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Ofcom State 95.3% of UK Can Get Standard Broadband of At Least 2Mbps

Thursday, May 16th, 2013 (1:17 pm) - Score 1,637

The communications regulator has today published a new report that outlines the availability of different communications services across the United Kingdom. In particular it finds that “standard broadband” services (i.e. HEADLINE speeds of at least 2Mbps) are now available to 95.3% of households and superfast (30Mbps+) to 67.9% .

It’s important to note that Ofcom defines standard broadband as “affording actual download speeds of at least 2 Mbit/s and generally delivered using ADSL technology“, while superfast broadband should offer “headline download speeds of at least 30Mbit/s” (note: the government still uses a separate figure of 25Mbps+ for older BDUK projects). As usual real-world speeds are likely to tell a very different story.

Never the less Ofcom estimates that approximately 1.2 million homes cannot receive a standard broadband service, which equates to just over 900,000 in England and around 100,000 in each of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The following table affords a more constructive breakdown of the data.

standard broadband uk availability

It’s important to point out that the overall 95.3% figure is sharply different from the approximate of just under 90% given in the regulators 2012 Infrastructure Report, which is apparently due to “methodological differences“.

Ofcom explains that the estimate(s) in today’s report were calculated by considering a postcode not to have standard broadband if the median or mean average speed of connected premises in that postcode was less than 2Mbps.

By comparison the previous 2012 report stated that a postcode was considered not to have standard broadband if any connected line in it experienced a speed below 2Mbps. A similar change in methodology has also impacted the superfast data (up from 65%).

superfast broadband availability uk

The report also contains data on mobile coverage, which found that 99.7% of UK premises (99.9% in urban areas and 99.1% in rural) are served by at least one 2G mobile operator and that falls slightly to 99.1% for 3G (99.7% in urban areas and 96.6% in rural).

However the situation turns more interesting when you look at the raw geographic coverage of 2G and 3G mobile phone services. Take note that 4G isn’t counted yet as only EE have a national network and that roll-out began just a few short months ago.


Ofcom – The availability of communications services in the UK (PDF)

Leave a Comment
18 Responses
  1. Avatar adam says:

    I can only get 1mb.

    My exchange is Fibre enabled, yet my new housing estate has no FTTC cabinet installed, but every other street cabinet all-round me has FTTC.

    Isn’t there a deadline for minimum broadband speeds ?

    I cant stream anything on my slow internet.

    1. Avatar Phil says:

      ofcom is lying as no wonder one of my mate down the shropshire village only getting 1 meg (no adsl2+) no fttc.

    2. Avatar Kyle says:

      FTTC is not the be all and end all…

      Today, I moved back to ADSL2+ from FTTC and I’m now receiving much greater speeds and lower latency. After a year of paying more money for less speed and stability, I’m refusing to continue. I’m classed as a ‘passed by superfast’ individual. Not.

      BT Retail were surprised and the advisor didn’t really know how to process the order as she hadn’t heard of anyone moving back. However, my guesstimation is that this will only become more prevalent once people realise that even when the fibre is in the ground and your line is connected to a shiny new green cabinet, there are no guarantees that you will be any better off.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Obviously you are not the “norm” Kyle, there must be something very wrong there

      What do you get from ADSL2+ vs FTTC?

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      Adam – the BDUK target for a minimum 2Mbps is 2015. There is plenty of debate about whether that means the beginning of 2015, the end, April (end of financial year) or May (Election time)… but assume the end of 2015 becomes the target.

      Phil – Are Ofcom lying because 1 person you know gets less than 2Mbps? Is he more than 4.7% of the UK all by himself? If so, get him on a diet.

      Kyle – You might be passed by FTTC technology, but if your speed isn’t at least 25Mbps, then you aren’t passed by anything superfast. The various BDUK targets require you to get the speeds to be classified as “superfast”… not just be connected to the technology.

      Instead, the various BDUK public consultation documents I’ve seen acknowledge that people at the fringes of an FTTC cabinet will not get superfast speeds but will get what they term “enhanced basic” service (so something between 2 and 25Mbps).

      Obviously you don’t even qualify for the word “enhanced”. But your experience is indeed correct: VDSL2 is more susceptible to problems at longer range than ADSL2+ – usually because the upstream dies off first.

      There’s around 10% of UK lines that are more than 1km from the cabinet, so are candidates for speeds below 25Mbps. However, for ADSL to be faster than VDSL, they also have to be relatively close to the exchange. I wonder what proportion of those lines fall into both categories – pretty slim I’d have thought, so I’m not surprised at your tale of BTR’s surprise.

      Vectoring may improve the speeds some, but it’ll be a while before we find out the actual results.

    5. Avatar Somerset says:

      Devon & Somerset – ensure around 90% of premises have access to fibre optic broadband by the end of 2016, and deliver a minimum of 2Mbs for all premises by the end of 2016

      Wiltshire – The aim is for 91% of premises across all of Wiltshire being able to access superfast broadband, over 24Mbps, by March 2016 and all other premises to have a minimum access line speed of 2Mbps by this time.

      Dorset – no supplier yet – This project is aiming to get 95% of premises in Dorset access to superfast broadband by 2015. The remaining premises will get better broadband than they have now, with at least 2 Mbps.

  2. Avatar 3G Infinity says:

    Re the Ofcom figure then you need to consider line lenght and what technology is in use. There is 15% of households with line lenghts exceeding 5km (Source Point Topic from BT data), at 5km ADSL2+ DL speed is approx 2.2Mbps (theoretically best case, worst case is 1.8Mbps). People on older ADSL will get 1.5Mbps at 5km. So I would say the Ofcom figures are over optimistic or BT has been busy building new cabinets.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      What proportion of that 15% (with exchange distance > 5km) have swapped to FTTC where the D-side length (cabinet distance only) is considerably less?

    2. Avatar 3G Infinity says:

      If you assume that BT has penetrated those areas (or will do) in 2013 then you could see a 50% reduction (ie BT say that penetration on homes passed with FTTC is 50% or 13m homes in March), so that is still 7.5% or 1.95m households.I would add that many of those are in rural areas , eg in Hampshire the number of households with 2Mbps or less is 11% and that has yet to be addressed and will only be addressed with BDUK money.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      I tend to think that those very long lines also tend to be relatively rural, and may not be on commercially-viable cabinets for FTTC, so I suspect that the 50% figure might be an over-estimate as yet, but will catch up more as BDUK projects kick in.

      I guess that the fill-in of this “basic broadband” areas will be one of the last things achieved in the BDUK projects. I’m wondering how much will need to be achieved using BT’s newly-purchased 4G spectrum, which I guess will take some time to deploy.

  3. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

    There are according to this report 156,725 households in ‘urban’ areas which cannot receive >=2Mb.

    I’m currently typing this from one of them 🙁


  4. Avatar Michael says:

    So once again the fact that 99.9% of the UK landmass is accessable from 3 broadband satellite platforms at 2mbps to 10mbps is still an inconvenient truth that our evidence based regulator allows itself to ignor.

    Whilst I admit this is not quite the same as ADSL or VDSL based services it is a real world FACT that like it or not the minimum 2Mbps figure has been reached.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Two reasons – affordability (both installation and monthly cost) and capacity.

      The BDUK consultation documents have an added factor that isn’t mentioned in most places – affordability. The 2Mbps speeds must be available with a price below £25, while the superfast speeds must be available for below £30. That’s borderline for satellite services. But the installation cost is the one that usually causes problems. Here’s East Yorkshire’s take:

      The whole of the East Riding of Yorkshire is also served by satellite services offering a basic broadband service. Whilst the presence of these services is acknowledged, these services have not been included on the coverage maps as the installation costs and in some cases the rental charges potentially make these unaffordable for consumers.

      Obviously satellite packages also tend to have low usage caps alongside the high prices, making it limiting to heavier users – and particularly restrictive for any video usage. This is one aspect of the capacity restriction, but also relates to affordability.

      Total capacity is another reason – Satellite can cover the entire country but only give realistic service to a certain number of connections – perhaps around 250,000 connections at the moment, or about 1% of the premises in the nation.

      The UK “Satellite Broadband Steering Group” (SBSG) estimated that satellite could provide around 150,000 “functional” connections to the UK in 2011, and predicted 225,000 in 2012 and 300,000 in 2014. Functional here means a top speed of 10Mbps with lower sustained rates.

      The SBSG has figures from BDUK suggesting that between 0.5% and 1% of UK premises will need to be served by satellite, with a 70% take-up rate – leading to figures of between 100,000 and 200,000 connections.

      So satellite can perhaps account for 10-20% of the properties that can’t yet get 2Mbps via fixed line (ie those not in the 95.3%)

  5. Avatar Slow Somerset says:

    @Somerset Devon & Somerset 90% on superfast by the end of 2016 = FAIL.

  6. Avatar MikeW says:

    It was interesting reading other parts of the document, but a little disappointing too.

    For basic broadband, they state:

    But by last November we were already observing it may be appropriate to consider increasing the 2 Mbit/s target in due course, the costs of which could be reduced by a number of developments in wireless and fixed technologies

    For rollout of FTTC-style technology, it mentions the future possibility of vectoring, bonding and FTTdp (without mentioning them by name).

    But again, the glaring hole is in EO lines. No mention at all.

    For rollout of FTTP, it mentions the high cost.

    1. Avatar Somerset says:

      EO lines will be dealt with by network rearrangement.

  7. Avatar DTMark says:

    Well, we’re in an NGA “no intervention area” because the average for the area is about 2.5Meg. About what you might expect given line lengths of 2500m to about 6000m. It is rural. But it can get ADSL which is better than Blackpool and Welwyn Garden City which could not and they’re huge built up areas. Most people on sub 2Meg connections live in urban areas, not rurals.

    Line length is however not the primary factor in the abysmal speeds, line quality or lack thereof is the issue. Line here is 3600m long and can’t do 2Meg, neighbours is same, and so there’s no such thing as a “sub 2Meg area” – the sub 2Meg area is actually “one house” among others (neighbours might be on 6Meg). For heavens sake, these bits of wire are probably nearly a century old and are in many cases literally useless. A 3G modem hung out of the window is FIFTEEN times faster.

    Getting past this 2Meg target could either be done by flogging the ancient GPO wire to death with “ADSL regenerators” but this is close to farce now. The inconvenient truth is that a new network is required. WIth the average life expectancy of ducting being what, 40 years.. there’s just nothing here to really build on. FTTC to both cabs might provide the USO to the whole village and it might not.

    Do this sort of analysis street by street and at the end of this BDUK project we will still end up with urban built up areas with no broadband at all even if we enable every single cabinet for “fibre”.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      I’m not sure what you’re saying there with “NGA non-intervention zone”. With average speeds of 2.5Mbps, you’ll certainly be in a grey or black (non-intervention) “basic broadband” zone, but you’d also be in a white (intervention) “NGA broadband” zone. The maps so far seem to go down to postcode level – and I guess your “area” is made from considerable postcode if it has line lengths between 2.5km and 6km.

      Of course, just because you are in an intervention zone doesn’t mean that you’ll actually get intervened on.

      The “ancient” and “century-old” GPO lines actually tend to be the E-side cables. They’re the ones that BT don’t want to disturb much – and include the paper-insulated, lead-covered lines protected by pressurised air. From a recent debate on here, it seems that the D-side tends to be considerably newer, plastic-covered, gel-filled cables. The relative youth of these cables is probably a factor that works in the favour of FTTC relative to ADSL.

      Of course, you’d still be subject to the cabinet-distance issue for VDSL2, which will still be significant in rural areas.

      An FTTC cabinet will give NGA speeds out to perhaps 1200-1500 metres, and vectoring seems likely to extend that range by 200-300 metres. Beyond that will be a fringe region that gets an “enhanced basic” service from the cabinet, even if it wasn’t part of a zone due for intervention for “basic broadband”

      I understand why people want fibre as the only solution, and deride the existing network. The inconvenient truth here is that if BT went for an FTTP-only strategy, they would still have started in the main urban centres, and the rural areas would have been last. The difference is that it would likely have been a 20 year rollout before it got to the rural regions, instead of 5 years.

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