Good news for broadband speeds in the UK after the communications regulator Ofcom revealed that 8 million homes in the country can gigabyte broadband connections.
This means that one in four UK homes can access broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps, as the need for robust and speedy broadband connections remains vital in the face of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
Last month the spending review by Chancellor Rishi Sunak had delivered a little bit of bad news for the deployment of ultra-fast full fibre broadband in the UK
That spending review was undertaken after the government had to urgently reassess its financial situation in light of its heavy spending due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The government back in December 2019 had pledged to roll out gigabit-speed broadband to every home in Britain by 2025.
But now the aim is to have a “minimum of 85 percent coverage” by that date, although the £5 billion budget remains intact.
Ofcom’s discovery that 8 million homes have access to FTTP connections was revealed in its annual Connected Nations report, which analyses the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK and each of the home nations.
This report found that millions of people continue to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a significant shift in when, where and how people get online and make calls.
“The UK’s fixed and mobile networks have generally coped well with increased demands during the pandemic,” stated the Ofcom report.
“A shift to more people being at home drove increased demand on broadband networks during the day, although peak usage remained in the evening,” it added. “Mobile networks also experienced increases in voice traffic.”
The report also revealed a number of noteworthy developments for the UK’s communication network infrastructure in 2020.
Ofcom said that gigabit-capable broadband is available to 7.9 million homes (27 percent). It also pointed out that full-fibre broadband connections was available to 5.1 million homes (18 percent).
“This is 2.1 million more premises than a year ago, and represents the highest year-on-year increase seen so far,” noted Ofcom.
It also pointed out that superfast broadband is available to 96 percent of homes, up from 95 percent last year.
But it estimates that around 190,000 homes and businesses (0.6 percent) are still without access to a decent broadband connection.
“The number of mobile base stations providing 5G services has risen ten-fold, to around 3,000 across the UK,” Ofcom noted. “87 percent of these are in England, 7 percent in Scotland and 3 percent in both Wales and Northern Ireland.”
Ofcom added that mobile coverage is generally stable, and that the four main operators have between outdoor coverage to 98-99 percent coverage of premises.
This should be increased thanks to the Shared Rural Network programme agreed in March 2020.
That said, there is still a small number of properties are struggling with their mobile coverage however
“For millions of families this year, life during lockdown would have been even more difficult without reliable broadband to work, learn, play and see loved ones,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director.
“So it’s encouraging that future-proof, gigabit broadband is now available to a quarter of homes, and we expect that to rise even faster in the coming months,” said Fussell.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously been outspoken about the need for the UK to accelerate the deployment of ultrafast fibre broadband across the UK, after he called for the technology to be made available to “every home in the land” within five years.
Prior to that, the government had originally set a goal of 2033 for the rollout of fibre to all premises, a target Johnson had previously called “laughably unambitious” – before the government set the 2025 deadline.
Openreach was onboard, and in July it detailed its plans to roll out next generation fibre connections capable of 1Gbps in the hardest to reach areas in the United Kingdom.
Commercial telecoms FTTP (fibre to the premise) is expected to reach 70 percent of UK homes without government help.
In January this year before the Coronavirus pandemic really began to hit hard, Openreach had announced it was ‘accelerating’ its full fibre build to ‘harder to reach’ market towns, villages & rural areas.
But it remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect things.
Openreach has however begun to switch off parts of the old copper-based network.
Earlier this month for example Openreach announced a ‘UK first’, after customers in the Wiltshire city of Salisbury became the first to switch to a full fibre network.
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