House of Commons Library

Superfast Broadband Coverage in the UK

Published Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Commons Library Briefing on the Government’s superfast broadband policy for the UK. It sets out the current situation for broadband access and coverage in all four nations of the UK, and how the roll-out of superfast broadband is being managed and funded. Constituency data and local maps on broadband connectivity and speeds are also included.

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Government Targets

Superfast broadband has been rolled out to much of the country on commercial terms by providers such as BT and Virgin Media. The Government’s policy is to provide funding to support the roll-out of superfast broadband to those areas of the UK where commercial roll-out is not economically viable. This is mostly, but not entirely, in rural areas. The Government defines superfast as speeds greater than 24Mbps, whereas Ofcom (the UK regulator) defines it as speeds greater than 30Mbps.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is responsible for implementing the Government’s policy on superfast broadband roll-out which consists of three stages:

  • to provide superfast broadband coverage to 90% of UK premises by early 2016 and access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all from December 2015 – “Phase 1”
  • to provide superfast broadband coverage to 95% of UK premises by the end of 2017 – “Phase 2”
  • to explore options to provide superfast coverage to the hardest to reach parts of the UK - “the final 5%”

The BDUK coverage targets include the commercial roll-out, however, the BDUK programme and funding is focused on those areas that are not reached by the commercial roll-out.

Phase 1

In a Westminster Hall debate on 9 March 2016 the then Minister of State for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, stated that the target for coverage of 90% of UK premises had been met.

In its Connected Nations 2016 Report, Ofcom confirmed that, as of June 2016, 90% of UK premises (almost 26 million) were covered by superfast broadband (at least 24 Mbps). Ofcom data as at June 2016 showed that about 1% of UK premises (about 190,000) were unable to receive speeds of 2Mbps.

Phase 2

Phase 2 is currently underway in many areas of England with only a small number of local bodies yet to sign contracts for the roll-out. Procurement has not yet started for Phase 2 in Scotland. Contracts have been signed for Phase 2 in Wales and Northern Ireland.

A BDUK Programme summary (based on contracts signed at 1 February 2017) provides detailed information on the contracts and the total amounts of funding (BDUK and local body funding) for Phase 1 and Phase 2 in each local project area. The Government has confirmed it is “on track to reach 95% of premises by December 2017”.

The Final 5%

With Phase 2 of the broadband roll-out underway in many areas the focus has moved to superfast broadband coverage for the “final 5%” of UK premises. The remaining unserved premises (5% is around 1.4 million premises) are geographically dispersed across the landmass of the UK. 

Providing superfast broadband to these premises poses distinct challenges and a number of different approaches are explained in the Briefing Paper.

Superfast broadband availability in the UK Click to view a map of superfast broadband availability by constituency in the UK

 

 

 

 

 

Delivery of the roll-out

In England each county council or local enterprise partnership (collectively ‘local bodies’) is leading the broadband roll-out in their area. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the roll-out is led by the devolved Administrations.

Coverage across the UK

By the end of December 2016, the BDUK government funded superfast broadband programme had extended superfast broadband to 4.3 million homes and businesses across the UK.

Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2016 report and postcode level data downloads showed:

  • the average download speed for all fixed broadband services for the entire UK is 37Mbps, although speeds available to individual customers vary considerably;
  • superfast broadband – speeds greater than 30 Mbps – is now available in 89% of UK premises (over 25 million), with take-up of 31%;
  • about 1% of UK premises (about 190,000) are unable to receive speeds of 2Mbps;
  • 5% of UK premises (about 1.4 million) are unable to receive speeds of at least 10Mbps through a fixed line.

Data for constituencies and wards is contained in our downloadable tables, available at the bottom of this page. On request, the Library can provide MPs and their staff with further data and maps for their area. See section 6.3 of the Paper for an example.

The dot maps below show detailed information on superfast connections in Great Britain. Click to view full-size.

Dot map of superfast broadband in Great BritainDot map of superfast broadband in major urban areas in Great Britain

Commons Briefing papers SN06643

Authors: Sara Priestley; Carl Baker; Alex Adcock

Topic: Telecommunications

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