Telecoms regulator Ofcom says that around 21 per cent of UK properties are making use of superfast broadband.
Despite it being available to more than 75 per cent of properties throughout the UK, not every home and business that’s able to get it is biting.
Ofcom doesn’t explore the reasons why everyone isn’t signing up in its report, although analysts Point Topic have a few ideas. Superfast broadband is generally expensive than ADSL services. Budget-conscious families in the teeth of a recession are unlikely to be bothered about megabits per second.
The regulator notes that while there’s still a gap between availability and people actually coughing up, more people are starting to get the superfast bug. Last year, just 16 per cent of UK properties took superfast broadband from an ISP.
Ofcom’s latest infrastructure report takes a closer look at the effects of BT, Virgin Media and Hull-based KCOM’s network expansions have had on broadband availability across the UK.
For the first time, Ofcom has also differentiated between expansion of NGA (next generation access networks) and the actual availability of superfast broadband – defined here as anything delivering 30Mbps or higher.
In normal English this means that just because fibre optic connections and cabinets have been set up in your local area, it’s not a sure sign that you’re going to be able to get 30Mbps down.
The technical limitations of FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) – the types of connections being rolled out in most locations – mean that speeds drop off over long distances.
Despite the entry level FTTC services offered by ISPs like Direct Save, Sky, Plusnet and TalkTalk promising download speeds of ‘up to’ 38Mbps, not everyone will be able to get that.
Ofcom says that as of now, NGA networks cover 78 per cent of premises in the UK, but speeds of 30Mbps+ are available to 75 per cent – meaning there’s 3 per cent of homes out there able to get 29Mbps or slower.
Confusingly, the various BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) projects, joint ventures between BT and local authorities, tend to define ‘superfast’ as anything north of 24Mbps – something worth bearing in mind when digesting announcements from projects like Superfast Cymru and Better Broadband for Oxfordshire.
BDUK aims to ensure that 95 per cent of properties can get superfast broadband by 2017. By that time it’s a distinct possibility that BT could have started deploying G.fast technology on its network. This could see the headline speeds jump up to 700Mbps, depending on the results of future trials.
By 2017 pure fibre ISPs like Hyperoptic, CityFibre and Gigaclear – which are fleetingly mentioned in Ofcom’s report – should be offering gigabit broadband services to thousands more premises. Rural projects including B4RN, Fibre GarDen, Cybermoor and Shetland Telecom delivering FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) and wireless broadband to more properties across the next three years.