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UK Superfast Broadband Coverage Hits 78% as Uptake Reaches 26.7%

Thursday, Aug 7th, 2014 (8:20 am) - Score 1,250

The UK telecoms regulator has today published their annual 2014 Communications Market Report, which reveals how Next Generation Access (NGA) “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) services are now available to 78% of the United Kingdom (up from 73% last year) and take-up has increased to 26.7% (up from 17.5% last year).

As usual the lion’s share of this movement comes from coverage and subscription figures that are primarily attributable to both Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 152Mbps capable cable (EuroDOCSIS / DOCSIS3) network and BT’s ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) platform (with some FTTP).

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Most of the “superfast” uptake comes from Virgin Media, which has been able to boost the speeds for their existing customers “at no extra cost” (assuming you ignore the Feb 2014 price hike). By contrast BT has needed to build new infrastructure at great cost and thus those seeking to swap from ADSL to FTTC face higher prices, which slows adoption. Total UK fixed broadband take-up (NGA and standard ADSL etc.) was stable at 73% in Q1 2014 (77% if you include mobile broadband).

Ofcom’s data states that 44% of UK homes are now within reach of Virgin Media’s cable broadband network and curiously this is down from last year’s figure of 48% (explained more below). By comparison 67% are now covered (premises passed) by BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network and that figure rises to 69% when you include KC’s FTTP/C coverage. The combined availability figure, taking into account network overlap, is thus 78%.

digital communication services uk coverage 2014

ISPreview.co.uk notes that Ofcom appears to have once again calculated their cable, fibre and NGA broadband availability figures by using a different methodology than in previous years (we really wish they would stick to one approach) and thus there are some small differences to be noted (e.g. Virgin’s cable availability and total broadband take-up), but luckily most are small shifts.

Elsewhere total operator-reported telecoms revenues fell by £0.6m to £38.6bn in 2013, although the average monthly price of a residential fixed broadband connection increased by 15p in real terms (0.9%) to £16.96 (mostly due to the uptake of superfast connections). But crucially this does not take account of line rental, which is where most ISPs increase their prices.

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Separately, consumer satisfaction with fixed broadband services is fairly stable.

consumer_broadband_satisfaction_2014

Meanwhile 46% of adults who did not have a home broadband connection in Q1 2014 did not think they needed one. The second most frequently-cited reason for not having a home broadband connection was that the respondent did not want to own a computer (23%), while 22% said it was too expensive, 20% thought they were too old to use the Internet and 15% did not believe that they had the knowledge or skills to use the internet. One bit of good news is that 13% said they were likely to get a home broadband connection in the next year.

Generally the availability and uptake for fixed line superfast broadband should continue over the next few years as the Government’s works with BT and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to push the total coverage out to 95% by 2017. However it should be noted that the Government defines “superfast” as download speeds of “greater than 24 Megabits per second”, while Ofcom has chosen to align with the EU’s 2020 target and pegs the figure at 30Mbps. The resultant coverage difference is not thought to be significant but the differing definitions certainly don’t help.

As usual there are plenty of additional facts and data to be found in Ofcom’s full report, provided you don’t mind scouring over 400 pages to uncover them.

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Ofcom’s UK Communications Market Report 2014
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/../2014_UK_CMR.pdf

UPDATE 9:24am

Apparently the difference in Virgin Media’s cable availability is, aside from Ofcom’s methodology tweak, predominantly due to Virgin having undertaken a clean-up of its serviceable addresses database.

UPDATE 10:07am

The Office for National Statistics have today also published their annual ‘Internet Access – Households and Individuals‘ report, which covers many of the same areas as Ofcom’s own data. It notes that in Great Britain, 22 million households (84%) had Internet access in 2014 (up from 57% in 2006) and this equates to around 38 million adults (76% of the population).

Of the 4 million households without Internet access, the majority (53%) said that they didn’t have a connection because they ‘did not need it’ (up from 34% in 2006). However there is still a large and important minority who state that barriers prevent them from connecting to the Internet. For example, of households with no Internet access, 32% indicated that this was due to a lack of skills. Further barriers included equipment costs and access costs being high at 12% and 11% of households without Internet access respectively.

UPDATE 10:37am

As usual there is some scientism around how Ofcom chooses to define “superfast” broadband (i.e. 30Mbps+), especially in terms of reflecting availability.

For example, the report states BDUK’s “gap” filling exercise as being a “rural” one, but as we’ve frequently reported a large proportion are actually reflective of sub-urban work with little rural (until we get past 2015).

Another example comes from their use of the 96% coverage target for Wales, which is referenced as being for “superfast” services even though the Welsh Government and BT have said that it merely reflects NGA “fibre broadband” network coverage (including sub-24Mbps speeds) and not the proportion expected to get speeds of 24Mbps+, let along 30Mbps+.

Mistakes this big could throw the overall statistics out of whack, assuming that’s how Ofcom are choosing to define it (i.e. every NGA capable line being superfast capable). Perhaps none of this confusion would exist if the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office had ensured that it was compulsory for all Local Authority projects to reflect the “superfast” target instead of just raw NGA network reach.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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