Ofcom examines communications services across the UK

16 May 2013

Ofcom has today published a report outlining the availability of different communications services across the UK, examining how coverage varies between areas and might be improved.

The report looks at access to seven services: fixed voice telephony, fixed broadband, mobile voice telephony, mobile broadband, digital television, radio and post.

The availability of communications services matters because of the increasing integration of digital communications within daily life. These networks provide consumers with access to important political, educational, cultural and economic resources.

They also offer businesses the opportunity to increase efficiency, develop new services and reach new markets. And they make possible new and more effective means of providing public services to citizens.

Research findings

The report finds that:

  • Several services have almost universal availability in the UK. Fixed telephony and postal services are subject to universal service obligations, and digital terrestrial television is also available to almost all households following digital switchover;
  • Other services differ more widely. For example, the availability and speed of fixed broadband internet access varies according to what technology is available and proximity to telephone exchanges, while superfast broadband is still being rolled out, especially in more rural areas;
  • For mobile services, even where outdoor coverage delivered to households is good, there can be particular challenges associated with providing coverage inside buildings, on roads and on rail;
  • While analogue radio coverage is nearly ubiquitous, DAB digital radio is not.

Variations in availability between nations and regions is largely due to parts of the UK being more rural than others. Once factors such as population density and the nature of the landscape - such as hills, valleys and buildings - are taken into account, the probability of good coverage is relatively similar between different parts of the UK.

Where markets cannot deliver coverage to those who need it, public bodies often take action. The report looks at several case studies to consider the effectiveness of these types of intervention.

The Availability of Communications Services in the UK is available to download from the Ofcom website.



1.   The UK Government is pursuing several initiatives to improve the availability of mobile and broadband services across the UK, including:

  • a commitment to provide superfast broadband to at least 90% of premises in the UK and universal access to standard broadband with a speed of at least 2 Mbit/s;
  • funding of up to £150m to address the 0.3% of premises in the UK that currently have no mobile coverage, under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Mobile Infrastructure Project; and
  • reforms to planning laws, such as measures to reduce the administrative burdens faced by companies when installing broadband street cabinets or laying cables.

2.   The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also set targets to improve coverage on a range of platforms, with some associated funding streams.