Access to superfast broadband in Wales is significantly lower than the rest of the UK, according to a new report from Ofcom.
The telecoms regulator Ofcom published its communications market report for the country yesterday, which showed that, while on average 73% of UK residents had access to the speedier internet connections, the figure was just 48% in Wales.
Despite the significantly lower number, the report defended the country’s efforts, showing it had the largest increase in access of any of the UK countries, growing by 11% in just one year.
But adoption figures of fixed line and broadband services were still below the UK average for the country. A total of 66% of Welsh households had a broadband connection in the first quarter of 2013, 9% lower than the 75% UK average, and 76% had fixed line services, 8% lower than the 84% UK average.
When it comes to mobile, however, Wales seems to be leading the way. Across the UK just 15% of households rely solely on a mobile phone, but this figure shoots up to 23% in Wales with citizens turning their back on traditional landline phones.
The number of people owning smartphones also grew from 12% to 54% of all Welsh citizens and in rural parts of the country adoption of the devices grew from 33% to 48%.
“Wales remains at the forefront when it comes to mobile-only homes and it is encouraging to see rural Wales leading the way in smartphone ownership, a trend set to continue with the imminent rollout of 4G services across the UK,” said Rhodri Williams, director of Ofcom in Wales.
“4G services will mean faster mobile broadband speeds, greater innovation, new investment and better coverage across Wales with at least 95% of the population of Wales receiving an indoor 4G coverage by the end of 2017 at the latest. This will mean that 4G coverage will extend beyond that of existing 3G services.”
However, Ian Clarke, chairman of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Wales (ACW), warned it would be imperative to secure government funding to keep the trend growing and improve access to other technologies.
“This year’s communications market report for Wales suggests an increasing preference for mobile telecommunications, with higher levels of mobile-only homes and smartphone ownership in Wales; and lower levels of fixed line broadband take-up compared with the UK average,” Clarke said.
“It will be crucial to ensure that the UK Government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) and forthcoming rollout of 4G services serve to support this trend and ensure that all of Wales’ residents can access the next generation of mobile services, regardless of location.”