Digital divide declines, but 1.4 million homes cannot get decent broadband

16 December 2016

The number of UK properties unable to get a decent broadband connection has fallen by one million over the past year, new research by Ofcom has found.

But 1.4 million UK homes and offices – or 5% of properties – remain unable to sign up for broadband speeds over 10Mbit/s, the speed required to meet a typical household’s digital needs. This is down from around 2.4 million, or 8%, last year.

The findings are part of Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2016 report – an in-depth look at the state of the UK’s telecoms and wireless networks. This year’s report shows good progress on the availability and take-up of communications services, which are crucial to people’s personal and working lives.

However, the report finds there is much more to do – particularly in boosting mobile and broadband coverage, and improving the quality of service provided by telecoms companies.

For example, rural areas still lag behind on broadband. Around a quarter of properties in rural areas – nearly 920,000 – cannot receive a connection of over 10Mbit/s, often because they are situated a long way from the telephone exchange or local street cabinet.

To help close this speed gap, Ofcom has today set out its technical advice for the UK Government on implementing its plans, announced in 2015, for universal broadband.

Today’s Connected Nations report also presents the current level of mobile coverage across the country. While the picture is improving, with 4G reaching more premises, Ofcom wants to see better coverage across the UK’s landmass.

So we have begun discussions with mobile operators to look at radical and ambitious solutions to deliver universal mobile coverage, to keep pace with consumers’ needs.

Steve Unger, Ofcom’s Chief Technology Officer, said: “Mobile and broadband coverage continued to grow this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable.

“So we’re challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas, and provide coverage across the UK’s countryside and transport networks. Today we’ve also provided technical advice to support the Government’s plans for universal, decent broadband.”