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2018 ICMR Compares UK Broadband and Mobile to 17 Countries

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 (11:03 am) - Score 1,041
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Ofcom has today published their International Communications Market Report 2018 (ICMR), which broadly compares broadband and mobile networks in the United Kingdom with 17 other countries and the EU. Overall the UK does well for fixed line superfast broadband and 4G mobile, but we’re weak on “full fibre” (FTTP).

The ICMR compares the UK against countries like 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). Plus Portugal (POR) and New Zealand (NZD) are also included on some comparisons.

However we note that there are a few caveats with the data. For example, the data itself is quite old (much of it is dated to the end of 2017 or earlier) and for mobile networks they seem to use population rather than geographic (landmass) coverage figures. In fairness, putting together a large international comparison of this many different countries is hard and so we can understand why they’ve done it this way.

We should also caveat that surface level county-to-country comparisons rarely give you the full picture, not least due to significant differences between societies. For example, some countries are easier and cheaper to serve with fibre optic broadband because most people live in apartments (e.g. Portugal and Spain), while in the UK individual houses are much more common (example); these are much harder / more expensive to reach.

The Key Results

This 2018 ICMR is just 25 pages long (read it here) and seems to have scrubbed a lot of the useful detail from previous years, thus we’ve decided to just focus on the key comparison areas of fixed broadband and mobile networks. On this front the UK performs well for “superfast broadband” (NGA) coverage at around 95%, which puts us ahead of most countries.

As usual our strength in “superfast” is down to the wide coverage of Openreach’s VDSL2 based Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology and Virgin Media’s urban centric cable network. But the picture for “ultrafast” (defined as 300Mbps+ in this report) and “full fibre” (FTTP) coverage is still disappointing.

ofcom_icmr2018_broadband_technologies_by_country

At present we know from other reports that nearly all of the UK’s “ultrafast” coverage comes from Virgin Media’s hybrid fibre cable (EuroDOCSIS) network and only around 6% via “full fibre” (FTTP/H) services (a lot of that overlaps with Virgin’s network). Sadly on this front we sit at the lower end of Ofcom’s ranking.

ofcom_icmr2018_broadband_and_mobile_by_country

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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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