UK connectivity improves – but rural areas still miss out

Credit: HYWARDS via iStock
Ofcom's latest connectivity report revealed rural areas are still missing out on mobile and fixed-line coverage.

A new annual report from Ofcom has revealed that the UK has made improvements to its coverage of fast fixed-line and mobile networks over the past year, but some parts of the country are still missing out.

The regulator's 2018 Connected Nations report found, for instance, that 91 per cent of the UK now received a strong 4G signal from at least one operator, up from 80 per cent last years. Two-thirds of the country (66 per cent) enjoyed coverage from all four major networks, an increase from less than half (49 per cent) in 2017.

However, the picture was less positive in more remote areas. Although 83 per cent of urban homes and offices have good 4G coverage, only 41 per cent of those in rural areas enjoy the same quality, while in some remote rural areas there remains no coverage at all.

Philip Marnick, spectrum group director at Ofcom, said: "Mobile coverage has improved across the UK this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a signal. We’re particularly concerned about mobile reception in rural areas."

It was a similar picture for fixed-line broadband, with 94 per cent of the country nowe able to enjoy superfast download speeds of at least 30Mbps, up from 91 per cent last year. Half of all homes and businesses (50 per cent) are also able to access 'ultrafast' services that are around three times this speed. This is up from 36 per cent in 2017.

However, some 677,000 homes and offices still fail to reach the minimum standards of 10Mbps download speeds and 1Mbps upload speeds that Ofcom defines as necessary for decent broadband. Of these, the majority (496,000) are in rural areas.

Ofcom also set out its plans for the years ahead, which will see it auction off two spectrum bands for mobile services by spring 2020.

Mr Marnick said: "As we release new airwaves for mobile, we’re planning rules that would extend good mobile coverage to where it’s needed. That will help ensure that rural communities have the kind of mobile coverage that people expect in towns and cities, reducing the digital divide."

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