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Ofcom Redefine Ultrafast Broadband as 300Mbps, But Only 2% Coverage

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 (8:44 am) - Score 2,506
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The UK telecoms regulator has today published its Connected Nations 2015 report and confirmed that 83% of premises are now within reach of a fixed line superfast broadband (30Mbps+) service (up from 75% in 2014), with take-up reaching 27% (up from 22%). But they also changed the definition of “ultrafast” speeds from 100Mbps+ to 300Mbps+.

The eagle eyed among you will notice that today’s report is effectively a replacement for Ofcom’s prior Infrastructure study and contains much of the same information, which means that it offers a useful update on the progress of national broadband and mobile infrastructure (note: most of the data for 2015 was collected during May and June).

On the fixed line side we note the clear improvement in superfast broadband coverage and uptake, which is now predominantly being driven by the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme with BT (aims to reach 95% of the UK by 2017/18) and Virgin Media are also busy expanding their coverage in urban areas (reaching 60-65% of the UK by 2020).

ofcom_2015_superfast_broadband_coverage

However it’s worth pointing out that the raw footprint of related Next Generation Access (NGA) networks, which includes those that offer sub-30Mbps speeds to some premises, doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the new report. But if it were included then the UK wide coverage figure is likely to be around the 90% mark.

We also note that the average broadband download “sync” speed for the UK as a whole is now 28Mbps (up by 22% from 23Mbps in 2014), although this is generally a more optimistic performance expectation than real-world speedtests and should thus be taken with a pinch of salt.

Otherwise it’s interesting to note that the UK coverage of superfast services in rural areas has increased significantly, from 22% in 2014 to 37% (over 1.1 million premises). As usual some parts of the United Kingdom have seen more progress over the past year than others, particularly in Wales and Scotland where there’s a lot of sparse countryside to tackle.

ofcom_2015_rural_superfast_broadband_coverage

However 48% of rural premises (around 1.5 million properties) are connected by lines that are unable to receive speeds higher than 10Mbps (4% in urban areas), while 22% can’t get higher than 5Mbps (2% in urban areas) and this falls to 9% for speeds of less than 2Mbps (1% in urban areas), which is something that the Government will need to consider in their plans for a new 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (here).

The report also examines the coverage of mobile networks, such as via the usual 2G, 3G and 4G based platforms that almost everybody should now be quite familiar with. Overall 73% of UK premises can now receive a 4G signal from three of the four networks (up from 44% last year), and this will continue to improve over the next two years until the roll-out hits around 98%.

However only 46% have 4G coverage from all four major operators; EE dominate 4G coverage due to having nearly a year’s head-start, but take them out of the equation and that’s the result.

ofcom_2015_mobile_coverage

Elsewhere one of the more curious changes in the latest report stems from Ofcom’s decision to define “ultrafast broadband” as offering a minimum Internet download speed of 300Mbps, which is likely to irritate Virgin Media and others that have generally preferred to think of “ultrafast” as starting at 100Mbps. The latter does however make it easier to use Virgin’s existing 200Mbps cable network to boost the UK’s national figures (it covers around 45% of premises), with altnet ISPs and Openreach filling the rest via FTTP/H solutions.

ofcom_2015_ultrafast_broadband_coverage

Even the EU and UK Government (here) use 100Mbps as the starting point for ultrafast, but definitions are often more political than technical and it’s hard not to see this as pandering somewhat to BT’s current 330Mbps FTTP and forthcoming G.fast technology, which is also promising 300Mbps+ speeds over the next decade of its roll-out.

Virgin was originally expected to launch a 300Mbps product for home users this year, but something changed and today’s news may now lend weight to an expectation that it could still surface next year (although Virgin are having difficulty delivering on 200Mbps) when they officially launch their new SuperHub v3 router (details).

Ofcom Statement on Ultrafast Speeds

There is not yet a consensus on a definition for these ultrafast services, with views on the minimum download speed ranging from 100Mbit/s to 1Gbit/s. Figure 14 shows the current coverage of broadband services in UK with download speeds of 100Mbit/s and 300Mbit/s.

The report also contains plenty of other interesting data, such as the fact that the average monthly data usage per residential fixed line broadband connection has risen from 58GB (GigaBytes) last year to 82GB now.

Similarly it’s estimated that, as of August 2015, 46% of premises in SME-only (small business) postcodes had broadband connections with a maximum speed of less than 10Mbps, while 24% had maximum speeds of less than 5Mbps and 12% had maximum speeds of less than 2Mbps. Overall Ofcom found that 18% of SMEs are still unlikely to have access to superfast broadband beyond 2017.

Ultimately there’s far too much data for us to easily summarise, but here’s a useful overview of the main statistics and you can read the full report online. Separately Ofcom has also launched a new Wi-Fi Checker app for Smartphones and tablets, which allows consumers and businesses to discover the quality of their wireless internet signal and offers practical steps to help people improve connectivity.

Ofcom research found that slow Internet speeds can often be caused by poor WiFi set-up or slow hardware, which can hamper speeds. We’d recommend reading our related article on this subject for a bit more background: 10 Top Tips for Boosting Your Home Wi-Fi Wireless Network Speeds.

ofcom_2015_broadband_and_mobile_infrastructure_statistics

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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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27 Responses
  1. BDUK have funded 17,500 cabinets (3.31m premises passed) and a little FTTP to September 2015 and BT have reported £694m in state aid receipts.

    Just what could we achieve if we have full cost transparency and confirmation of BT’s capital contribution?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      The counties have all the details, what is the issue?

    • @The Facts, the counties do not have any evidence of BT’s capital contribution, only heresay. If they had the information they could report it. The payments to BT would be substantially less.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      If they announce the contributions for a project and see the invoices how can they not know?

      Hampshire say:

      1.1.1 Funding:
      ■ The Supplier’s calculation of its own funding requirements for the Supplier Solution, in terms of:
      – Public subsidy
      – Supplier’s own funding
      ■ Milestone Payments

    • The real disgrace is Gavin Patterson saying it would take years to separate BT and Openreach if BT is broken up. What? They’re supposed to have been functionally separate since 2006!

      If he’s right, BT have been lying to Ofcom, the UK government and all their customers for 10 years.

      But really upsets so many of us is that BT claim that 23 million premises (95% of the UK) can get ‘up to 80 Mbps’ FTTC broadband.

      No they can’t! Ofcom tell the truth – it’s 2015 and 40% of the UK can’t even get 10 Mbps – so 35% of the UK BT say can get ‘up to 80 Mbps’ can’t even get half the top broadband speeds 2005.

      Openreach service is terrible yet every year they somehow make a 50% operating profit of over £2 billion!

      Our broadband is 0.5 Mbps in a town of 20,000 people, yet supposedly our street can get FTTC Fibre broadband. No we can’t!

      It makes you really angry when BT claim we can get it and then when you call them they tell you not to bother because the actual speed of the 80 Mbps package would be 1 Mbps. Will they do anything to fix it? Of course not!

      And we’ve been paying for 24 Mbps for 10 years – we’re still on 0.5 Mbps!

      BT-Openreach is a disgrace – it must be broken up so British consumers and businesses can finally get the speeds and reliability they need!

    • Avatar Ignition

      Source for that 40% of the UK can’t get 10Mb please. Think Broadband put coverage of >=24Mb at 90%.

      23 million premises isn’t 95% of the UK. The ONS claim there are >26.7 million households in the UK, then you have to add non-residential premises.

      Think Broadband put coverage of all fibre-based solutions at 91.9%.

    • @TheFacts Please the ‘press release’ is equivalent to reading a Soviet five plan or food production figures for North Korea. The CEO for HCC has personally written to the FT. Which bit of unhappy do you not get in this instance?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NGA – You believe that BT have not contributed towards the HCC project. Why has this not been identified by HCC?

    • @TheFacts There are working within a confidential agreement, so very little information is published.

      However, I would hypothise that if for the first 60,000 premises passed c300 cabs) BT has made a capital contribution of £3.9m and paid clawback of £1.9m, HCC would have no reason to write to the FT.

      If they did publish a report on expenditure then it is likely they will have paid out well in excess of £8.4m with no evidence of a contribution from BT. That’s my hypothesis. Hence the CEO complaint.

      Can you confirm the BT capital or the clawback amounts?

    • @The facts, The other reason HCC may not have identfied this publicly is that representations from BT may say no capital is due or we wait seven years to find out. What are BT relationship directors tellling their clients over three years into the process?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      So you have no information from SCC, but imply they are incapable of managing a contract. They surely will know what they have paid for as they see the invoices?

      What did the FT letter say?

    • Avatar TheManStan

      The letter complains about both government and BT, but as usual selective evidence has turned into a BT only issue…

      http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/52aaa786-62e5-11e5-a28b-50226830d644.html#axzz3n0ni9Mhu

      But, there is an aspect of the councillor’s own lack of understanding… with sweeping statements like the New Forest and South Downs not being isolated or inaccessible… From my recollection for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty planning permission is not a trivial exercise…

    • @TheFacts HCC like most LA’s are attempting to make the most of the only deal offered to them.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NGA – Again. So you have no information from SCC, but imply they are incapable of managing a contract. They surely will know what they have paid for as they see the invoices?

  2. Looks like of the 2% that Ocofm say can get FTTP (which is twice the 1% previously thought to be able to get 300Mbps) – 0.5% is provided by BT-Openreach – the rest is Hyperopic, Gigler, B4RN, Gigaclear and so on.

    40% of the UK cannot get 10 Mbps.

    And BT have received £694m of taxpayers’ money.

    What a disgrace.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      And they’ve spent it on FTTC bring faster speeds to millions rather than faster speeds to thousands (FTTP)

      What a disgrace indeed, faster for less people is the way… buns to the rest of em!

    • We live in a town. We get 0.5 Mbps.

      BT said our street had FTTC.

      We called them, they said ‘you’re too far away’.

      Their solution? Nothing.

      It’s 2015, they’re still a monopoly – that’s just not good enough.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Why don’t you go with Virgin, gigaclear or a number of wireless providers instead?

    • Avatar Ignition

      ‘40% of the UK cannot get 10 Mbps.’

      I repeat: source please.

      Your ‘campaign’ appears incredibly light on facts backing up the arguments. My own presented a far stronger case and achieved the best possible result. Basing your own around the evidence rather than baseless commentary might be more productive.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Why would separating Openreach stop it still being what you call a monopoly, despite other companies competiting with it everywhere?

  3. ‘40% of the UK cannot get 10 Mbps.’ Source – Sharon White, BBC News interview, 1st Dec.

    ‘Why don’t you go with Virgin, gigaclear or a number of wireless providers instead?’

    None of them are in the area.

    ‘Why would separating Openreach stop it still being what you call a monopoly, despite other companies competiting with it everywhere?’

    It’s a monopoly – outside certain urban areas and a tiny number of rural ones, no-one competes with Openreach. Consumers have no choice. But that wouldn’t matter if Openreach was run independently – it’s not.

    To all the people who don’t understand basic business strategy:

    Openreach does not set its strategy – BT Group does.

    Openreach would have run FTTH to everyone’s house if they had been independent in 2005 as Verizon has done – they want the highest take-up of their product, maximum take-up of their premium products (high speeds) and a massively reduced maintenance costs to maximise profits – FTTH provides each of these.

    If it were Openreach’s choice it would take 30 seconds to switch broadband provider (like it does in Sweden) – Openreach don’t care which provider you use as long as you stay on their network.

    BT do care which provider you use – BT has a large legacy customer base and wants to make it hard as possible to move – the higher the ‘friction’ – ie. costs and service delays – the better – why do you think most times your broadband goes dead for 14 days if you want to switch provider?

    BT prices its packages higher than the equivalents of its competitors – it needs to get the most out of the 1/3 of UK customers who still haven’t gone to a competitor.

    In the end even that stopped working so it started throwing billions at BT TV football (although it wasn’t a co-incidence that Patterson launched BT TV and when he became CEO put it front and centre of BT’s strategy).

    BT is desperate to control the UK’s ‘last mile’ network as it also gives them a ridiculous advantage – they can make competitors’ service and upgrades as slow as possible to reduce their success in the business (and have been caught doing so).

    Vodafone’s CEO has talked about it – FTTC is genius because it’s a dead-end service that can’t scale to even 5% of what a FTTH line can do. Vodafone will never invest in it – none of BT’s competitors would. BT know this. It’s not a co-incidence that every new-build provider is using FTTH. Why do you think BT are still putting copper lines into new-build houses? This is nothing to do with cost – it would make much more sense to put FTTH in first – putting copper in restricts competition because BT still controls the FTTC.

    If it was FTTH – Vodafone, Sky & TalkTalk would install their own kit at each end of the line (as they do across Europe) and run the whole line themselves. This would massively increase consumer choice and competition. BT don’t want this. This is why BT won’t roll out fibre even in urban areas where ducts already exist and it’d be cheaper long-term to just put in FTTH (as they’re doing in France, Spain, Portugal, etc).

    If they are at all smart, which I think they are, Ofcom will strongly recommend to the CMA that Openreach be split off from BT.

    If this happens, the G.Fast plans will be scrapped and a massive nationwide FTTH scheme will start, just as it has in France, Spain, Portugal and so on. It hasn’t happened in Germany because Deutsche Telekom are playing the same game there. Their maintenance of a cross-shareholding after the EE deal isn’t an accident – these guys know what they’re doing.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      More delusion

      Openreach don’t decide what to deliver to new builds the developer does developers have had a choice of copper or fibre for many years from openreach.

      So these other providers are not in your area but you focus on bt to provide you with ftth?

      Why what do bt owe you why must they provide you with this service, bt like the other operators that don’t deliver ftth to you are a commercial company who will deliver where there is profit to be made. So the other operators don’t see a profit and won’t give you ftth but bt has to they owe you it and at a price comparable to the USA a different market

      I can see why your campaign is failing it’s very narrow self centred and lacking in facts and knowledge

    • Avatar Ignition

      ‘Source – Sharon White, BBC News interview, 1st Dec.’

      http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34972638

      ‘But she said it was unacceptable that 2.5 million homes did not have access to minimal broadband speeds of 10 megabits per second.’

      That’s less than 10% of households, not 40% of them.

      ‘Openreach would have run FTTH to everyone’s house if they had been independent in 2005 as Verizon has done – they want the highest take-up of their product, maximum take-up of their premium products (high speeds) and a massively reduced maintenance costs to maximise profits – FTTH provides each of these.’

      That’s flawed on many levels.

      Verizon haven’t run FTTP to every property, far from it, they have been admonished for cherry picking and have stopped their rollout.

      Verizon don’t wholesale FTTP, they are the infrastructure and retail provider.

      Verizon can retire copper, Openreach cannot.

      Verizon have completed the FiOS build they want to do. They have stopped maintaining their copper network and are pushing people to mobile broadband via their mobile arm. Openreach can’t do that either. Apples, oranges.

      ‘It’s a monopoly – outside certain urban areas and a tiny number of rural ones, no-one competes with Openreach. Consumers have no choice. But that wouldn’t matter if Openreach was run independently – it’s not.’

      That in no way answers the question posed beyond to say that it wouldn’t matter because you say it wouldn’t matter. Openreach would still have an infrastructure monopoly.

      ‘If it were Openreach’s choice it would take 30 seconds to switch broadband provider (like it does in Sweden) – Openreach don’t care which provider you use as long as you stay on their network.’

      Citation for 30 seconds to change provider please. Note CHANGE not sign up to a new one via a different network and plug a network cable into a pre-existing port in an apartment building.

      ‘BT do care which provider you use – BT has a large legacy customer base and wants to make it hard as possible to move – the higher the ‘friction’ – ie. costs and service delays – the better – why do you think most times your broadband goes dead for 14 days if you want to switch provider?’

      It doesn’t, and BT have to obey regulation. If you can prove the above I would recommend a complaint to Ofcom.

      ‘BT prices its packages higher than the equivalents of its competitors – it needs to get the most out of the 1/3 of UK customers who still haven’t gone to a competitor.’

      No, it prices higher because it has to. It’s not allowed to be cheaper than a reasonably efficient competitor. If BT Retail were cheaper you’d be accusing them of using Openreach profits to subsidise the retail arm.

      ‘BT is desperate to control the UK’s ‘last mile’ network as it also gives them a ridiculous advantage – they can make competitors’ service and upgrades as slow as possible to reduce their success in the business (and have been caught doing so).’

      Again that merits a complaint to Ofcom…. if you can prove it. It’d substantially strengthen the case for Openreach to be spun off if you could prove such intentionally anti-competitive behaviour.

      ‘Vodafone’s CEO has talked about it – FTTC is genius because it’s a dead-end service that can’t scale to even 5% of what a FTTH line can do. Vodafone will never invest in it – none of BT’s competitors would. BT know this.’

      Why would they want to invest in it? Openreach build the FTTC networks they just have to rent access.

      ‘Why do you think BT are still putting copper lines into new-build houses? This is nothing to do with cost – it would make much more sense to put FTTH in first – putting copper in restricts competition because BT still controls the FTTC.’

      Or because that’s what the developer told them to install in the new build. Strangely enough BT don’t get to decide what they install, they have to do it with the agreement of the developer.

      I will answer the last phrase shortly.

      ‘If it was FTTH – Vodafone, Sky & TalkTalk would install their own kit at each end of the line (as they do across Europe) and run the whole line themselves. This would massively increase consumer choice and competition. BT don’t want this. This is why BT won’t roll out fibre even in urban areas where ducts already exist and it’d be cheaper long-term to just put in FTTH (as they’re doing in France, Spain, Portugal, etc).’

      No they wouldn’t. BT aren’t installing point to point fibre and won’t be. It will not offer unbundling. PON is the technology being deployed in Spain and Portugal, too, to ensure that the incumbent retains control of the network.

      It would perhaps be cheaper longer term purely for build, however paying the interest on the debt incurred would be more expensive than building out FTTP progressively, and the build would be far slower than the alternatives.

      ‘If this happens, the G.Fast plans will be scrapped and a massive nationwide FTTH scheme will start, just as it has in France, Spain, Portugal and so on. It hasn’t happened in Germany because Deutsche Telekom are playing the same game there. Their maintenance of a cross-shareholding after the EE deal isn’t an accident – these guys know what they’re doing.’

      The EE deal hasn’t completed. The shareholding is because part of the transaction is in shares, zero conspiracy there.

      There is no reason to think an independent Openreach would scrap G.fast and start spending massively on FTTP.

      One big reason FTTP has surged in a few places is investment by the competition, which spurred the incumbent into investing to preserve market share. It’s incredibly simple. If Openreach / BT are so bad, FTTP such a no-brainer, then the competition should be spending their cash overbuilding them en masse with FTTP. They aren’t. They are for the most part quite happy to buy access to the much-maligned FTTC network.

      I have tried to be polite but it sadly comes down to you having no idea what you’re talking about and I’ve wasted way too much time responding so will leave you to rant freely.

  4. Google Fiber can’t get to the UK soon enough, it seems. It’s only a matter of time though… 🙂

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Where do you think they would start?

    • Avatar Ignition

      Is it? I doubt Google Fiber would find the UK environment amenable to their needs and desires.

      The network they are building in the USA is being done considerably more cheaply than is possible in the UK. We don’t have shared utility poles. We don’t have poles in many areas full stop so they’d have to start from scratch which at a couple of grand per pole isn’t trivial.

      Should also be noted that Google Fiber is PON. That thing Mr BreakUpBT seems unaware of given he seems to think FTTP is by default able to be physically unbundled.

  5. Avatar Clinton Hodges

    Helpful discussion ! For what it’s worth , if your company was looking for a a form , my friend filled out and esigned a blank form here http://goo.gl/q5peyJ

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