Superfast broadband: UK slow on the uptake?

Brits not a nation of early adopters when it comes to fibre, says Ofcom report...

Brits not a nation of early adopters when it comes to fibre, says Ofcom report...

Brits have been slow to take up superfast broadband services, according to a report by telecoms watchdog Ofcom, with only a fraction of households signing up for high-speed fibre-based services.

Superfast broadband is the next generation of fixed line broadband technology, incorporating fibre optic line into the network to support download speeds of up to 40Mbps or higher - typically faster than traditional copper-based network infrastructure.

Fewer than one in 50 households in the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain had a superfast broadband connection at the end of 2009, according to Ofcom's report, compared with more than a third (34 per cent) of Japanese households.

The regulator notes three factors drive the take-up of superfast broadband services: the relative cost compared woth basic broadband; the difference in performance between superfast and alternative broadband packages; and how superfast connections are bundled, with take-up being high where connections are used to deliver triple-play services including premium TV services.

Cable broadband provider Virgin Media claimed it was the first ISP to roll out next-generation broadband access in the UK, when it launched its 50Mbps fibre-based broadband service in 2008.

The 50Mbps service is available to all 12.6 million homes on Virgin Media's network and, according to a company spokesman, is now used by more than 90,000 homes - which is still less than one per cent of its total potential customer base.

Brits have been slow to take up superfast broadband services according to a report by regulator Ofcom

Brits have been slow to take up superfast broadband services according to a report by regulator Ofcom
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The spokesman added that more than 10,000 people registered for its 100Mbps service on the first day of sale last month, with the first customers due to go live next week. 100Mbps will be available to 200,000 Virgin Media customers by the end of the year, with its entire network gaining 100Mbps access before mid-2012.

Ofcom's report notes there was little availability of super-fast broadband services other than Virgin Media's 50Mbps service at the end of 2009, with the next largest deployment being the Fibrecity deployments in Bournemouth and Dundee.

The Fibrecity rollout had passed 158,000 premises by June 2010, according to the report, but Ofcom estimates there were just 350 connections.

Since 2009 BT has also got into the fibre game, pledging to spend £2.5bn on rolling out fibre broadband access to three-quarters of the UK by 2015, supporting speeds of 'up to 40Mbps' or more.

BT's fibre rollout had reached more than 1.5 million households by July 2010, and was passing 100,000 new premises each week. But broadband analyst Point Topic estimates there were only around 12,000 live BT fibre connections at the end of June 2010, which - according to Ofcom's report - equates to take-up of around one per cent.

Last month the telco passed three million homes and is aiming to have passed four million by the end of the year. It reported 38,000 customers had signed up to its own BT Infinity superfast broadband service by November, with 4,000 being added each month.

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