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Thursday, 27 February

Broadband - Could do Better

Regulator Ofcom has outlined the future challenges in ensuring the UK’s communications infrastructure serves the growing needs of consumers and businesses

 

According to its latest Infrastructure Report 2014 on the availability of the internet and broadband, Ofcom reports that the UK is making ‘good progress’ in the spread and take up of key communications services.

The report looked into all of the country’s telecoms, broadcasting and wireless networks. However, it recognises that there is still more to do, particularly in improving broadband and mobile availability and quality of service for consumers and businesses across the UK.

While the overall availability and quality of broadband services is getting better, Ofcom’s report identifies specific challenges:

  • Rural roll-out – the government and industry are looking at a range of options that might provide superfast broadband to the ‘final 5%’ of UK premises. While this is technically complex and expensive, it is important that these remaining homes and businesses are not left behind.
  • City not-spots – Some urban areas, including parts of central London, also have poor superfast broadband coverage. City not-spots are generally caused when there is no street cabinet to upgrade, because a customer has a direct connection to the local telephone exchange. Communications providers are looking at ways to take fibre closer to the customer where there is no cabinet.
  • Availability for SMEs – Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make a ‘substantial contribution’ to the economy, so it is deemed important they have high quality broadband. But a lower proportion of SMEs have access to superfast broadband compared with UK premises as a whole. Ofcom has a major programme of work to assess how to support the needs of SMEs.
  • Ultrafast broadband – Looking further ahead, industry and policy makers are considering what networks are needed to support speeds of a gigabit per second (1Gbit/s), commonly referred to as ultrafast broadband. The UK is seeing some early deployments of ultrafast broadband and more consideration is needed on how to build on this.

 

Ofcom has found the average UK household or small business is downloading 53 Gigabytes (GB) of data on their fixed broadband line every month, equivalent to 35 feature films, and a 77% increase on 2013. The growth is being driven not only by increasing use of high-bandwidth services, such as video streaming, but also the introduction of faster connections supporting multiple users.

On connections slower than 10 Mbit/s, performance these web activities may be impaired. Video streaming, in particular, can work less well when there are simultaneous demands on bandwidth from different devices of the user.

 

Picture: Ofcom has found that there is a better picture for internet and broadband use in the UK. Above, a BT engineer installing fibre broadband for a commercial operation in Northern Ireland

Article written by Cathryn Ellis

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