Over one million homes in Scotland can now access gigabit-speed broadband – fast, reliable connections that are fit for the future – Ofcom has found.
The finding is from Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations Scotland (PDF, 2.7 MB) report, which analyses the availability of broadband and mobile services across Scotland and the UK.
This year’s report comes as millions of people continue to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a significant shift in when, where and how people get online and make calls.
Gigabit-capable broadband, which can be delivered over the enhanced cable network or full-fibre connections, offers download speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s and can better support households wanting to stream, work and study online – all at the same time.
Around 1.1 million homes in Scotland (42%) can get gigabit broadband, which includes full fibre services and Virgin Media’s fastest cable package. Scotland has the second highest availability of any UK nation.
Today’s report also shows that full-fibre broadband is now available to over 437,000 (17%) of premises in Scotland – an increase of over 238,000 premises and the highest year-on-year increase seen so far in Scotland.
Continued investment in fibre services is vital to ensure the UK’s networks can keep up with growing demand. Ofcom has set out proposals to promote competition and supercharge investment in full fibre, and we will publish our final decisions in March.
A further 180,000 homes in Scotland now have access to a superfast broadband connection compared to last year, which provides download speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s and meets the current needs of most households. This means superfast broadband is now available to 94% of homes in Scotland, up from 92% last year. We estimate that around 57% of premises who are able to get superfast broadband actually take a superfast or faster service.
While superfast coverage continues to improve, there are still premises that do not have access to a decent broadband connection. Our latest estimate is that 34,000 (1.2%) of premises in Scotland still do not have access to a decent broadband service through either a fixed or fixed wireless network. This figure has reduced slightly from our estimate of 40,000 last year.
Alongside the work Ofcom is doing, both the Scottish and UK governments are delivering projects aimed at making sure people can get the connections they need – including in the hardest to reach areas.
The Scottish Government has committed to ensuring every home and business in Scotland can access superfast broadband through its Reaching 100% (R100) programme. As part of this, the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme was launched in August to provide grants for premises that are not in scope of the main programme. Additional funding was announced in October and builds on work by the Scottish and UK governments to link the scheme to the UK Government’s Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme. Since earlier this year, some people can get help to get connected under the UK Government’s universal broadband service. Requests for these connections are made to BT which will assess properties’ eligibility for the scheme (subject to a reasonable cost threshold of £3,400).
All of the UK’s mobile network operators continued to roll out new 5G coverage this year, with around 3,000 5G transmitters now in locations across all four nations – ten times as many as last year. Around 7% of these have been deployed in Scotland.
We estimate 4G services are available indoors from all four networks to 81% of premises in Scotland, in line with the UK average. But this drops to 51% for rural properties. And while 8 in 10 people can get a 4G signal from at least one network across Scotland’s landmass, just 44% of Scotland’s geographic area has 4G coverage from all four networks. And around 19% of Scotland has no 4G coverage from any operator (a ‘not spot’).
Mobile coverage in rural Scotland is set to increase as a result of UK and Scottish government initiatives. Earlier this year, the mobile industry and UK Government agreed to develop the Shared Rural Network which aims to improve 4G coverage and help tackle mobile not spots. Ofcom will monitor and report on the progress of the joint programme in future Connected Nations reports. The Scottish Government is also investing public funds to deliver 4G mobile infrastructure to over 40 mobile ‘not-spots’ through the Scottish 4G Infill (SG4i) programme.
Broadband and mobile networks have been in high demand throughout the year, with the coronavirus leading to major changes in people’s usage patterns.
Daytime traffic on home broadband increased significantly as many people worked from home. Mobile networks saw record levels of voice traffic during the first UK-wide lockdown.
Both broadband and mobile services have remained resilient as networks put in place measures to increase capacity and manage this extra demand. Our data shows the number of network resilience and security problems – including outages – reported to us was broadly in-line with recent years, suggesting the networks have generally coped well during the coronavirus lockdown periods.
Glenn Preston, Ofcom’s Scotland Director, said: “For families across Scotland this year, life during lockdown would have been even more difficult without reliable broadband to work, learn, play and see loved ones. So, it’s encouraging to see that superfast broadband now reaches ninety-four percent of homes and future-proof, gigabit broadband is now available to over four in ten homes. We expect availability of these services to rise even faster in the coming months.”