Connected Nations 2016 - the Panel's response

29 December 2016

Ofcom have issued the Connected Nations report for 2016. The report is a ‘state of the union’ update on the coverage and performance of fixed broadband and mobile services that the UK’s consumers and small businesses are receiving.

The report echoes many of the issues that the Panel has highlighted over the past year. The report states that: “The availability of superfast broadband has improved, but a significant number of homes and businesses are still at risk of digital exclusion. In 2015 around 8% of UK premises (2.4 million) were unable to receive broadband speeds faster than 10Mbit/s. Although this figure has since fallen to 5% of UK premises, this still means 1.4 million premises are being poorly served and may fall within a broadband universal service obligation.” Furthermore, the report adds “If we also require a standard broadband service to deliver an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s, then the number of UK premises that are poorly served increases to 2.6 million.”

There has been a 6% increase in homes and small and medium-sized businesses able to receive superfast download speeds of 30Mbit/s or higher. However, the Panel is disappointed that SMEs experience poorer availability than residential consumers, and, although superfast coverage has improved in the Nations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are still falling behind the UK as a whole.

For the first time, Connected Nations reports on fibre to the premise (FTTP) services, which are available to just under 2% of homes and small businesses (numbering 498,000). FTTP services can deliver ultrafast speeds but also tend to be more reliable and experience fewer faults than fully or partially copper-based networks. The Panel hopes that this figure will increase significantly, especially as Ofcom's CEO, Sharon White has previously voiced her view that ‘fibre is the future’.

Jo Connell, our Panel Chair, responding to Connected Nations 2016 said: “Despite advances in superfast broadband and 4G, the Panel continues to be concerned that some people – especially in rural areas, the Nations and small businesses - are being left behind; unable to access usable download speeds or to consistently make and receive mobile phone calls. We hope that Connected Nations 2016 serves as a wake-up call – more must be done if we are to be truly connected nations.”

The full report can be accessed here.

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