More people can get faster broadband and a good mobile signal than last year, but rural areas still behind towns and cities for coverage – new data from Ofcom shows.
Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations report analyses the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK and its nations. This year’s report highlights further progress from industry in rolling out their networks, with the availability of full fibre availability in the UK increasing by 67% and all four mobile networks launching 5G.
The report also reveals that more work is needed to improve services in in rural areas, where some customers experience slower speeds and lack of good mobile coverage compared to those in towns and cities.
Ultrafast broadband. The latest figures also show that 31% of homes in Wales can get ultrafast broadband – a three percentage point increase from last year (28%). These connections, which can be delivered over a combination of fibre and cable lines, offer download speeds of at least 300 Mbit/s.
Full fibre broadband. Today’s report shows that 165,000 homes in Wales (12%) can now get full-fibre broadband – which offers download speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1 Gbit/s). This is an increase of over 90,000 premises from last year. Full fibre availability is now 12%, 2 percentage points above the UK average (10%).
Full fibre coverage to rural premises is amongst the highest in Wales compared to the other nations in the UK with 17% of rural premises having access to this technology, compared to 10% in urban areas. In the UK as a whole 10% of properties have access to full fibre services, 10% in urban areas and 12% in rural areas.
Ofcom will shortly publish new plans to promote further investment in fibre networks – including in rural areas.
Although faster broadband has reached many more rural premises in recent years, some homes and businesses are still unable to get a decent service. Government defines decent broadband as a download speed of at least 10 Mbit/s, and an upload speed of at least 1 Mbit/s.
Currently an estimated 15,500 properties in Wales are unable to get decent broadband. This has fallen significantly in the last year due to the availability of wireless broadband services.  The majority of these will be in rural areas.
From March next year, homes and businesses still unable to get a decent broadband service will be legally entitled to request one under the Universal Service Obligation, which Ofcom is implementing on behalf of the Government. 
In today’s smartphone society, being able to make calls and get online on the move is crucial to people’s personal and working lives. Today’s figures show 58% of Wales’ land area is covered by good 4G reception from all four networks. And 89% of the country can get reliable 4G from at least one operator.
But mobile coverage remains patchy in parts of the UK. For example, 11% of Wales’ landmass can be classified as total not spots, more than double the UK average and broadly in line with Scotland.
In addition, while most of the country can get coverage from at least one mobile company, there are stark differences between urban and rural areas in Wales. For example, 97% of premises in urban areas have outdoor mobile telephone services from all operators while in rural areas services are available only outside 75% of premises.
However, rural mobile coverage is set to increase as a result of an industry project announced in October. Mobile operators have worked with Government and Ofcom on a plan to introduce a ‘shared rural network’. This will see high-quality 4G coverage reach 95% of the UK by 2025, with specified increases in each of the UK Nations. Should the final agreement be reached, the improvements will make a real difference to mobile customers in Wales with coverage expected to get to 86% as mobile companies share their existing masts and invest in new sites. We have provided technical advice on the plans.
5G – the fifth generation of mobile technology – launched in the UK this year, with all four mobile networks rolling out 5G across a total of 40 UK towns and cities.
Initially, 5G will be an enhanced version of 4G – offering faster speeds, more capacity and far fewer connection delays. But in the longer term it can support a host of innovative new services for mobile users and businesses, from farming to factories. 
Elinor Williams, Ofcom Wales’ Head of Regulatory Affairs said: “We’ve seen encouraging progress in bringing faster, better services to people in Wales – with full fibre availability higher than the UK average and 5G now available in Wales
“But clearly, more needs to be done to close the gap between urban and rural areas. And while there are unique challenges in reaching some of the more remote parts of Wales, it’s vital everyone involved plays their part in improving broadband and mobile coverage for people and businesses across the whole country.”