – see ‘Business Mobile’ above.
In our most recent SME research, 94% of SMEs said they had an internet connection. If you or your business do not use the internet, or you don’t feel confident using digital communications services, don’t worry, there are a wide variety of places to gain help, both offline and online - some of these are listed in our useful links section.
A good place to start learning about digital communications is at the Doteveryone website. It offers useful resources, guidance and advice, including information on how to use communications services.
It’s also important that business users are able to make use of communications services in a secure way, particularly if you are making or allowing your customers to make financial transactions online. You can find out more about online protection through the GetSafeOnline business pages, and the Cyber Aware website.