Superfast broadband reaches 60 per cent of UK homes, but just 6.6 per cent of Brits have signed up to a service.
BT’s aggressive roll-out of fibre-optic broadband has increased the availability over-30Mbps connections to around 60 per cent of the UK, including Virgin’s network.
The fastest British nation is Northern Ireland, where 94 per cent of homes can get a superfast connection, and the slowest is Wales, with 34 per cent in reach of a speedy connection.
Communications regulator Ofcom said that at the end of March 2012 there were 1.4 million UK superfast broadband connections, with 44 per cent of UK homes passed by Virgin’s cable broadband and 31 per cent by BT’s FTTC network.
“The faster speeds provided by superfast services, coupled with increasing availability, and the relatively low price differential between these and current generation broadband services, have led to growing take-up of superfast services,” says Ofcom’s Communications Market Report for 2012.
“It is possible that increasing use of over-the-top (OTT) online services which require higher bandwidths (such as the video-streaming services provided by BBC iPlayer, LOVEFiLM, Netflix and Sky), and growth in the number of connected devices per household, is driving this increase in take-up.”
The good news is that connection rates are rising rapidly, from 2.1 per cent in early 2011, and superfast connections typically cost just £5 – £10 more than ADSL.
Superfast access breaks down into 15 per cent FTTC, 28 per cent cable and 16 per cent of homes with access to both.
The actual availability may be even higher, because Ofcom hasn’t included smaller rollouts like Digital Region and Hyperotic, which as yet reach less than a million homes in total.
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BT leads on 29.3 per cent, followed by Virgin on 20.2 per cent, TalkTalk at 18.5 per cent and Sky at 17.9 per cent.
The total number of UK fixed broadband connections passed 20 million for the first time in 2011, and by the end of the year 99.9 per cent of British homes were connected to an ADSL-enabled BT exchange.
The majority of BT exchanges (92 per cent) have also been opened up to other internet providers through local loop unbundling, a three per cent increase on late-2010’s figures.
Broadband internet access is now connected for 76 per cent of UK households, including fixed and mobile broadband.
However, while fixed broadband use rose to 72 per cent (18.94 million) by the end of March 2012, mobile broadband decreased to being used in 13 per cent of homes (not including smartphones) – just over five million.
England is better-connected than Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, which have a below-average broadband connection rate of about 68 per cent – although Scotland saw a seven per cent boost in broadband sign-ups in 2011.