Wales leaps ahead in superfast broadband availability

06 August 2015

Wales has the highest availability of superfast broadband of any of the devolved nations, according to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2015 published today.

Nearly four in five (79%) premises in Wales are now capable of receiving superfast broadband at speeds of 30Mbit/s, an increase of 24 percentage points from 2014 (at 55%).

Consumers in Wales are responding to the increase in availability and are taking advantage of services hence the increase in fixed broadband take up in Wales at 77%, higher than in Scotland (71%) and Northern Ireland (69%). This increased from 69% a year ago.

Internet take-up in Wales also increased between 2014 and 2015 to around 17 in every 20 households (86%). This was a rise of six percentage points on 2014 (80%).

The surge in these figures is largely due to the roll-out of the Superfast Cymru programme across Wales.

A partnership between the Welsh Government, UK Government, the European Regional Development Fund and BT, Superfast Cymru aims to provide access to fibre broadband in areas where the commercial sector has no plans to invest.

Superfast Cymru began roll-out in 2013, and by March 2015 the project had made fibre broadband available to more than 425,000 premises.

Tablet ownership has continued to increase among adults in Wales, reaching 60% of households, compared to less than half (45%) last year. This has outstripped growth across the UK as a whole (54%). Ownership of smartphones in Wales remains stable in 2015 - at six in ten adults - in line with the UK average.

Rhodri Williams, Ofcom’s Director in Wales, said: “It is encouraging to see that Wales is on the front foot in rolling out fibre broadband and more importantly that consumers in Wales are realising the benefits of superfast services.”

“We’ve come a long way since the first cabinet in the UK was connected to superfast broadband in Whitchurch, Cardiff in 2009. However, there remains more work to be done to ensure that Wales becomes a truly digital nation.”

4G availability and coverage

4G availability in Wales increased substantially between 2014 and 2015, and now stands at 62.8%, although this was the lowest of the UK nations.

Just under a quarter (23%) of adults in Wales have a 4G service, which is below the UK average of 30%. This still represents an increase of 12 percentage points compared to last year.

The difference between urban and rural availability for 4G across the UK was significant: 93.9% of urban premises had outdoor 4G coverage in May 2015, compared to 57.9% of those in rural areas.

Communications services in Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Wrexham

This year’s report includes research data commissioned from the British Population Survey, which explores the use of communications services in Wales. Take-up of landline, mobile phones and internet services in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Aberystwyth and Wrexham are compared to each other and to Wales as a whole.

Cardiff and Aberystwyth (excluding students) have below-average take-up of pay-TV services (47% and 27% respectively). Swansea and Wrexham have an above-average presence of at least one TV with Freeview or Freesat in the household (70% for both).

Free satellite services are more common in the North Wales cities of Wrexham (10%) and Aberystwyth (8%), which reflects the fact that digital terrestrial TV coverage can be limited in these areas.

Take-up of communications services and devices among those who can speak or write Welsh

Once again, this year’s report provides an analysis of those who are able to speak or write Welsh (fluent and non-fluent), looking at their take-up of key communications services and devices.

Those whose speak or write Welsh are significantly more likely than all adults in Wales to have a landline at home (93% vs. 83%), or a DAB radio set at home (53% vs. 39%).

However, these respondents are significantly less likely to have internet access, through any means, at home (76% vs. 86%), and less likely to have smartphone-only internet access (2% vs. 7%).

Other key findings for Wales

  • Total nominal spending by public service broadcasters (PSBs) on current affairs and news programming for people in Wales increased year on year by 16% and 15% respectively. There was a decrease in spend on non-news/ non-current affairs programming. These figures reflect an overall 6% increase in PSB spend on programming for people in Wales, in nominal terms.
  • Ofcom’s consumer research found fewer people in Wales claiming they were watching traditional TV (i.e. at the time of broadcast) compared to the previous year: 8% of respondents said they were doing this more, while 27% said they were doing it less, a net change of -19%.
  • Use of Twitter is higher among online adults in Wales (48%), compared to the other nations. Twitter is used by 40% of online adults in England, by 32% in Scotland and by 33% in Northern Ireland.
  • More people in Wales listen to radio, and they listen for longer, than in the UK as a whole. In 2014, radio services reached 94.5% of the adult population in Wales and listeners tuned in for an average of 22.4 hours per week. For the UK on average, 89.5% of the population listen for 21.4 hours each week.
  • Adults in Wales send more post than the UK as a whole. Three-quarters of adults in Wales claimed to have sent at least one item by post in the past month. They claim to send 6.5 items of post each month on average; slightly more than the UK average of 6.0 items.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2015 for Wales can be found here.