Ofcom has published its latest Connected Nations report, which details the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK, in which it claims that more than eight million homes now have access to a full fibre service. According to the regulator’s data, 8.2 million British homes were within reach of full fibre broadband as of September 2021, a net increase of around three million premises since September 2020, boosting coverage from 18% to 28% over the same period. Meanwhile, gigabit-capable broadband was reported to be available to an even greater number of premises – 13.7 million (47% of homes) at September 2021, up from 7.9 million (27%) a year earlier. Strong growth was attributed in part to Virgin Media’s rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 technology across its existing cable network; notably, Ofcom also said that, given that operator’s announcement that this rollout had been completed in December 2021, it estimated gigabit speed broadband availability had increased to more than 60% of homes by that date.
At the other end of the scale, Ofcom suggested that the broadband universal service obligation (USO) has continued to help people in areas where ‘decent’ broadband – defined as one capable of delivering download speeds of at least 10Mbps and upload of 1Mbps – is still not available. According to Ofcom’s data, and factoring in coverage from both fixed and fixed wireless networks, the regulator said it estimated that just 123,000 homes and businesses (0.4% of the country total) were still without access to a decent broadband connection at 30 September 2021, down from 134,000 at May 2021 and 189,000 at end-2020.
Away from fixed broadband services, Ofcom’s Connected Nations report also offered up information regarding the UK’s mobile sector. Most notably, Ofcom said that, with 5G rollouts by the country’s cellcos having ‘continued at pace’, the number of base stations providing connectivity had more than doubled over the last year, to around 6,500 sites, the bulk of which (87%) were in England. As a result of these rollouts, Ofcom said it estimated that 5G was available from at least one mobile network operator (MNO) ‘outside 42%-57% of premises’ at September 2021. Beyond that, Ofcom said that mobile coverage remained ‘generally stable’, with all four of the UK’s MNOs – EE, O2 UK, Three UK and Vodafone UK – estimating they could provide 4G outdoor coverage to around 99% of premises. Networks’ coverage of the UK landmass ranged from around 79% to around 86%, meanwhile.