UK broadband surges during winter lockdowns | Media Analysis | Business | News | Rapid TV News
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In an update to its assessment of the UK’s fixed broadband and mobile networks, broadcast and telecoms regulator Ofcom has found an industry with aggressive infrastructure deployment during the time of the lockdowns declared in late 2020 and early 2021.
City Fibre Worker 10Mar2021
In the Connected Nations Update Spring 2021 edition report Ofcom found rapid growth in the availability of broadband offers capable of delivering Gigabit speeds for domestic households. It calculated that nearly 11 million UK homes (37%) were able to access such services by the end of January 2021, up from 7.9 million homes (27%) in September 2020. Ofcom attributed the increase largely to the continued rollout of Virgin Media’s DOCSIS3.1 technology to an additional 2.8 million homes, along with other providers extending their full-fibre networks to just under six million UK homes (21%), up from 5.1 million (18%) in September 2020.

Full-Fibre growth was said to have been driven predominantly through deployments not just by the larger fibre infrastructure operators but also and increasing number of smaller providers across the UK serving individual communities and regions.

Availability of ultrafast broadband, that is those homes receiving broadband download speeds of at least 300 Mbps, increased across the UK by nearly half a million homes to 17.7 million homes (61%). This was again found to have been driven predominantly by extensions to Virgin Media’s cable network, as well as fibre deployments by Openreach and other full-fibre operators. Ofcom observed that in some, predominantly urban areas, new fibre networks had been deployed in areas that have existing ultrafast coverage. An additional 65,000 properties were found to have taken superfast broadband, defined as download speeds of at least 30 Mbps, since the last Ofcom report, with coverage remaining at 96% of homes.

Ofcom found in its update that the number of properties - both residential and commercial – that could not in January 2021 receive a decent broadband service - 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speed from a fixed line - stood at 650,000, just over 2%. Ofcom also expects that the growing availability of fixed wireless access (FWA) will further reduce the number of premises unable to get a decent broadband connection. It estimated that the number of properties unable to get decent broadband, even with the inclusion of FWA networks, was around 189,000.

As regards mobile wireless networks, the Connected Nations Update Spring 2021 edition report found that more than 91% of the UK landmass was found to have what Ofcom called good 4G coverage from at least one operator, and this area included nearly all of the premises in the UK. Both geographic and road 4G not-spots - areas where good 4G services are not available from any mobile operator - remained at the same levels as in September 2020, that is 9% and 4% respectively, although the picture in individual nations varied significantly, particularly in Scotland and Wales. Ofcom noted that it was too early to make an assessment of 5G rollout.