Latest Ofcom Data Provides Updated View on UK Broadband Coverage

 

At Regeneris, we are always exploring new datasets to quantify opportunities, challenges and help make the case for investment. This is certainly true within our digital work, where statistics help to demonstrate the extensiveness of fixed and mobile broadband coverage.

Recently, we have been analysing the latest figures published by Ofcom, as part of its 2018 Connected Nations update. The results of this suggest the government’s emphasis on full fibre connectivity is well-founded – there is a big job ahead if all business and homes are to be part of a full fibre revolution.

Looking more closely, the UK’s fibre broadband performance varies considerably based on the measure used. Up until recently the national policy focus has been on maximising superfast coverage, removing ‘not spots’ and building on fibre foundations to increase ultrafast penetration, especially to businesses. Encouragingly, the latest Ofcom statistics appear to paint a positive national picture in this regard:

  • Superfast broadband¹ – 93% of premises covered nationwide (27.2 million in total), representing an increase of 2% since the previous Ofcom data release in 2017.
  • Ultrafast broadband² – 45% of premises covered nationwide, which marks a significant jump of 9% since 2017.

That said, the data also exposes considerable contrasts, which are to be expected given the different economic and geographical characteristics of regions and local authorities across the UK. Some good examples of this are:

  • England has the highest superfast broadband coverage (95%), whilst Northern Ireland has the lowest (88%). Scotland and Wales sit at 91% coverage, respectively.
  • At a local authority level, within the top 5, those with the greatest total fibre broadband connectivity (a combination of superfast and ultrafast coverage) are largely on the South Coast – Bournemouth, Havant and Worthing all with 99% coverage.

  • At the bottom end of the spectrum, the local authorities with the lowest levels of fibre coverage, unexpectedly, are in remote rural areas – Orkney Islands (60%) and Na h-Eileanan Siar (62%) in Scotland. That said, Kingston-upon-Hull’s coverage of 63% is a somewhat surprising result, given the presence of a major city.

These challenges remain on the government’s radar and it is hoped that a combination of interventions will plug the gap. This includes further investments (including clawback), trials and the wider deployment of 4G, which all offer solutions to addressing remaining superfast ‘not spots’.

However, the government’s focus has shifted towards a strong and deliberate full fibre agenda, to support sector growth and global competitiveness³. So, does the data support the case for investment? The short answer would appear to be…yes.

Statistics show that full fibre coverage across the UK remains low. Over the past year, coverage has increased from 2% to 4%, reaching around 1.2 million premises. Again, there is considerable variance in coverage at a local authority level. Interestingly, the highest levels of full fibre coverage are in Kingston-upon-Hull (62%).

The results also illustrate a mix of urban and rural full fibre coverage, with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Cornwall both having full fibre coverage of circa 30%, with this being achieved by a combination of commercial and publicly subsidised rollouts.

At the lower end of the spectrum, 23 local authorities have no full fibre coverage at all. This includes areas such as Oxford, Bournemouth and Norwich. Whilst the market is dynamic and coverage is constantly changing, these areas have a lot of ground to make up on the frontrunners.

These results are also brought into sharp focus within a wider European context. Ofcom’s latest European Scorecard (2017), shows the extent to which the UK is competing with other nations and in terms of full fibre coverage, ranks 5th out of the EU 5 (France, Germany, Italy and Spain). Digital infrastructure roll-out is not happening in isolation.

Regeneris has developed a series of heat maps to show the pattern of coverage and, whilst this uses 2017 Ofcom data, the messages are stark. A review of London’s coverage helps to demonstrate this as a microcosm of connectivity issues nationwide.

While there are full fibre hotspots across Greater London, in some cases large areas have little to no full fibre coverage. Given London’s global city status and lofty digital aspirations, addressing these full fibre gaps will be a priority for the London Mayor.

This analysis only scratches the surface of what Ofcom’s data can tell us about broadband connectivity across the UK. Indeed, there are many other useful (and in some case open) sources of data that can help to build up a composite picture – Thinkbroadband and Opensignal being good examples.

We have been making good use of these datasets across a number of recent digital and tech-focused assignments. This comprises using intelligence to monitor progress, position areas in context and develop an evidence base to trigger further investment. This includes developing digital strategies, setting out the scope for tech sector opportunities and informing detailed business cases and funding bids.

If you’re interested in hearing more about our experience of working with public bodies and the private sector to enhance digital connectivity and how we may be able to help you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

For more information contact: Simon Hooton (Director)  or Chris Rawson (Senior Consultant)


¹ Superfast broadband is categorised as being capable of download speeds of 30 Mbps or more.

² Ultrafast broadband is categorised as being capable of download speeds of 300 Mbps or more.

³ Full fibre refers to end-to-end fibre broadband technologies which connect directly to the home/business and are capable of speeds in excess of 1 Gbps.

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