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ICMR 2017 – Ofcom Compares UK Broadband and Mobile to 16 Countries

Monday, Dec 18th, 2017 (12:12 pm) - Score 1,400

Market regulator Ofcom has today published its International Communications Market Report 2017, which compares broadband and other telecoms services in the United Kingdom against 16 other countries. The UK fairs well for 30Mbps+ broadband coverage but our “full fibre” (FTTP/H) needs work.

As usual there are a few caveats with the data presented by Ofcom, such as the fact that it’s based off figures from the end of 2016 and uses population rather than geographic coverage for Mobile networks. In fairness piecing together an international comparison of 16 very different countries is no easy task and the time it takes to deliver that means you can only compare via older data (it’s often not possible to get the most recent data for each country).

Otherwise the ICMR compares the United Kingdom against France (FRA), Germany (GER), Italy (ITA), The United States (USA), Japan (JAP), Australia (AUS), Spain (ESP), Sweden (SWE), The Netherlands (NED), Poland (POL), South Korea (KOR), Brazil (BRA), Russia (RUS), India (IND), China (CHN) and Nigeria (NGA). Portugal (POR) and New Zealand (NZD) are also included on some telecoms comparisons.

The Results

The ICMR is 213 pages long (read it here), which means we won’t attempt to do a detailed summary and will instead focus on the key comparison areas of fixed broadband and Mobile (3G / 4G) networks. On this the United Kingdom performs well for “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) coverage on 92%, which puts us ahead of almost everybody else except South Korea (100%), Japan (99%), the Netherlands (98%) and Portugal (94%).

However because Ofcom’s data stems from before Virgin Media’s 350Mbps speed boost then the UK fairs poorly for “ultrafast” (300Mbps+) speeds on just 2%, which is almost entirely attributed to the country’s lack of “full fibre” (FTTP/H) connectivity. On this front we sit almost rock bottom, with only Australia (0%), Poland (0%), Nigeria (0%) and India (0%) doing worse (mind you even our 2017 figure would still trail quite a few countries).

A big part of the problem is that most of the fixed broadband coverage is still delivered by slower VDSL2 (FTTC) based hybrid fibre and ADSL based copper line broadband connections via Openreach (BT). Similarly Virgin Media’s now ultrafast cable network may be available to around half of the UK but not everybody within its coverage has chosen to subscribe.


Happily the UK does still manage attract some of the highest consumer satisfaction for both fixed broadband and Mobile services, at least when looking at the major economies of the world. Sadly it’s not high enough to beat the USA.



Speaking of Mobile. Half of all UK mobile subscriptions were 4G services being used on a 4G device; a higher proportion than in any of the other EU5 countries, but lower than in a number of comparator countries, including South Korea, the US, Australia and Japan. Overall 4G mobile networks were available to over 99% of the population in four countries, including the UK

Meanwhile 90% of the UK’s mobile data traffic was over 4G networks in 2016, with UK consumers gobbling a monthly average of 1.7GB (GigaBytes) of mobile data per head, which is higher than in the other EU5 countries, but much lower than in Sweden (5.7GB), South Korea (3.9GB) and the US (3.7GB).

Luckily Ofcom has been wise enough to produce a generally summary table and 2017 Broadband Scorecard for all the key results, which you can see here. The full report covers other areas too.



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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