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Report: Record UK rollout of faster Internet

December 15, 2022

By Colin Mann

More than four in ten UK homes can now access faster, more reliable Internet connections, as the rollout of full-fibre technology continues at record pace.

Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations report, which measures the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK, found that full-fibre connections are now available to 12.4 million households (42 per cent) – an increase of 4.3 million from 2021.

Full-fibre connections – along with upgraded cable networks – can deliver download speeds of one gigabit per second (Gbit/s) or higher. In total, gigabit-capable broadband through a range of technologies is now available to 70 per cent of the UK (nearly 21 million homes), up from 47 per cent last year.

With households now using 482 GB of data a month on average, full fibre can better support families who need to stream, work, game, video-call and study online all at the same time.

But still only around 25 per cent of households are taking it up where it is available to them. Customers who are out of contract could potentially upgrade to a discounted full fibre package without paying more than they currently do.

The vast majority (97 per cent) of UK homes can now get superfast broadband, which provides download speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s; although more than a quarter (27 per cent) who have access to it have not taken it up.

However, nearly 80,000 homes and businesses (0.3 per cent) do not have access to ‘decent’ broadband, defined by the Government as offering download speeds of 10 Mbit/s and upload speeds of 1 Mbit/s. Many of these are in the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK.

This figure has fallen from 123,000 in 2021, and Ofcom estimates that a further 15,000 of these premises will be covered by publicly-funded rollout schemes in the next 12 months.

Satellite broadband can also be an alternative for people who do not have access to traditional broadband services.

Thousands of customers in the UK are now taking low earth orbit satellite broadband services, and the Government recently announced a new trial to deliver high-speed Internet to more than a dozen very hard-to-reach locations across the country using satellite.

“Millions more people are benefitting from faster, more reliable Internet as the rapid rollout of full-fibre broadband continues,” notes Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director. “That can be particularly important at this time of year, as online shopping peaks and people stream festive favourites. It’s also encouraging to see more people in hard-to-reach areas get access to decent broadband, as work continues to connect rural communities.”

The rollout of 5G has also rapidly increased in the last year. Ofcom estimates that around seven in ten UK properties are in areas where 5G is available from at least one mobile network operator, up from about half in 2021.

Around one in five mobile handsets are now 5G-capable, a figure that has doubled over the past 12 months, while 5G traffic has trebled over the same period and now makes up almost 10 per cent of all mobile traffic.

“It’s great to see continued progress on upgrading the UK’s digital infrastructure, especially given the challenges every business is facing right now,” commented Clive Selley, CEO of digital infrastructure provider Openreach. “This is a massive, complex, national engineering project and the economic, social and environmental benefits are going to be vast, so I’m proud that Openreach is leading the way – building further and faster than any company out there. We’ve already reached nine million homes and businesses and we’re building to hard-to-reach rural communities as well as the more densely populated parts of the UK.”

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