UK Government Lukewarm Regarding Super-fast Broadband Says Ofcom

Thursday, December 15th 2011

Ofcom reports that the utilization of super-fast broadband in the UK seems to be extremely poor in spite of the fact that it has been made available in many regions of the country.

This was declared by Ofcom on Wednesday in its Sixth Annual Communications Market Report which looks into Internet services that are being provided to users and the methods in which they are used.

As far as access to the super-fast internet broadband services are concerned, the UK is on par with other countries in the EU with 48% of homes having obtained cable connectivity from Virgin Media in June 2010 and about 20% provided with the fibre-to-the cabinet (FTTC) from BT. As per the UK standards super-fast means broadband speeds that are more than 24Mbps.

Nevertheless in spite of the obvious accessibility of high speed broadband connectivity, its utilization in the UK is rather poor and only 4% of subscribers registering for various services in June 2011.

Though the utilization is rather poor, the figure augers well when compared with places like Germany with 3% and Spain with only 2.2%. In these places too the uptake is low while Sweden seems to do better with 13.3% uptake rates.

According to Ernest Doku, the Technology Expert in Uswitch, their utilization of smartphones when compared to the utilization in places like France and Germany would show that they were a country that took things up early and even studies revealed that they were far ahead in high-speed broadband connectivity, in spite of the fact that figures show that their take up is slow. He added that a lot of people considered using high-speed broadband unwanted expenditure.

However when compared to countries outside Europe like the US and Japan that had started investing in the broadband facilities much before the UK, things looked rather low. In Japan about 40% of the residents had signed up for the services a lot of which had speeds of over 100Mbps and 10% had registered in the US.

Sean Williams Director of Strategy, policy and portfolio at BT made some contrasting comments on the findings when he talked to the Westminster e-Forum in November. He stated that consumers were interested in registering for high-speed services. He also said that the Infinity a product that provided 40Mbps download speeds was being offered to premises in a one metre radius every quarter.

Mr. Williams said that the provision was pretty fast and that they had 300,000 people subscribing for it already. He said that presently Virgin Media was the only provider offering 100Mbps facilities in the UK, though BT had plans to more or less increase the speeds of their FTTC two-fold, offering about 80Mbps in the course of 2012. It also has ideas of providing fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections with 300Mbps download speeds.

Utilization of mobile broadband was rather better in the UK and Ofcom found that both Japan and the UK had pretty tall amounts of data being used via mobile broadband.

The hike in the usage of powerful mobile gadgets, the accessibility of the fastest mobile networks and the constant availability of the Internet software and other services a lot of which were specific to mobiles implied that users were receiving and sending a lot of information said Ofcom.

Ofcom stated that, although there was an increase in the utilization of mobile broadband services through dongles and smartphones, the UK was still far behind other countries in the 4G LTE provisions which could be attributed to the fact that there was a hold-up the auctions of the 4G spectrums.

The BRIC countries are far ahead of the many other countries including the UK regarding the provision of LTE networks because of greater accessibility of spectrum and because there seemed to be a general concentration on mobile broadband over fixed-line facilities, said Ofcom.

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