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Ofcom launches interactive map of UK’s fixed broadband infrastructure

Superfast broadband services are no longer a rarity in the UK

UK communications regulator Ofcom has launched an interactive map of the country’s fixed broadband landscape, using data provided by communications providers and giving a range of information including the availability of superfast broadband and average broadband take-up.

The map also provides data on average actual speeds for ADSL and cable services, and the percentage of homes with broadband which are currently not receiving speeds of 2Mbps. Each area has been ranked according to a score given for each metric and colour coded, with green ranking highest and red lowest. In this study, superfast broadband is defined as having a maximum speed of over 24Mbps.

Interestingly, the map shows only a few small enclaves which are ranked green, such as Bristol, Brighton, Portsmouth and Reading, with Bristol having an average maximum connection speed of 9.9Mbps and superfast broadband available to 90 per cent of residents. By contrast, the entire area of Greater London is ranked blue, with an average speed of 8.8Mbps and superfast broadband available to 85 per cent of residents.

Across the UK as a whole, 68 per cent of premises have a fixed broadband connection, and the average maximum speed is 7.5 per cent (excluding superfast broadband connections). The city of Brighton & Hove has the highest take-up of broadband services with 80 per cent, while Edinburgh has the lowest percentage of people receiving less than 2Mbps.

Around 58 per cent of UK addresses are in areas served by a superfast broadband-enabled telephone exchange or cable network. Luton in England and Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland have the highest percentage of addresses served by a superfast broadband-enabled exchange – at 100 per cent.

Superfast broadband availability in Northern Ireland is also very high, with 97 per cent of addresses served by a superfast-enabled exchange, following the completion of a major investment in superfast broadband by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, in conjunction with incumbent telco BT.

The telco is already on target to pass five million premises with fibre-based broadband by the end of this month (June 2011), and expects to pass ten million premises in 2012 and two-thirds of UK premises by the end of 2015. BT has allocated a budget of £2.5bn ($4.09bn) for its fibre rollout, which will use a mixture of Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) and Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology.

Cable rival Virgin Media meanwhile is halfway through a programme of cable expansion, having added 200,000 homes to its network last year and is on track to add the same number again this year. Virgin Media is also closely involved in a £2bn project by Fujitsu which seeks to bring Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) connections to 5mn homes across the UK.

At present however, a worrisome 14 per cent of consumers with fixed broadband connections (excluding those with superfast connections) are currently receiving speeds of less than 2Mbps. The majority of these will be in rural areas, and the UK government has created a £530m fund to help local authorities improve broadband in underserved areas, with more details on allocation of these funds to be announced shortly.

Ofcom reports that it plans to update this interactive map (available here) on an annual basis, and will publish a more detailed map later this year.

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