Ofcom says the UK has highest take-up of superfast broadband in the EU5

UK telecoms and media regulator Ofcom has today published the 2014 edition of its European Broadband Scorecard, that it says shows that the UK leads the European Unions’s five biggest economies on most measures of coverage, take-up, usage and choice for both mobile and fixed broadband. And whilst not at the top of the list, it also compares favourably on price. Ofcom defines superfast broadband as being 30Mbit/s or higher download speeds.

The report says that the availability of superfast broadband has increased in the UK from around 60 per cent at the end of 2011 to 73 per cent. This has taken the country from third to first for coverage among the ‘EU5’ (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). Take-up of superfast broadband had reached nine in every 100 people in the UK at the start of last year, the highest in the EU5 ahead of Spain (6 in 100) in second place.

“This is excellent progress for the UK, but there is more to be done,” said Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive. “We want to see even wider availability of superfast broadband across the UK, so as many people as possible can enjoy faster speeds to access the internet. There is also more progress to be made to ensure consumers receive consistently high quality of service, including faster line repairs and installations for broadband and telephony.”

Among the EU5, using the most recent comparable data, Ofcom says that the UK has the highest fixed broadband take-up, by household, at 83 per cent, as well as the highest mobile broadband take-up at 84 per cent. It also has the highest percentage of people to access the internet at least once a week, at 87 per cent, and the lowest proportion of people who have never used the internet (8 per cent).

However, it only comes fourth in the percentage of the population who have interacted online with government and public authorities during the year, at a lowly 41 per cent – compared to France with 60 per cent. Disappointing, given the UK’s government’s apparent zeal for broadband and the digital economy.

Ofcom has also analysed a range of broadband product ‘baskets’ (8Mbit/s with 10GB allowance, 16Mbit/s with 20GB allowance, and 30Mbit/s with 30GB allowance), by examining average and lowest prices available for different packages. The UK comes either first or second within the EU5 on all measures of average price, and either second or third on measures of the lowest available price. It remains the cheapest country for single-service fixed broadband and voice across all three baskets

There’s also a wider range of competition in the UK, compared with the other EU5 countries. It has the lowest percentage of fixed broadband lines operated by an incumbent telco (BT, with 31 per cent), as well as the lowest percentage market share of a leading mobile operator (EE, also with 31 per cent).

All sounds rather good, but a word of caution – these figures related to the EU5 countries. When you look at the EU27 countries things are less clear-cut.

Seven countries have a greater percentage of households served by superfast broadband (Portugal, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands and Malta). Plus, it only ranks 13th out of 27 for superfast broadband take-up (the Netherlands, Belgium and Malta are way out in front). However, it must be remembered that many countries have far greater cable coverage, and can offer services via DOCSIS rather than rely solely on FTTP or VDSL, or else have tiny areas to cover (such as Malta).

The UK fairs well with mobile broadband connections within the EU27, beaten only by the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The 2014 European Broadband Scorecard is Ofcom’s second report produced for the UK government.

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