Gigabit connectivity is now available to one in four UK premises, according to data published by local telecoms regulator Ofcom in its ‘Connected Nations 2020’ report, which analyses the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK and each of its nations.
A total of 7.9 million homes and businesses (27% of the country’s total) were reported to be able to sign up to a broadband service capable of offering downlink speeds of up to 1Gbps as of 1 September 2020, though the regulator noted that in most UK nations, gigabit-capable coverage remained higher in urban areas than rural ones. Meanwhile, full fibre broadband is now said to be available to 5.1 million homes (18%), up eight percentage points (or 2.1 million premises) when compared to September 2019, with Ofcom noting that this was ‘the highest year-on-year increase seen so far’ in terms of access to full fibre technology. With regards to access to superfast broadband – defined as a connection offering downlink speeds of at least 30Mbps and up to 300Mbps – Ofcom noted that 96% of premises are now able to take up such a service, and it estimates that around 60% of the homes and businesses able to have done so.
At the other end of the scale, Ofcom reported that 0.6% of the UK’s premises (around 190,000) still lack access to a ‘decent’ broadband connection (i.e. one offering 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds). However, it has suggested that the broadband universal service obligation (USO) launched in March 2020 will help in this regard, while saying it expects around 16,000 properties could receive a universal service connection, without additional costs needing to be met by the customer.
Away from fixed broadband, the Connected Nations 2020 report also offered up information regarding the nation’s mobile connectivity. According to Ofcom’s findings, the number of mobile base stations providing 5G services had risen ten-fold, to around 3,000 across the UK at 1 September 2020. Of these, 87% were in England, 7% in Scotland and 3% in both Wales and Northern Ireland. Mobile coverage was, meanwhile, reported to be ‘generally stable’, with the nation’s four mobile network operators – EE, O2 UK, Three UK and Vodafone UK – each estimating they provided outdoor coverage to between 98% and 99% of premises, while geographic coverage was said to range between 79% and 85%. Ofcom noted, however, that the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme which all four cellcos agreed to in March 2020 is expected to extend geographic coverage, particularly in rural areas, by 2025.