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Ofcom Finds Poor Uptake of UK Superfast Broadband Despite Good Availability

Posted: 14th Dec, 2011 By: MarkJ
global internet statisticsofcomTelecoms regulator Ofcom UK has today released its sixth annual 2011 International Communications Market Report (ICMR), which looks at the adoption, availability and the use of broadband, landlines, mobiles, TV and radio across 17 different countries. It reveals that availability of superfast broadband in the UK "compares favourably" to other European countries; but not for uptake.

The ICMR claims that 59% of UK households now have access to a Virgin Media or BT based superfast broadband ISP service (defined as 24Mbps+ by the UK government and 30Mbps+ in the EU), yet just over 4% of UK households subscribed to superfast services in June 2011.

The UK uptake figure (4%) breaks down to 3.5% for cable (Virgin Media) and 0.8% for BT's FTTC services, which compares poorly with 40% in Japan and 10% in the USA, although it's still higher than Germany (3%), Spain (2.2%) and Italy (1.5%).

ofcom uk superfast broadband uptake 2011

It's been well documented that the typically higher prices of superfast broadband services, not to mention the fact that they're often deployed into areas that can already receive a good connection via existing means, has stifled its uptake. Somewhat worryingly the EU recently suggested that one way to change this would be to force consumers into upgrading by making existing internet connections more expensive (here).

Likewise major ISPs, such as O2 , Sky Broadband and Orange UK, have failed to launch their own superfast services; often due to a lack of unbundled ( LLU ) style alternatives to BT's own FTTC offerings. Never the less we would have hoped for better uptake by now, although many people may not even be aware that they're covered.

Thankfully there's better news on the Mobile Broadband front with 46% of UK people using their mobile phones to access the Internet, which is higher than in all the other countries surveyed. Smartphone and mobile data usage in the UK has also grown by 124% in 2010, which compares with a global rate of 159%.

The UK also does well when it comes to value for money, with a typical family bundle of fixed phone, four mobiles, fixed broadband and basic pay TV services costing on average about £114 per month. This might seem like a lot put it puts us second only to France, which charges just £79 for a similar bundle. Prices for this bundle in the UK increased by 10% between 2010 and 2011, largely due to mobile service price hikes.

As usual Ofcom's ICMR report is huge and thus very difficult to summarise, so here are a few of the highlights.
Ofcom's 2011 ICMR Report Highlights

* Just 19% of UK broadband subscribers used services such as Skype to make internet phone calls, compared with 28% in Italy and 26% in France.

* UK consumers spent an average of £434 on telecoms services in 2010.

* 27% of UK internet users claim to access TV content over the web every week, which is the highest claimed usage among the countries surveyed.

* 13% of consumers in France claim to have a connected TV, compared to 9% in Australia and 7% in the UK and US.

* Global communications sector revenues increased by 3.4% in 2010 to £1,132bn - a record high, with the UK communications sector generating £39bn of revenues in 2010 (3rd largest in Europe behind Germany, £49bn, and France, £44bn).
Ofcom's 2011 International Communications Market Report (PDF)
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