Ofcom figures reveal acceleration of UK ultra-fast broadband rollout

Gigabit gains traction, but those last remaining hard-to-reach areas are proving problematic.

The latest broadband coverage figures from industry regulator Ofcom have revealed a distinct uptick in the availability of faster connections for UK homes.

As part of its Spring 2022 update, Ofcom confirms that Gigabit broadband – the fastest widely available connection at speeds of at least 1Gbps – is now available to two thirds of UK homes. 66 per cent coverage entails 19.3 million households, representing a sizeable increase from just 37 per cent coverage this time last year.

The availability of fast broadband was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic, as millions made the transition to remote work. Ofcom cites “a number of competing companies” as a key factor in accelerated rollout, though a stark contrast does exist between UK nations. While Northern Ireland has achieved 82 per cent Gigabit coverage, Wales lags behind at just 46 per cent. England and Scotland sit at 67 and 60 per cent, respectively.

Full-fibre broadband destined to eliminate the use of the UK’s ageing copper infrastructure has also seen an increase in availability to 33 per cent of all homes, up from 21 per cent, however Superfast broadband (>30Mbps) coverage stubbornly remains stuck at 96 per cent. Ofcom cites a shift toward faster connections as a root cause behind Superfast’s stalled progress, as well as widely reported difficulties in reaching the final four per cent of properties.

Households that fall outside of the Superfast catchment area are instead encouraged to look toward the Universal Service Obligation (USO), a Government pledge to make ‘decent’ broadband (10Mbps) a legal right. The USO begin taking requests in March 2020 and is eligible to residents and businesses that meet the following criteria:

  • they do not have access to a decent broadband connection by any technology including wireless connections such as mobile broadband; or
  • if the only service available that can provide the minimum criteria costs more than £45 per month; and
  • the property is not due to be connected by a publicly funded roll-out scheme within 12 months; and
  • the connection will cost no more than £3,400 per premises to build (or the customer has chosen to pay the excess above that amount).

Over 4,600 premises have already received a USO connection, with a further 2,300 installations currently in progress.

Further details on the broadband universal service are available at Ofcom.org.uk.