UK Digital Divide Drops But Universal Broadband Still Lacking

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Good progress has been made in the UK’s telecoms and wireless networks in 2016

More UK residents than ever now have access to a broadband connection over 10 Mbit/s, as the so-called digital divide has fallen by one million people over the last 12 months thanks to on-going investments by industry and government.

However, 1.4 million homes and businesses in the UK – around five percent of properties – are still unable to sign up for broadband speeds typically required to meet a household’s needs, according to Ofcom in its Connected Nations 2016 report.

Rural areas in particular are being left behind, with nearly 920,000 – around a quarter of rural properties – unable to receive a 10 Mbit/s connection.


Boosting coverage

Although good progress has been made in the UK’s telecoms and wireless networks throughout the last year, Ofcom believes there is still more work that needs to be done, especially in boosting mobile and broadband coverage and the quality of service provided by telecoms companies.

72 percent of premises can now receive an indoor 4G mobile signal, up from 28 percent last year, as operators have continued to roll out faster mobile broadband. However, rural areas are again lagging behind and ‘total’ geographic 4G coverage (areas where a signal is available from all four operators) remains low, being available in just 40 percent of the UK landmass. 

Steve Unger, Ofcom group director, said: “Mobile and broadband coverage continued to grow this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable.

“So we’re challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas, and provide coverage across the UK’s countryside and transport networks. Today we’ve also provided technical advice to support the Government’s plans for universal, decent broadband.”

Perhaps the most important development for homes and businesses is the fact that the quality of connections across the UK has increased significantly, as the average download speed now stands at 37 Mbit/s, a 28 percent increase from the 29 Mbit/s speeds of last year.

Furthermore, superfast broadband is now available to 25.5 million (89 percent) UK homes and businesses and 80 percent of small and medium sized enterprises or SMEs, up from 83 percent and 68 percent respectively in 2015.

So, the overall picture of broadband connectivity in the UK is a positive one, with businesses being able to reap the rewards. Just last month, BT boosted the broadband speeds of 46,000 UK businesses to 76Mbps on its Business Infinity connection.

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