UK TELECOMS REGULATOR Ofcom has taken its annual glance over the communications market, revealing that, while broadband performance is improving, 18 percent of Brits still remain without access.
The Ofcom Infrastructure Report 2014 (PDF) said that 27 percent of UK households have no fixed broadband connection whatsoever, despite BT telling us that less than one percent of the UK population are unable to access the internet.
While a chunk of these homes are making do with a 3G or 4G mobile connection, the watchdog noted that 18 percent of Brits, or around three to four million households, currently have no access to the internet, fixed or mobile.
This means that almost a fifth of UK residents are missing out on the country's seemingly improving broadband services.
Ofcom claims that the UK's average broadband speed now stands at 23Mbps, up from 18.7Mbps last year.
Download speeds are on the up, but the watchdog said that average upload speeds come in at just 3Mbps, which is proving a major hindrance to small and medium-sized businesses.
Ofcom's report delivers more bad news about broadband coverage. Some UK households enjoy speeds of 350Mbps, while others have to make do with speeds as low as 0.1Mbps.
The watchdog explained that 10Mbps broadband coverage, the typical requirement for household internet, covers only 85 percent of the population, compared with 97 percent for 2Mbps.
However, it added that the government has set a target of 95 percent access to speeds of over 24Mbps by 2017.
The rollout of superfast broadband, which promises speeds above 30Mbps, has "increased rapidly", Ofcom noted, and is now available to 75 percent of UK households. However, so far, just 21 percent are using the services.
Consumers and businesses in rural areas are still underserved, the report concluded, largely because of the expense of providing high-speed networks in areas of low population.
Ofcom said that the government "is looking at the range of technological options which might be used to provide superfast broadband to the final five percent", which is likely to be a nod at the recently proposed 'national roaming' plans.
However, the national roaming proposals didn't go down well with internet service providers, in particular EE, which was quick to invest in its own alternative.
Ofcom's report also cast its eye over the mobile broadband market, which is improving, according to the watchdog, and could lead to the imminent demise of the traditional landline phone.
Ofcom noted that 95 percent of households in the UK now have a mobile phone, although with 18 percent still lacking an internet connection, it's likely that a large slice of these are feature phone devices.
However, those wielding a smartphone are seeing a big improvement when it comes to 4G services, as the high-speed connectivity now covers 72 percent of premises. However, Ofcom said that only 35 percent are serviced by EE, O2 and Vodafone.
We contacted the operators for comment, but had not heard back at the time of publication.
The Ofcom report paints a largely positive picture of the UK broadband market, but Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said that more could be done.
"Digital infrastructure is crucial to the UK’s future. As a country we are continuing to make real progress, particularly in the rollout and take-up of superfast broadband and 4G mobile services. But there is more to be done," he said.
"We need to continue asking whether collectively we are doing enough to build the infrastructure of the future, and to maintain the competition that benefits consumers and businesses."
For more on mobility, visit the Intel IT Center. µ
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