UK’s rosy broadband picture blighted by urban-rural divide

10 May 2018

Traditional red phone box in the UK. Image: Duchy/Shutterstock

Cities are flying high with high-speed broadband but rural areas continue to flounder.

UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom has recorded a marked improvement in fixed-line download speeds, with average speeds up 28pc to 42.2Mbps.

The regulator also noted in its home broadband performance report that average upload speeds increased 44pc to 6.2Mbps due to the increased take-up of superfast broadband.

Virgin Media’s ‘up to 200Mbps’ cable package achieved the fastest download speeds and averaged 193.6Mbps over a 24-hour period, with 184.3Mbps during the 8-10pm peak period.

Ofcom also reported that the average speed gap during busy periods across the UK is also getting smaller, with average speeds increasing by 30pc to 44.9Mbps.

It pointed out that many UK households could receive better broadband speeds by upgrading their package, sometimes at no greater cost.

However, although superfast broadband is available to 93pc of UK premises, around two in five UK broadband households still subscribed to a standard ADSL service in November 2017.

Urban-rural divide

Despite the improving broadband quality picture, the disparity between town and country is still glaring.

In urban areas, 59pc of connections delivered average speeds exceeding 30Mbps during the 8-10pm peak period, achieving the definition of ‘superfast’, and just 17pc saw less than 10Mbps.

In the rural UK, only 23pc of connections surpassed 30Mbps during the same hours and a substantial 53pc didn’t even reach 10Mbps.

Browsing web on smartphones more important than phone calls

Ofcom’s annual consumer mobile experience report was based on 5,000 people who installed its research app on their Android devices (passive tests not possible on iOS, apparently).

It found that for most users, browsing the web on a mobile phone is more important than making calls. 92pc of people said web browsing was ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important, compared to 75pc for calls. Among 18-24-year-olds, just 65pc of users said making calls was important.

The majority of people (75pc) used Wi-Fi to get online on their phone, rather than 3G or 4G. Three (35pc) and EE (33pc) customers were the most likely to use 3G or 4G to get online.

A 4G connection was available to people 81pc of the time. Those using 4G were able to connect successfully on 99pc of occasions.

The report also found that most people (84pc) were satisfied with the performance of their mobile service.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years