Too many rural areas still underserved by mobile and broadband coverage

18 December 2018


The Panel has highlighted that communications services are integral to the everyday lives of consumers, citizens and micro businesses. While Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations report shows mobile coverage has continued to improve, too many rural areas have patchy or unreliable mobile reception. For example, while 83% of urban homes and offices have good 4G coverage, only 41% of those in rural areas do. In some remote rural areas there is no coverage at all. Other findings in the report include:

  • Almost all homes and offices can get a good, indoor 4G signal from at least one operator, while three-quarters (77%) are covered by all four networks. This is up from 65% last year.
  • When it comes to outdoor coverage, 78% of the UK has call coverage from all four operators – up from 69% a year ago.
  • And 91% of the UK has a good 4G mobile internet signal from at least one operator, up from 80% last year. Meanwhile, two-thirds (66%) has 4G coverage from all four, up from 49% last year.


The report also highlights that while progress has been made in decent broadband coverage, with the proportion of buildings that cannot receive decent broadband (defined as offering a download speed of 10 Mbit/s, and an upload speed of 1 Mbit/s) has halved this year from 4% to 2%, 677,000 homes and offices still can’t get decent broadband and 73% of these (496,000) are in rural areas.

Ofcom is working to implement the UK Government’s universal broadband service. This will give eligible homes and offices the right to request decent broadband by 2020.

  • Superfast broadband – which offers a download speed of at least 30 Mbit/s – is now available to 94% of homes and offices, up from 91% last year. It expects this growth to continue as companies extend superfast networks.
  • Ultrafast broadband, which is around ten times faster, is available to half (50%) of homes, up from 36% – largely as a result of continued upgrades by Virgin Media to its high-speed network.
  • Around 1.8 million premises now have access to ‘full-fibre’ broadband – an increase of one million in a year. This uses fibre-optic cables to connect buildings to the local street cabinet, replacing older copper wires. Full fibre is very reliable and can deliver speeds above 1 Gbit/s. Ofcom has taken a range of steps to promote investment in full fibre, and expects coverage to increase in the coming months

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