The strength of the NFU Broadband and Mobile survey comes from the number of farmers who provide first-hand information about the actual coverage they receive on farm.
During the 2017 survey, 500 members spoke to NFU researchers over the phone and a further 366 submitted a response to the online survey between 22 August and 24 September.
The infographic below provides a summary of what farmers reported:
2017 survey analysis
When NFU researchers analysed the data further the messages were loud and clear. The vast majority of farmers have phones and do use broadband – but need access to better services at a price they can afford!
From the evidence members have provided, access to affordable, reliable and superfast broadband and mobile connection can provide the catalyst for a new farming future. It provides the means to make more use of agri-technology and increase their wider business productivity.
However, digital connectivity needs to deliver far more for farmers and for their wider rural communities; whether that is to allow family members to return and work on farm, to support education and skills development, or to provide health care for the older farming generation.
Compliance with regulation is nearly always highlighted by members, as is the need to be able to access wider goods and services. So many farm diversification projects are also reliant on digital connectivity.
What members said about their mobile phone coverage
98% of farmers own a mobile phone. Of those, 93% feel that having access to a reliable mobile signal is important for their business. However, only 16% reported that they could receive a reliable mobile phone signal in all indoor locations and only 15% for outdoor locations on farm. The figure for outdoor coverage across the farm has not improved since 2015 and health and safety remains a major concern.
The NFU survey has continued to show a positive trend with more farmers with smartphones accessing 4G mobile services (80% in 2017, up 5% since 2016. In contrast, 70% did not have 4G coverage in 2015).
Where available, 4G can be used to obtain data services across the farm. The 2017 survey also highlighted concerns about the reduction in voice coverage, which is impacting on day to day productivity as well as during key farming events such as harvest and lambing.
What members said about their fixed broadband coverage
97% of farmers surveyed had access to the Internet. Of those, 91% believe that broadband is an essential tool for their business but the majority (59%) felt that the broadband speed they were able to receive was insufficient.
The number of members receiving superfast broadband has more than doubled to 9%, but a worrying 50% of members surveyed said they received download broadband speeds of 2Mbps or less and 73% said their upload speed was less than 2Mbps.