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UPD Ofcom Report 73% of the United Kingdom Can Get Superfast Broadband

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 (10:26 am) - Score 1,459

The latest annual telecoms Infrastructure Report update from Ofcom has claimed that 73% of UK homes and businesses are now within reach of an NGA superfast broadband (30Mbps+) connection, which is up from 67.9% at the last update in May (here) and 65% in 2012. Uptake has also climbed to around 4.8m customers from 2.1m last year (out of 21.7m total broadband connections).

As a result of the progress some 22% of broadband connections are now superfast (up from 10% in 2012), with most of the take-up being driven by services delivered over BT or Virgin Media’s respective telecoms platforms. Similarly the average modem sync speed over this period has also increased from 12.7Mbps to 17.7Mbps (note: real-world performance usually delivers less than the sync speed).

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said:

Superfast broadband is rolling out fast across the country, and 4G mobile will reach at least 98% of the population. This is really good news but there remain considerable challenges, not least in hard-to-reach areas for mobile and home internet services.

We know consumers increasingly expect superfast speeds, but it’s also important to make sure people can connect over a very wide area. That is why we are doing everything we can to support moves to improve coverage in difficult areas such as roads and train lines.”

However, using the sync speed data, Ofcom also notes that 8% of all broadband connections in the UK currently operate at less than 2Mbps but two thirds of these “slow connections” are apparently in areas where superfast networks exist. In other words, approximately 3% of UK households are currently receiving sub-2Mbps speeds and do not have the option of switching to superfast.

sub 2mbps broadband uk

But remember that superfast networks (e.g. FTTC) don’t always deliver superfast speeds of 30Mbps+. Ofcom’s analysis does however indicate that over 86% of current FTTC/VDSL connections have modem sync speeds of 30Mbps+ and over 90% are more than 24Mbps (the latter is the UK Government’s definition of “superfast“). Here’s a run down of some other interesting coverage stats.

nga broadband coverage uk
fixed broadband takeup uk

The report also found that fixed line broadband customers in the UK gobbled 30GB (GigaBytes) of data per connection, which is up from 24GB last year. But breaking this information down we also find that the average data use for superfast broadband connections rises to 55GB (i.e. the faster you connect the more you eat). It should be said that these figures are fairly steady across the United Kingdom but they do dip a little more in Wales.

Separately the proportion of UK premises with 3G (Mobile Broadband) coverage from all operators increase from 77.3% in 2012 to 79.7% to 2013. Elsewhere the number of public WiFi (wireless Internet) hotspots throughout the UK has doubled over the year to 34,000 (from 16,000) and the amount of data being sent or received by consumers in these hotspots almost trebled to nearly 2 Million Gigabytes in a month (up from 0.75m GB in 2012).

One final thing worth noting is how the report claims that the Government has “committed to ensuring that virtually all households benefit from a speed of at least 2Mbit/s by 2017” (Universal Service Commitment), which appears to confirm that the USC was also delayed from its original 2015 target during the last spending review when an extra £250m was allocated to help fixed line superfast broadband connections extend to 95% of the UK by 2017.

Ofcom’s 2013 Infrastructure Report (PDF)

UPDATE 2:10pm

A comment from BT.

Sean Williams, BT Group’s Director of Strategy, told ISPreview.co.uk:

It’s great to see the country’s digital infrastructure improving so quickly. Superfast broadband is now available to 73 per cent of the UK and, each week, more and more homes and businesses are taking advantage of the faster speeds it brings. Average speeds have risen to 17.7Mbps and competition is keeping prices low, so the UK is already one of the best places for broadband in Europe.

BT is playing a huge part in those improvements. We’re investing more than £3 billion to upgrade our network across the UK, so we expect to see even more progress on these measures in the years ahead.”

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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76 Responses
  1. Avatar Phil

    Ofcom is lying as I don’t believe 73% in UK had superfast fibre broadband. More likely less than 45%

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Your calculations please.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      They said that 73% of UK households have the option, not that 73% of UK households have it.

      Virgin cover more than 45% of premises alone, twit.

    • Avatar Gerarda

      No they mean 73% have a phone line which is connected to a cabinet which has a fibre connection, regardless of whether a FTTC service is available on that line. It is BT/Ofcom’s (I regard the two as interchangeable) latest update of the “ADSL is universally available” spin

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      The only times that happens are when a cabinet is full and another is needed, or for a brief period when more capacity is required to a cabinet.

      That probably doesn’t affect over 250,000 premises.

    • Avatar Gerarda

      Or when the lines are more than 1.5km long

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      So what % of premises are on lines over 1.5km from a cabinet? I know roughly 90% are 1km or less, can’t remember the number <1.5km, no doubt you have this to hand?

    • Avatar gerarda

      What relevance is the percentage more than 1.5km long?

    • Avatar MikeW


      I guess the percentage is important because you’re questioning the 73% figure – in your words “Or when the lines are more than 1.5km long”

      According to the Sagentia report, the numbers are as follows:
      1.0km – 89%
      1.2km – 94%
      1.4km – 96%
      1.6km – 97%
      1.8km – 98%
      2.4km – 99%

      The distances are calculated from attenuation values, converted to distances using the “equivalence” figures for 0.5mm copper cable. So they’re not real distances.

    • Avatar gerarda

      I still think its irrelevant but to go back to the superfast point FTTC drops below superfast speeds at 750-800m according to think broadband, less than 80% of connections according to the Sagentia report so superfast is available to 57% times 75-80% equals 43-45% of premises,plus those in Virgin areas outside the BT SFBB network which Ofcom said added 16% to the total coverage, giving 59-61% coverage.

  2. Avatar Slow Somerset

    I just cannot believe this for one Minute and superfast is classed as 30Mbps+ now is it seems to be 24Mbps+ when it suits.

    • Avatar Phil

      I agree, superfast broadband should be excess 70Mbps or more. Anything less isn’t superfast!

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      No conspiracy here, the UK government defined > 24Mbps as superfast (better than the max theoretically possible with ADSL2+), with the EU subsequently coming up with its 30Mbps “target”.

  3. Avatar Gerarda

    Usual nonsense from Ofcom. According to them my postcode which cannot receive even basic ADSL is shown as having NGA coverage.

    • Avatar MikeW

      The two statements are not incompatible. It is perfectly possible to get NGA while basic ADSL service is impossible.

      One way is for NGA to come from BT, where the cabinet is at the outer fringes of an exchange area.

      The other way is for Virgin to supply NGA using cable.

      In what way is the statement wrong for your postcode?

    • Avatar gerarda

      Because we can get neither – I was pointing out the difference of degree of error not that one follows the other.

  4. Avatar Stephen

    I am now classed in the final 3% (3% of UK households are currently receiving sub-2Mbps speeds and do not have the option of switching to superfast). Now that is depressing!

    • Avatar SlowLincolnshire

      Same here with the large majority of my county being mostly rural. I think a website / facebook page / forum should be set up where anyone not happy with the state of rural broadband can go. Am sure there would be a large amount of support for such a page

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      As am I, in a suburb of the UK’s 3rd largest city. Good isn’t it?

    • Avatar DTMark

      If you lived towards the outskirts of Welwyn Garden City as I did, you wouldn’t even have ADSL at all – lines too poor/long 😉

  5. Oh dear me, we could really do with some new blood in ofcom, people who will check facts instead of believing in the old ‘up to’ ‘homes passed’ weasel words of the telcos. I thought ofcom was a regulator?

    • Avatar gerarda

      Ofcom insist that mobile operators give actual or at least best estimate coverage in the figures they quote but BT are allowed to claim coverage they now they cannot achieve. The document does give the impression of being written by BT as any even slight examination shows up contradictions and inconsistencies

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Examples please.

      So what would you quote instead, actual connections? The various mainstream providers publish these quarterly anyway.

      What is wrong with giving an indication of the availability of services? Whether people decide to use them is a personal choice, it is important to understand the extent that options are available should they be required.

      Difficult to see why you think this shows a lack of competence by the regulator, perhaps you would care to explain for a change?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Explanation? No chance.

    • Avatar MikeW

      LOL. I for one don’t expect an explanation from Chris “rack up the rhetoric” Conder.

      She’s in a great position to fight *for* something, but always chooses to fight *against* instead.

    • Avatar gerarda

      Surely it should be BTOfcom that needs to explain why they are not publishing the truth?

      I have asked them for an explanation but of course with no response.

  6. Avatar gerarda


    1. Mobile providers have to provide coverage calculations and have to deduct premises when a signal is not receivable. BT is allowed to include any premises connected to an exchange or cabinet and do not have to deduct those incapable of receiving it.
    2. According to BTOfcom anyone connected an NGA enabled cabinet receiving a speed of less than 2mb must simply be on the wrong service.
    3. Despite rural coverage of superfast broadband even on their inflated figures of only 24% to get to the 3% of sub 2mb connections nationwide unable to access broadband, even if there were no sub 2mb connections in non-rural areas, over 50% of rural premises would have to have access to superfast, more than twice the coverage. I will let your bosses at BT work through the numbers so they come up with spin to defend this.

    I could go on an on but I am just sick of BT/Ofcom/DCMS massaging the numbers.

    • Avatar gerarda

      I missed out “superfast” in between access and broadband in point 3 of my previous post

      Point Topic seem to be able to get it about right (see article on rightmove) – leaving the question as to why Ofcom did not use their data instead BT’s.

    • Avatar MikeW

      1. Do you have proof?
      Certainly the BT press releases for “number of premises” covered in a town invariably give a total number of properties with NGA access that is below the total number of properties served.

      2. You’ll have to explain this part. Are you tslking about the case where you *choose* to stick with a slow ADSL service? Or where the line is too long to get NGA service?

      3. Are you sure of your maths here?

      If the rural parts of the UK are the 10% of most remote properties, then the 3% that are sub-2Mbps would leave 7% to be higher than 2Mbps, or roughly three-quarters. 24% of the same rural parts (who have access to NGA) would only amount to 2.4% of the UK.

      But irrespective of whether the numbers of *coverage* add up, the fact is this is only *coverage*. You can’t force every single one of that 24% to take the service, even if their current ADSL service is woeful. Some of the 3% os sub-2Mbps may stay that way because they choose to!

    • Avatar MikeW

      Doh – your subsequent post negated my last paragraph for point 3. But the point on the maths still holds.

    • Avatar gerarda


      1. Read the report and you will see both are clearly stated. The post code data confirms NGA/ADSL statement.
      2. I cannot see the connection between your point 2 and my point 2 – are you referring to something else?
      3. Yes I am sure of my maths – if anything my 50% could be nearer 75% depending on the definition of rural used

  7. Avatar JNeuhoff

    These figures are certainly wrong for our local council district. We know, because we got the detailed VDSL coverage information. It’s more like 45% at the most in our area.

    Would be interesting to know how exactly Ofcom got its figure.

  8. Avatar Karen

    Load of rubbish 73% may be able to get FTTC, whether it is superfast is another matter. You only have to look at BTs own forums to see all the people stuck at slower than 30Mb speeds. More self induced hot air from Ofcom and BT.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Oh no a few forum posts ! That must mean most people get less than 30Mbps then if there are a few forum posts about it

    • Avatar gerarda

      You can tell when BTOfcom are on the back foot when their supporters have to resort to sarcasm. So far neither you nor new Londoner have come up with any evidence to prove that they are correct.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I’ve no idea how Ofcom come up with their figures, but if you doubt them why don’t you take it up with them?

      Why would you “prove” the Ofcom figures are correct, they are the published figures, how about you disprove them to Ofcom?

    • Avatar gerarda

      I have read the report and supporting data so I do know and I have already said, as you can read above, that I have asked Ofcom for an explanation

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Hopefully you’ll share your findings 😉

    • Avatar gerarda

      Don’t hold your breath I am not expecting a reply.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @gerarda – it is for you to prove they are incorrect.

    • Avatar gerarda

      No its not – I am not the regulator. It is Ofcom who should be ensuring that their report is, as they say in the report it is supposed, objective, but not in the sense that the object is to distort public policy in favour of BT.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      So for what reason do you believe they are incorrect?

    • Avatar JNeuhoff

      @TheFacts: Haven’t you read above postings? Are really so naive to blindly believe these Ofcom figures and BT propaganda? We have some figures and rollout details for e.g Essex which clearly contradict the ofcom report. Not because Essex is poorer, they are just more honest in what is achievable within a limited budget.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      The report does not go down to county level so what are your figures?

  9. Avatar gerarda

    Read the rest of my comments on the article, then read the report – its a blindingly obvious mixture of distortion, exaggeration and, as in the case of the only 3% not capable of getting a superfast connection, the ridiculously stupid.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      3% not capable of superfast? It says 73% can?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Of the 8% of the connections with <2M a third of those (~3% of the connections) can get superfast if they want it. Meaning their area has been upgraded but they have not chosen to change over to superfast. Maybe they are waiting for their contract to end.

    • Avatar gerarda

      @TheFacts. The figures are actually the other way round, not that it alters the position very much. Are you suggesting that 3/8 (or as Ofcom say 5/8)of all users with a less than 2mb connection are on contracts that cap their download speed to under 2mb? I cannot find a package in the UK that does this and though there maybe a few legacy contracts, you really a million people will be on these?

    • Avatar Karen

      It would appear a single individual can not read the actual report and whoever wrote the news headline made a mistake.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Isn’t this simply about people on long lines with <2M who are connected to a cabinet with FTTC and could get a faster speed if they wanted to?

    • Avatar gerarda


      Even if that was the case, given that FoD is subject to survey and the reluctance of BT to install it, are you suggesting that when Ofcom said that they could upgrade they meant, but did not say, they could do so only by spending a four figure sum?

      If so that is just another example of spin and deception.

  10. Avatar gerarda

    For those of you wanting “the facts” and “proof” I thought I might share the analysis I did on our area to show the impact of the Ofcom distortions of coverage and average speed based on the limited postcode they released.

    It is a mixed area, partly in a BDUK area but mainly inside a completed commercial roll out non-intervention area so it probably reflects a better picture than most rural areas.

    Out of 248 postcodes, only 143 have more than 2 connections and are included in the Ofcom stats. The others are ignored. Given that the national average of connections is around 80% it is almost certain that connections of 0-30% indicate no or very limited availability and the premises are getting their service by other means.

    Adding the remaining 105 postcodes into the data has the following effect:

    1. The number of postcodes with a median average speed of less than 2mb goes from 25 to 130, i.e. from 10% to 52%

    2. The average speed falls, even on Ofcoms distorted definition of average (mean average), from 8.2mb to 1.9mb.

    3. Using better definitions of average than mean, which is distorted by the superfast connections, Ofcom show a median speed of 3.1mb (so already more than halved from headline 8.2mb) and a mode average of 2.6mb (in the absence of individual connection speeds I used a mode calculation on the median speed per post code).

    4. Adding the remaining postcode data in reduces the mean average to 1.9mb, the median to 1.65 and the mode (ie the speed you are most likely to get) to zero.

    I have assumed in this that if there are 3 connections in the post code data the rest of that post code can get a connection. We know in reality that is not the case so if anything my numbers will tend to overstate the coverage and speed.

    In terms of Superfast coverage Ofcom claim that 143 post codes are covered. Of these only 55 have a connection with maximum speed above 30mb, 8 have a maximum speed between 10mb and 30mb, 14 between 2 and 10mb, 18 where the maximum is less than 2mb and 48 have no connections at all.

    Despite Ofcoms statement about the ability of 2mb lines to upgrade a random test on BTs postcode availability checker found that the maximum speeds available was in all sub 2mb cases “up to 1mb” so they cannot upgrade.

    So even in an NGA enabled area at least 66, and possibly 88 out of 143 postcodes are out of reach of superfast speeds.This may not be typical of urban areas given the more concentrated density of housing but if it is typical of rural areas it reduces Ofcoms claimed 24% coverage down to between 11 and 15%

    • Avatar TheFacts

      You need to know number of properties for each postcode, some may be businesses with their own postcode.

    • Avatar gerarda

      To be totally accurate yes but Ofcom have not released that data so I have assumed an equal number of premises in each postcode. Any variations are not going to be significant there would have to be several times as many premises in each postcodes in the faster areas compared tot the smaller ones. Yes there will be some businesses with their own postcode but even if Ofcom did not, as they did last year, exclude them from the data the numbers that could get a service are small and again will not effect the analysis to any great extent.

    • Avatar Gadget

      Actually there are quite a large variation in premises per postcode (find someone with the commercial licence for Codepoint and they will show you), and in the context of this discussion it does tend towards self selection ie one reason a cabinet is not enabled is too few customers so you could expect that any postcodes covering that cabinet area would therefore have a lower number of premises by extension.

    • Avatar gerarda

      That self selection does not affect the NGA area analysis as all cabinets have, by definition, been enabled. Nor would any variation in postcode densities affect the mode average speed of zero.

      My analysis may be subject to some variation and you can nitpick round the edges but it has demonstrated 3 fundamental flaws in Ofcom’s analysis:

      1. Notspots and near notspots have been ignored and so the amount of sub 2mb lines is understated.
      2. The average speeds quoted are not what the average user is getting (they need to use median, as the ONS do for average earnings, to avoid distortion by a small number of very high values)
      3. Being connected to an NGA enabled cabinet does not give you automatically the option of getting above 2mb speeds as point 3.12 of the report claims

      The analysis may not be a complete demolition job, but there are only a few bits of walls left standing.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      How many with <2M ADSL would get <2M FTTC? Not many.

      Note blocks of eg. 50 flats have same postcode.

    • Avatar gerarda


      If your post was a reply to mine of 2.41pm you obviously have not read my analysis. So to put it simply after full FTTC enabling there are still 66 postcodes out of 143 than have no connections faster than 2mb, and for none of those is BT saying a higher speed is available.

      Your block of flats point is irrelevant as there no blocks in this area.

    • Avatar Karen

      They did not read the original figures so expecting them to read your highly sensible explanation is expecting way too much.

    • Avatar JNeuhoff

      @gerarda: Just a quick thought: Couldn’t you use the Freedom of Information Act to get more details from Ofcom as to how exactly they derived their figures? At least some areas are public funded rollout areas!

    • Avatar Gadget

      Why do you need an FOI request? Page 93 onwards of the report linked to in the main article describes the methodology!

      “A1.10 Data manipulation and auditing took place over a number of stages. These included:
      • Data cleansing to remove impossibly large values and any fields where data was missing. Aggregating data provided by operators into a common format and carrying out validation to ensure the dataset is of the correct magnitude.
      • Appending geographical data, including the local authority, country and urban/semi-urban/rural code based on postcodes. This stage also provided a summary as to how many properties exist in each type of location which is aggregated on a local authority or county basis.
      • Data were split both by local authority and by individual postcode, and this was repeated for urban, semi-urban and rural areas.”

    • Avatar TheFacts

      How many cabinets cover the 248 postcodes and where do Ofcom say Superfast coverage is available? Would help to know the location!

    • Avatar gerarda

      I agree with Gadget the methodology combined with the post code data makes it fairly transparent. It is why was it relatively easy to demolish the assumptions behind it.

      @TheFacts – I suggest you download the postcode file from Ofcom. Filter on NGA available and look for some postcodes where the maximum speed in 2mb. Then put those in BTs postcode checker to see whether increased speeds are available

    • Avatar TheFacts

      DN6 9JT 1M on list, 10.6 on checker
      BN1 9EY 0.5M on list, 46.3 on checker
      SS17 9HR – 0.5M on list, 22 on checker
      AB12 3NP – 2M on list, 52 on checker

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Somebody needs to put the clock back…

    • Avatar gerarda

      I only need one example to prove Ofcoms statement wrong.

      From the other side of the country from us, the second one I picked out, B48 7QL.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      The notes say:
      Superfast Broadband Available(Y/N) – This field indicates whether Virgin Media or Openreach are able to provide superfast broadband services to one or more premises in the postcode. Note, not all premises will necessarily be able to order the service and, for fibre to the cabinet technologies, not all connections will necessarily be able to achieve superfast speeds.

      However B48 7QL can order FoD.

    • Avatar gerarda


      Even if that was the case, given that FoD is subject to survey and the reluctance of BT to install it, are you suggesting that when Ofcom said that they could upgrade they meant, but did not say, they could do so only by spending a four figure sum?

      If so that is just another example of spin and deception from Ofcom

  11. Avatar TheFacts

    Above is 2012 data, 2013 examples available.

  12. Avatar Sledgehammer

    People need the ability to read between the lines. Also to know when they are being fed B/S and not believe everything they read in print as the truth.

    • Avatar gerarda

      Its not just people, its government and politicians that need to know they are being fed B/S. Our Councillors in their meetings with various ministers and officials found that they were astonished to find ADSL was so widely unavailable.

      Even in this years report the graph of ADSL availability in figure 3 of the summary shows 100%

    • Avatar Karen

      A certain person seems to add to that conundrum here by making up their own bunch of figures as they go along.

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