Over a quarter of a million homes in Wales have access to full-fibre broadband
- New figures reveal broadband and mobile coverage in Wales
- Nearly one in five homes can get full fibre connections – offering future-proof, reliable internet
- Networks remain resilient despite surge in demand during lockdown
Over a quarter of a million homes in Wales can now access full-fibre broadband – fast, reliable connections that are fit for the future – Ofcom has found.
The finding is from Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations report, which analyses the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK and each of its nations.
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.
Full-fibre broadband can run at speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s, many times faster than today’s UK average broadband speed. This faster connection can better support households wanting to stream, work and study online – all at the same time. You can download an episode of your favourite show in a matter of seconds, while gamers can enjoy an improved experience with near-instant reactions on screen.
Full fibre reaches over a quarter of a million homes
Full fibre broadband, which uses fibre-optic connections all the way to your home – replacing the decades-old copper wires that were installed for the telephone network originally and are more likely to be affected during peak times and severe weather.
Today’s report shows full-fibre broadband is now available to 265,400 homes in Wales (19%) an increase of 7 percentage points from last year and 1% ahead of the UK average. Availability in the UK is highest in Northern Ireland (56%).
Since the completion of the Welsh Government and BT’s Superfast Cymru project, which mostly deployed fibre-to-the-cabinet technology to homes and businesses, Openreach has started to deploy fibre-to-the-home services to some of the hardest to reach areas in Wales. Recent deployments have included the village of Llanymawddwy in Gwynedd, Paradwys in Ynys Môn and Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan.
One of the main advantages of full fibre over older technologies is its greater reliability. This is important, as the UK’s data-hungry households used an average of 429 gigabytes (GB) of data each month in 2020 – up 36% from last year (315GB), and 225% from four years ago (132GB in 2016).
Continued investment in fibre services is vital to ensure that Wales’ networks can keep up with this 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.
Eleanor Marks, Ofcom’s Director Wales, said: “Lockdown has shown everyone how vitally important fast and reliable broadband is for families and businesses across Wales. It’s encouraging that full fibre availability in Wales is above the UK average, but the challenge will be to maintain momentum as the roll-out of full-fibre broadband increases across the UK.”
“We will continue to work with governments, industry and others across Wales and the UK to support network investment and help bring better services for people and businesses in Wales.”
Getting everyone connected
The vast majority (94%) of homes in Wales can now get superfast broadband, which provides download speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s and meets the current needs of most households. But within rural areas, this falls to 78%.
And 1.2% of properties in Wales (around 18,000) still cannot get ‘decent’ broadband – defined as offering download speeds of 10 Mbit/s and upload speeds of 1 Mbit/s. 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 and KCOM, who will assess properties’ eligibility for the scheme.
This year’s report also highlights the important role played companies using Fixed Wireless Access technology to deliver broadband in Wales. This allows properties within line-of-sight of a mast to receive broadband services via a microwave dish. SMEs in Wales have provided these services for many years, but they are now also being offered by three of the four mobile network operators.
5G rollout continues
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.
We estimate 4G services are available from all four networks across 60% of Wales’ landmass and indoors at 73% of properties. In rural Wales the figures drop to 57% and 43% respectively. for 97.5% of UK properties. And while people can get a 4G signal from at least one network across the vast majority of Wales, areas covering 10% of Wales’ landmass are still ‘not spots’, with no mobile network available.
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.
Communications networks stand firm
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. While 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.
Alongside the UK-wide Connected Nations report, we have published separate reports on how broadband and mobile services compare in each of the UK’s nations.
NOTES TO EDITORS
- An interactive version of the report, also published today, allows people to look up how coverage compares in their area.
- The International Broadband Scorecard compared broadband availability and take-up across 17 different nations.
- Despite increases in daytime broadband traffic, peak usage remained in the evening.