Connected Nations: UK full-fibre broadband reaches 17M homes

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A record-breaking 17 million UK homes now have access to full-fibre broadband, according to Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report released today.

The report highlights the advantages of full-fibre broadband, emphasising its increased reliability and resilience compared to traditional copper-based networks. 4.6 million households have already made the switch.

Analysis indicates that providers experience fewer faults on their fibre networks, contributing to a smoother online experience for users engaged in activities like gaming, working, and video calling.

Notably, full-fibre broadband is now available to over half of homes in all four UK nations. Northern Ireland leads the pack, with 91 percent of homes capable of accessing full fibre.

Surge in rural adoption

The adoption of full-fibre broadband is not uniform across regions. Rural areas are outpacing their urban counterparts, with a nearly double take-up rate (49% compared to 25%). This surge in availability bodes well for millions of people and businesses, ensuring faster, more reliable, and future-proof internet connectivity.

“The rapid rise in availability of full-fibre broadband is good news for people and businesses across the UK, with millions more able to benefit from fast, reliable and future-proof internet,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director.

“When the time comes to take out a new broadband contract, we encourage people to shop around and find out what options are available to make sure they are on the best package for their needs.”

However, some experts highlight the need to read between the lines.

“The reported 1.7 million new full-fibre consumer connections suggest growing demand, but take-up rates of 28 percent are still relatively modest. The industry needs to take a closer look at why that might be and uncover the reasons behind this slow adoption,” comments Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie.

“We know that some full-fibre packages can be expensive, and in a cost-of-living crisis, this is a big factor. There may also be a lack of awareness of the speeds available in different areas. 

“Full-fibre coverage of 57 percent means we are lagging behind other European countries such as Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Norway, and France. Further progress is needed to support the nation’s current and future digital demands.”

Accessibility progress

Ofcom’s report also notes a significant reduction in the number of homes and businesses lacking access to ‘decent’ broadband, dropping by 27 percent to 61,000 premises. Approximately 11,000 of these are expected to be connected through publicly funded schemes next year, demonstrating ongoing progress in connecting the nation.

“While the reduction in premises without access to decent broadband has fallen, 61,000 homes without access to even the most basic speeds is still too many. The devil is also in the details when it comes to the definition of ‘decent’ broadband. Speeds of just 10Mb can be frustratingly slow in the modern age of remote working, HD streaming, and online gaming,” adds Tofts.

“The Universal Service Obligation should be reviewed to better understand the needs of broadband customers and push towards closing the digital divide between urban and rural locations. Superfast speeds of at least 30Mb should be considered the new normal.”

Satellite broadband is also on the rise, with around 42,000 UK customers now connected to Starlink’s satellite service.

5G expansion and 3G switch-off

Outside of premises, 5G coverage by at least one operator has surged to over 85 percent—a notable increase from the previous year’s 67 percent.

While 5G traffic has experienced 140 percent growth, 4G remains dominant, representing over 80 percent of total mobile traffic and offering coverage outside more than 98 percent of UK premises.

As mobile network operators prepare to phase out 3G networks, data indicates a significant decrease in devices reliant on 2G or 3G, dropping from an estimated 5.5 million to 2.4 million. Ofcom reassures consumers of its commitment to ensuring a smooth transition during the 3G switch-off process.

(Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash)

See also: Ofcom plans to improve mid-contract price rise transparency

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