Fibre broadband reaches 5 million homes in UK: Ofcom

Ofcom’s Connected Nations report said eight million UK homes can access gigabit-speed broadband across the country.
Fibre broadband growth in UK in 2020The report analyses the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK and each of its nations.

Gigabit-capable broadband offers download speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s, many times faster than the UK’s current average broadband speed (72 Mbit/s).

Nearly eight million UK homes (27 percent) can get gigabit broadband, which includes full fibre services and Virgin Media’s fastest cable package.

Northern Ireland has the highest availability, with more than half of homes (56 percent) able to get these faster services, while 42 percent of Scottish homes also have access.

Fibre reaches 5 million homes

Gigabit speeds can be delivered in two main ways currently: using the latest enhancement to the cable network developed originally for transmitting cable TV (known as DOCSIS 3.1); and full fibre, 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 just over 5m homes (18 percent) – a rise of 80 percent in a year, the largest increase to date. Availability in the UK is highest in Northern Ireland (56 percent), followed by Wales (19 percent).

UK’s households used an average of 429 gigabytes (GB) of data each month in 2020 – up 36 percent from last year (315GB), and 225 percent from four years ago (132GB in 2016).

The vast majority (96 percent) of UK homes 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 81 percent.

0.6 percent of properties across the UK (around 190,000) 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, which will assess properties’ eligibility for the scheme.

5G rollout continues

All of the UK’s mobile network operators rolled out 5G coverage this year, with around 3,000 5G transmitters now in locations across all four nations – ten times as many as last year.

4G services are available outdoors from all four networks for 97.5 percent of UK properties. But this drops to 87 percent outside rural properties. While people can get a 4G signal from at least one network near almost all UK properties, areas covering 8.6 percent of the UK’s landmass are 4G ‘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 program in future Connected Nations reports.