UK rural broadband penetration overtakes urban

Ofcom statistics reveal there is now a greater proportion of households with broadband access in the countryside than in built-up areas

Fat-pipe penetration in rural areas has outstripped that of urban areas for the first time, according to an Ofcom report.

Across the UK as a whole, the statistics show there is a greater proportion of households with high-speed internet access in the countryside than in built-up areas: 59 percent to 57 percent.

The watchdog claimed this marks an important shift for Britain as, back in 2000, when broadband was introduced, urban households were the first to sign up, prompting fears of a digital divide opening up based on high-speed internet connectivity.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said in a statement: "Our report highlights a closing of the geographic digital divide in the UK. Rural households are today as well connected to broadband as their urban neighbours."

Fat-pipe penetration across the whole of Britain stands at 57 percent of households — up 12 percentage points in 12 months. Ofcom's report, The Nations & Regions Communications Market 2008, shows broadband take-up has increased across all regions of the UK, with England up 13 percentage points to 58 percent penetration; Scotland up 11 points to 53 percent; and Northern Ireland up 10 points to 52 percent.

Wales had the lowest growth rate, rising just three percentage points on last year to hit 45 percent fat-pipe penetration.

The research also looked at homes that rely solely on mobile phones, instead of installing a landline, and found 12 percent of UK households do this — more than ever before. Wales saw the highest growth, with around a fifth (19 percent) of homes being mobile-only, while the UK city with the highest rate of mobile-only households is Manchester, where almost a third (28 percent) do without a traditional telephone.

Additional findings in the report include that digital-television penetration stands at 85 percent of households across the UK, up 10 percentage points since 2006; and DAB digital-radio penetration stands at 22 percent nationally, a four point rise.