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The topic of fixed broadband in the UK has recently been overshadowed by talk of mobile broadband, particularly given the launch of 4G networks to much fanfare. This shouldn’t come as any great surprise—fixed broadband doesn’t offer much in the way of positive headlines to match those of mobile. According to July 2015 research from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), fixed broadband subscription penetration in the UK was 37.4% in 2014.
While this proportion wasn’t particularly bad, it wasn’t world-leading, either. April 2015 research from Point Topic put penetration at a fractionally higher rate of 37.7% as of Q4 2014, positioning the UK within the worldwide top 10, but still some distance behind leading nations Switzerland (49.2%) and Norway (48.2%).
More pertinent than penetration rates, though, are speeds. And here, the UK fares less well. Akamai’s latest “State of the Internet” report, from Q1 2015, found that the UK had the 21st-fastest broadband speeds in the world. Ookla’s rolling speed test data, meanwhile, placed the UK 33rd, as of late July.
In this regard, negative headlines are there to be made and, indeed, the UK government is being pressured to act. According to a June 2015 YouGov poll for Virgin Media Business, a large proportion—over half, in fact—of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK had experienced problems with slow fixed broadband speeds. It thus came as no surprise to see HM Treasury’s productivity plan, “Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation,” published two days after the recent budget, indicate that the government would ensure that superfast broadband (24Mbps) would be available to 95% of UK households and businesses by 2017, and that near universal ultrafast broadband (at least 100Mbps) would follow—although no target date was provided for that aim.
The two biggest service providers in the UK—Virgin Media and BT—are already going some way to remedy the issue. Virgin Media trialed 1Gbps ultrafast broadband at the end of 2014, while BT will begin trials of its G.fast broadband technology in August—a first step toward offering 500Mbps, it claims. A wider rollout will then begin in earnest from 2016. Faster fixed broadband is apparently on its way in the UK.
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