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Three out of every four homes in Britain can now get fixed broadband services at superfast speeds if they choose. Contrary to frequent jibes that the UK is backward in developing next-generation broadband services, this is one of the highest proportions for any major country in Europe.
Superfast or Next-Generation Access (NGA) services are defined as those providing download speeds of 30 megabits per second (Mbps)or more. Research by Point Topic, the broadband analysts, shows that as of the beginning of 2014, 20.4 million (75.2 per cent) of the 27.2 million homes in the UK were in areas covered by one or more superfast broadband services. The services are mainly those provided by Virgin Media over its cable TV network and BT over the telephone network.
Point Topic’s research, part of its continuing Broadband Geography service, shows that superfast broadband coverage increased by 4.9 per cent during 2013 in the UK. The growth has mainly been driven by BT’s rollout of its “fibre-to-the-cabinet” services, sold by both BT Retail and a range of other ISPs.
Figures for other countries are not yet available but Point Topic believes that superfast broadband is now on offer to a higher proportion of homes in the UK than in any other major country in Europe.
“Britain was ahead of all the other big countries in the EU a year ago,” explains Oliver Johnson, Chief Executive of Point Topic. “With its growth in 2013 we are confident that it has held its place” Germany is the country which comes closest to the UK among the European Union’s big six, with 66.2 per cent coverage a year ago.
Coverage at lower speeds still leaves many people unable to use the full range of broadband applications.
“Consider the plan to take BBC3 off air, for example,” says Johnson. “We reckon about 1.2 million homes would not be able to get those programmes online if that happened today.” Some 91 per cent of British homes can get at least 4Mbps, often seen as the minimum for a decent broadband service.
“Being able to get a service doesn’t mean you actually buy it, of course,” says Johnson. “Many people in superfast areas are still using standard broadband over the telephone network and find it’s enough for their needs. Many other homes don’t have fixed broadband at all, although they may be using mobile connections.”
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “This is excellent progress for the UK, but there is more to be done. We want to see even wider availability of superfast broadband across the UK, so as many people as possible can enjoy faster speeds to access the Internet. There is also more progress to be made to ensure consumers receive consistently high quality of service, including faster line repairs and installations for broadband and telephony.”