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The number of homes in the UK that are able to access an ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or full-fibre broadband service has ticked over a million for the first time, according to statistics from Ofcom, released in an update to its Connected Nations report.
In its previous full Connected Nations report, released in December 2017, Ofcom revealed that FTTP access had increased from 498,000 homes in May 2016 to 840,000 by May 2017. In the seven months between May and December 2017, it said a further 180,000 homes had been hooked up to FTTP, taking the total to 1.2 million, or 4% of the national total.
At the same time, the number of properties unable to access a service capable of providing download speeds of 10Mbps or higher dropped by over 150,000 between May and December 2017, taking it below a million for the first time ever. In January 2018, the number of homes that could not receive such a service stood at 925,000. Last May, the figure stood at 1.1 million, and in May 2016 it was 1.6 million.
The 10Mbps cut-off point is important because it is the threshold at which the government’s universal service obligation (USO) will kick in from 2020, giving homeowners and renters the legal right to request and receive an upgrade to a faster service.
But Ofcom said more needs to be done to provide these remaining properties with access to better broadband services, and to encourage wider private-sector investment in FTTP services.
Ofcom said access to superfast broadband – meaning a service capable of delivering speeds of 30Mbps or higher – now stands at 93% of homes, up from 91% in May 2017. This statistic differs from that provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which claims superfast services are available to 95%, because DCMS sets the bar for superfast at 24Mbps.
Across the UK, access to superfast broadband stood at 95% in England, 92% in Wales, 91% in Scotland and 88% in Northern Ireland.
Ultrafast services, which in Ofcom’s parlance means a connection delivering speeds of 300Mbps or above (but does not necessarily mean FTTP), grew from 10.6 million premises in May 2017 to 13.2 million by January 2018, mostly thanks to a major upgrade by Virgin Media.
On the mobile side, Ofcom reported that outdoor mobile network coverage had improved, but only 76% of the UK’s geographic area was covered by all four operators, and only 70% could receive a mobile data service, up from 70% and 62% seven months ago. Indoor coverage now extends to 92% of UK premises, up from 90% seven months ago, and 88% can receive data services, up from 85% at the beginning of June 2017.
In terms of 4G mobile network coverage, 68% of UK premises are now covered by all four operators, up from 58% in June 2017, while just 57% of the UK’s total area is covered by all four, up from 43%.
Ofcom said the award of new spectrum to mobile services in the 700MHz band – currently used for terrestrial television – would help address this gap, albeit not for four more years, and proposed that new obligations included in this award, which is currently the subject of a consultation, would be better defined to reflect the experience of mobile users.
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