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

Monday, December 18th, 2017 (12:12 pm) - Score 1,360

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.



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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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8 Responses
  1. Avatar Jigsy says:

    >The UK fairs well for 30Mbps+ broadband coverage […]

    That’s quite interesting, since I’ve seen a few news articles lately that claim over 1,000,000 people don’t even get over 10 Mbps.

    And I personally have been stuck at 0.5 Mbps for seven months.

    Also, 16 countries isn’t a great sample set. It would probably be better if they compared with almost every country.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      The U.K. numbers have improved since the Ofcom data was compiled, the number of premises that cannot access superfast download speeds has decreased to around 750,000. You residing at one of those premises does not detract from the claim.

      There would be no point comparing the UK to “almost every country “. Firstly the data isn’t available and secondly what is the value of comparing the U.K. with say Liberia or Djibouti?

    2. Avatar Jigsy says:

      Benchmarking, perhaps?

      Could be useful for those two countries to have that data.

    3. Avatar gerarda says:

      New Londoner can certainly be relied on to fudge the figures in the time honoured BT fashion.

      There maybe not much more than 750,000 premises not “passed” by a fibre based system but the the number of premises unable to get superfast speeds is more than double that.

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      Even as we reach 95% coverage of superfast speeds, the remaining 5% is still a lot of premises – around 1.4m.

      Ofcom often complain that businesses get worse coverage than households, so that total might represent 1.2m households, or about 2.75m people.

      TBB’s figures show that the number of premises that aren’t fibre-based is about half of this, as is the number of premises that are sub-10Mbps: both around 0.7m premises, so likely 0.6m households and around 1.4m people.

      Why not compare to other countries?

      In the end, what matters to the government on a macro scale is the economic impact. For that, all that really matters is the comparison with our would-be competitors.

  2. Avatar MikeW says:

    Ofcom fudging figures again?

    Even the FTTH council has the grace to separate the “full fibre” figure into FTTB and FTTH.

    Or are Ofcom going with a use of “fullish-fibre”?

  3. Avatar 3G Infinity (now 4G going on 5G) says:

    Why bother, why not focus on the challenges that need fixing

  4. Avatar John Miles says:

    One interesting Stat in the summary table is that in 2016 the UK has the 2nd highest data consumption (GB/Month) per capita, second only to Korea and far ahead of most comparable European countries. Looking at the trends and recent UK Ofcom UK data for 2017 the UK is probably about equal to Korea now.

    It goes to show what can actually be delivered by FTTC. It’s content and usage patterns that provide user value not just the delivery technology.

    P.S. I have no connection to or interest in OpenReach

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