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UK Falls One Place in 2015 EU Digital Agenda Broadband Progress Report

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 (1:36 pm) - Score 1,679

The European Commission has updated their EU Broadband Scorecard, which uses data from Dec 2014 and Jan 2015 to reveal the United Kingdom’s progress toward Europe’s overall Digital Agenda goals (e.g. ensuring 100% coverage of 30Mbps+ Internet speeds, with 50% take-up of 100Mbps+). But we’re now ranked 5th for connectivity, down one place from 4th last year.

The Digital Agenda goals actually cover much more than Internet connectivity, although being ISPreview.co.uk our focus is of course on the access side and in that sense it’s good to see that the overall UK coverage of Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband has increased from 82% last year to 89% now (compared with 68% across the EU). But we’re not so hot in rural areas.

However it should be stressed that the EU’s data doesn’t make clear whether their NGA coverage total reflects availability of superfast broadband (30Mbps+) speeds or just raw infrastructure inc. sub-30Mbps speeds. Indeed we’d put the actual coverage of 30Mbps+ at somewhere around 82-85% today (depending on the data source). Never the less the UK Government’s aim for 90% superfast broadband coverage by early 2016 still looks viable.

eu_2015_nga_broadband_coverage

The EU’s report notes that Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are the strongest for fixed line broadband connectivity, while Poland, Romania, Croatia and Italy were the weakest. However it also clearly states that NGA alone is “particularly advanced” in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the UK and Belgium (as above). A general country summary for the UK can be found below.

eu digital agenda scorecard 2015 united kingdom

The UK also does quite well for 4G (LTE) based Mobile Broadband coverage too, which is despite being later to market than many other operators in Europe (this deployment process is still on-going and should hit 98% by the end of 2015). But once again the rural gap is also quite noticeable (see chart below).

In relation to that it’s noted that the take-up of Mobile Broadband in the UK is currently running at 88 out of every 100 people, which is significantly above the EU average, although our rank for this indictor over last year did not change.

eu_2015_4g_broadband_coverage

Overall the areas of connectivity where we lose points this year related to fixed line broadband take-up (down from 83% last year to 82% now) and service price, which means we’re ever so slightly more expensive than last year. Otherwise most areas reported an improvement, while others held steady and we’re still above the big boys of Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

Crucially most of the improvements delivered in the UK last year came as a direct result of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK scheme, which in phase 1 has been dominated by BT based contracts to fuel the roll-out of their up to 40-80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology; with a little 330Mbps FTTP in places. Altnet providers (e.g. Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, B4RN etc.) and Virgin Media have also made some contributions, but at a much smaller level.

Going forward we’d expect the BDUK drive to show continued progress in next year’s report and alternative network operators will also be making a larger dent. Meanwhile Virgin Media’s plans to push their ultrafast capable cable network coverage out to 60% of the UK by 2020 will help, although a lot of that could be focused on urban areas where rival NGA solutions already exist.

EU Broadband Scorecard for the UK (2015)
https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/scoreboard/united-kingdom#1-connectivity

EU Broadband Scorecard General Report (2015)
http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=9929

Leave a Comment
23 Responses
  1. Avatar Ben says:

    In the short term the UK should do very well as we can deploy FTTC fairly quickly, while other countries are opting for a more future proofed FTTP solution, at the expense of deployment speed. If the EU suddenly decides the NGA speeds are now 100Mbps+, most other countries can simply increase service speeds, while we are still limited by copper.

    1. Avatar The truth says:

      Which countries are doing fttp?

  2. Avatar PeterM says:

    To me these figures from across Europe just underline what a bad option satellite will be if BDUK use it as a fall back.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Why?

      As in: what aspect of these European figures manages to highlight *anything* (good, bad or indifferent) about satellite?

      There is virtually no mention of satellite through the report, and no indication of how any country intends to make use of satellite for (attempted) fulfillment of NGA targets.

    2. Avatar PeterM says:

      MikeW
      Sorry to clarify.
      The demand for satellite broadband is bound to increase because so many countries have such poor levels of superfast coverage. Unless capacity is increased substantially the service levels will deteriorate. Even if national governments don’t adopt satellite broadband individual customers will.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      Ah, right.

      That would be a worry, but the main ka-sat from Eutelsat (that supplies Tooway) gets its capacity from using 82 different beams across the continent, of which 4-5 are used for the UK. The beam for Cornwall can’t even be affected by congestion from Scotland, let alone Poland.

      The data about the satellite doesn’t tell you much about whether the downlinks (there are 10 ground stations) can become congested, though. That might be a worry.

      Total capacity is quoted as 90Gb.

  3. Avatar gerarda says:

    More nonsense stats, fluid definitions to make the results fit the agenda, and pure guesswork in some areas.

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      Which agenda? It’s an EU study, not a UK one.

    2. Avatar gerarda says:

      the EU digital agenda

  4. Avatar Al says:

    Does this report really tell us anything we didn’t already know? i.e that some areas in the UK esp. the rural areas lag behind the more urban areas when it comes to infrastructure/speeds. Sure it makes sense to do the more urban areas first but that doesn’t mean the rural areas should be left out.

  5. Avatar Phil Coates says:

    What do they mean by ADSL availability at 100%? Is it that all exchanges have been ADSL enabled?

    Although my exchange is ADSL enabled, my and the 4 nearest houses have a highest download speed of 384kbps.

    I am convinced that this is not the only area in the entire UK.

  6. Avatar TheManStan says:

    dial-up 56.6kbps < ISDN 128kbps < ADSL 8 Mbps < ADSL2 24 Mbps

    384 kbps is an ADSL speed, albeit a slow one.

    1. Avatar Phil Coates says:

      Thanks. I suppose ADSL is 100% then.

      As the youngsters say LOL!

    2. Avatar gerarda says:

      The definition the EU used to claim the 100% basic broadband target was 144kbps ( reduced from I believe 512Kpbs when the target was announced)and even this had to be topped using unspecified and possibly unachievable amounts of satellite.

      They are now mixing this up with a 2Mbps definition and an estimate that 4% cannot get this via ADSL in Europe. The latter has never been properly measured by Ofcom so cannot be relied as a measure of coverage in the UK

  7. Avatar Craski says:

    The rural figures presented do suggest that the BDUK has had very limited impact to services in rural communities (which agrees with what I’ve seen in North East Scotland).

    1. Avatar TheManStan says:

      Really?

      The 2014 report (2013 data) showed NGA penetration at 25% in rural, the 2015 report (2014 data) shows 45% rural.

      That seems to indicate BDUK is doing it’s job.

      http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/download-scoreboard-reports

      P.4 in connectivity pdf

      2014 section

      P.11 in Trends in European Broadband Markets 2014 pdf

    2. Avatar Cammy says:

      Except for the “However it should be stressed that the EU’s data doesn’t make clear whether their NGA coverage total reflects availability of superfast broadband (30Mbps+) speeds or just raw infrastructure inc. sub-30Mbps speeds.”
      From that Snippet it is clear it does not demonstrate trends or actual speeds at all. That is the trouble with VDSL what you actually get and what they claim the tech can deliver are two different things still unfortunately a lot to do with distance.

    3. Avatar Craski says:

      @TheManStan

      If the rural coverage rose 20% for a year and given that they are doing the easiest bits first (small towns / large villages), would that not suggest that over coming years the rate of rural coverage increase will get less and less and therefore not achieve the BDUK targets at 2017?

    4. Avatar themanstan says:

      That would depend on how long it will take cover the “easiest” elements, I would hazard a guess that we´ll see another year of equivalent growth before seeing a marked reduction in coverage growth, with the final year being particularly low.

    5. Avatar PeterM says:

      To me it is becoming obvious that when the FTTC work is finished and all the useful cabinets are upgraded that will be more or less it for the Openreach element of the BDUK project. There may be some FTTP in some of the larger towns and villages but I don’t think that we will be seeing any widespread deployment.
      The next step seems to be the fall back to satellite. This is a real cop out and a great mistake. Personally I think that Fixed Wireless broadband is a far better option.

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      @Cammy

      No – From the snippet, it is only clear that the article author cannot tell what trends or speeds are being reported.

      IHS came up with the coverage figures used in this scorecard (as well as last year’s), and their language suggests they really only include premises that actually can access high-speed broadband of 30Mbps+.

      http://press.ihs.com/press-release/technology/dramatic-rise-european-4g-coverage-and-high-speed-broadband-ihs-and-europea

      http://press.ihs.com/press-release/technology/high-speed-broadband-and-4g-lte-coverage-dramatically-rises-europe-accordin

  8. Avatar MikeW says:

    @Craski

    I’m sure you’re right that the growth of rural coverage will slow down (but agree with @themanstan that the next year is likely to be about the same gain as the last one).

    Achieving the BDUK targets means that they had to cover around 15% (from 75% to 90%) over approx 3 years, and then cover 5% (to 95%) in 2 years; all “national” coverage targets.

    In terms of just rural coverage, they likely need to reach about 50% of rural premises within the first (90%) target, and about 75% of rural premises within the second (95%) target. Annual targets of (25%, 20%, 10%, 10%, 10%) would achieve this.

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