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Report: UK slow to adopt ultrafast broadband

May 22, 2023

Ofcom data, analysed by BroadbandUK, has shown that despite the UK Government’s push to deliver Project Gigabit, uptake doesn’t match the increased availability of full-fibre, gigabit-capable broadband.

The Connected Nations 2022 report by Ofcom, which uses data collected in May 2022, shows that there has been a shift away from Standard connections (<30 Mbit/s) to Superfast connections (30-300 Mbit/s), but uptake of Ultrafast connections (>300 Mbit/s) is lagging.

The UK Government’s Project Gigabit is a multi-billion-pound plan to bring gigabit-capable broadband to hard-to-reach areas across the country. The goal of the project is to connect 85 per cent of the UK to gigabit-capable broadband by the end of 2025.

Current full-fibre availability in the UK

In a recent statement by Ofcom’s group director of network and communications, Lindsay Fussell, it was announced that full-fibre broadband is set to reach 50 per cent of UK homes and businesses by March 2023, representing a significant milestone in the government’s efforts to improve the country’s broadband infrastructure.

Availability vs uptake

The percentages of connection speeds are as follows:

  1. Standard connections range from 11.79 per cent in Greater London to 18.86 per cent in the South West.
  2. Superfast connections range from 72.64 per cent in the South West to 78.51 per cent in Wales.
  3. Ultrafast connections range from 5.31 per cent in Wales to 12.56 per cent in Greater London.

The percentage changes in connection speeds show that Standard connections have generally decreased across all regions, with the largest decrease in Northern Ireland (-16.52 per cent) and the smallest in the East of England (-11.93 per cent).

Superfast connections have increased in all regions, with the largest increase in Wales (9.93 per cent) and the smallest in Greater London (5.84 per cent).

Ultrafast connections have also increased in all regions, with the highest increase in Greater London (7.12 per cent) and the lowest in Wales (3.12 per cent). Overall, the UK has seen a decrease in Standard connections (-13.61 per cent) and an increase in both Superfast (7.87 per cent) and Ultrafast connections (5.74 per cent).

At town/city level:

  • The highest share of Standard connection speed is found in Kirkwall (38.37 per cent), while the lowest is in Hull (8.05 per cent) and Harrow (9.84 per cent). The largest declines in Standard connection speeds were seen in Hull (-16.57 per cent) and Belfast (-16.52 per cent).
  • Superfast connection speeds are highest in Cardiff (81.29 per cent) and lowest in Hull (55.90 per cent) and Kirkwall (61.45 per cent). The largest increase in Superfast connection speeds was seen in Llandrindod (12.57 per cent).
  • Hull comes out on top, in terms of Ultrafast connections (36.05 per cent) followed by Sutton (14.01 per cent) whilst the lowest was seen in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (0.35 per cent). The largest increase in Ultrafast connection speeds was observed in Hull (22.51 per cent), followed by Salisbury (8.09 per cent).

Note: KCOM’s rolled out its full fibre network in Hull in 2019, putting Hull years ahead in terms of availability. This will account for greater uptake in the city compared to areas where full fibre has only been made available more recently.

Saveen Rajan, CEO of BroadbandUK, commented: “Despite the continuous expansion of Ultrafast broadband infrastructure across the UK, there is a significant gap between its availability and the actual uptake by consumers. This underscores the urgent need for not only increasing public awareness about the benefits of Ultrafast connections but also effectively addressing affordability concerns.”

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