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Report: Full-fibre broadband for over half UK homes

September 7, 2023

By Colin Mann

UK comms regulator Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report updates mobile coverage and broadband availability across the UK – revealing full-fibre broadband is now on offer to the majority of UK homes.

Based on findings from April and May 2023, it shows the extent to which people in the UK are able to access the broadband and mobile phone services that they rely on.

Faster broadband availability on the rise

Availability of gigabit-capable broadband continues to improve at a rapid pace, with nearly 22.4 million UK homes (75 per cent) now able to access them. This is up from 21.9 million (73 per cent), and has been driven by the continued rollout of full-fibre broadband.

Over half of UK homes (52 per cent), equating to 15.4 million households, now have access to full-fibre services. This has been driven mainly by the larger fibre operators but also supported by a number of smaller providers across the UK serving individual communities and regions.

Availability of superfast broadband, offering download speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s, remains at 97 per cent of UK homes. The final 3 per cent of properties are likely to be in harder-to-reach areas, which more recent publicly-funded schemes could help.

The vast majority of UK properties can access decent broadband – defined as offering at least 10 Mbit/s download and 1 Mbit/s upload speed.

Mobile coverage stable, with network upgrades on the way

While there hasn’t been a significant increase in coverage since Ofcom’s last update, the mobile industry continues to develop coverage.

Around 93 per cent of the UK is predicted to have good outdoor 4G coverage from at least one operator, and this is expected to rise to 95 per cent by end of 2025 as a result of the Shared Rural Network.

The UK has both geographic and road 4G not-spots – areas where good 4G services are not available from any mobile operator. Geographic not-spots have dropped slightly since our last report, 8 per cent to 7 per cent. Road coverage remains largely the same with just 4 per cent of all roads estimated to be an in-vehicle not-spot. This varies significantly across individual nations however, particularly in Scotland and Wales.

For calls and texts, coverage remains largely unchanged. The range of predicted coverage by mobile operators varies from 85 per cent-93 per cent of the UK, depending upon operator, while in addition, 99 per cent of all UK premises are predicted to have coverage for outdoor voice calls from all mobile operators.

According to Peter Ames, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, the updated Ofcom figures show when it comes to the Government’s plan for lightning-fast broadband, a slow and steady rollout might not win the race.

“While three quarters of UK households are now able to get gigabit speeds, the current rate of progress suggests that the target of reaching 85 per cent of homes by 2025 will not be met,” he advises.

“Project Gigabit was originally billed as a ‘rocket boost’ to the nation’s broadband when launched by Boris Johnson two years ago. Worryingly, it is now described as an ambition by the regulator, rather than a commitment.”

“Fast and reliable broadband is more important than ever and if it’s serious about levelling up, the Government must stop this promise fizzling out. It should also be looking to raise the bar on standards and challenging providers to do the same.”

“The increase in full fibre coverage to over half the country is to be welcomed, but more work must be done to bring the thousands of properties without a basic service in from the cold.”

“With our growing digital demands, the 10Mb speed currently defined as ‘decent’ is no longer fit for purpose and superfast downloads of at least 30Mb should become the new minimum. This would also put pressure on the industry to prioritise the areas of the country currently unable to get these speeds.”

“Ofcom must ensure that it works with providers to make consumers aware of the speeds available in their area so they can benefit. Faster packages must also be affordable to prevent a growing digital divide.”

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