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New UK Map of Broadband ISP Speed Finds 13 Percent Get Below 2Mbps

Tuesday, Aug 14th, 2012 (8:22 am) - Score 5,546

Telecoms analyst Point Topic has today published a new UK map of broadband speed availability, which claims that 13% of UK homes and businesses (nearly 4 million premises) still can’t receive internet download speeds of above 2Mbps (Megabits per second) and most are in rural areas.

Point Topic’s map helps to highlight the scale of the problem faced by the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office, which aims to make superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services available to 90% of people in each local authority area by 2015. The secondary Universal Service Commitment (USC) goal also seeks to bring download speeds of “at least” 2Mbps to everybody in the UK (i.e. the last 10%) within the same timescale.

The map itself (below) shows red areas with lower speeds (0Mbps to 2Mbps) and green areas with higher speeds (up to 100Mbps+). As you’d expect the geographic majority of rural areas, where only a relatively small proportion of people live, are dominated by the slowest speeds due to being the least economically viable to serve and upgrade. By contrast the towns and cities are almost always the first places to get new telecoms services due to high density populations and greater general prosperity.

2mbps broadband speed uk map 2012

Despite the bleak picture for rural areas it should still be said that many urban areas also suffer from similar speeds and poor availability woes. Point Topic highlights this by noting that residents in the Isle of Dogs (East London) suffer from slow speeds too, although both BT and Hyperoptic are competing to close the gap in that particular example (here). Earlier this year ISPreview.co.uk ran a much more detailed article on this very subject that explains the problems in more detail – Lack of Fast Broadband is NOT Just a Problem for UK Rural Areas.

Point Topic has also completed a comparative study looking at the number of broadband lines it expects to see within an area – given the availability of broadband and demographics in the area – with the actual number of lines.

Oliver Johnson, CEO of Point Topic, said:

The results show a notable sway towards the South of England, where users have a much higher propensity to take-up broadband than the rest of the UK. A lot is made of the urban rural digital divide, but the impact of lower broadband take-up in the North would only be expected to add to the general divide in things like health conditions and earnings between the North and South of England.”

Meanwhile a growing number of smaller ISPs and community initiatives, such as the Broadband 4 Rural North (B4RN) project in Lancashire, are working to close some of the most serious gaps in rural broadband performance and availability. But Point Topic notes that such efforts will not be enough to achieve the government’s broadband goals across the whole country.

Oliver Johnson added:

There are still going to be coverage gaps if you analyse the plans to date. There are currently 3.7 million premises – residential and business – outside the 2Mbps
fixed footprint and we are projecting more than two and a half million still outside the reach of superfast broadband in 2016. It’s the same old story, where commercial deployment isn’t a possibility there are problems getting the promised coverage to the consumer.”

The analyst cautions that “coverage doesn’t equal access” and points to the low take-up of superfast broadband connectivity. It was revealed last week that just 10% (2 million+) of the UK’s fixed line ISP subscribers were connected via a superfast broadband (25Mbps+) service at the start of July 2012 (here), which is despite Ofcom saying that related services are now available to 60% of premises.

One reason for this lack of adoption is that most superfast services attract a monthly price premium of between £5 to £15. “Not only does broadband have to be available, it has to be affordable,” said the analyst’s report. Easier said than done, especially given the often huge costs of deploying new services. Many urban areas also already have good connectivity, which makes superfast less attractive.

As a side note it’s important to stress that Point Topic’s map does not appear to be based upon real-world performance, which is often below the headline rates or predicted line estimates given by most UK internet providers. The red areas should thus be even more dominant, albeit only for fixed line broadband ISPs (Satellite?).

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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