More than one million British homes and offices still lack access to a “decent” broadband connection, according to a new report from Ofcom.
The regulator found that while coverage was steadily improving, around 4 per cent of properties cannot access a 10Mbps connection.
Ofcom’s chief technology officer, Steve Unger, said “there’s still urgent work required before people and businesses get the services they need”.
Over the last 12 months, around 500,000 more premises gained access to good connections, but the report highlights that there is still a significant digital divide. While 98 per cent of urban premises can access a “decent” connection, just 83 per cent of rural properties can do so.
This is despite a growing demand for data. The average monthly volume of data carried across the UK’s networks rose by 52 per cent over the last twelve months, the report found.
More consumers are also making use of superfast broadband connections. Around 27 million premises can now access a connection with a download speed of 30Mbps, up from 25.5 million last year, and 11.2 million have bought these connections, up from 9.1 million last year.
But full fibre broadband connections are still scarce. Just 3 per cent of premises have access to the service, up from 2 per cent last year. In Spain, by comparison, full fibre market penetration is 80 per cent.
Ofcom’s report also criticised the availability of mobile coverage, saying “too many people struggle to get a sufficiently strong signal”. Just 43 per cent of the UK’s landmass has access to 4G from all four mobile providers. Four out of five rural homes lack indoor 4G coverage.
Lord Adonis, the head of the National Infrastructure Commission, has written to Ofcom in light of the report to call for urgent action, including possible regulatory changes, to address the issue.
“In an age when access to a mobile signal is regarded as a must-have, it is deplorable that even in areas previously considered to have strong coverage, operators are still delivering such poor services that customers can struggle to make a quick phone call,” he said.
“It demonstrates the need for urgent and radical action to tackle this issue immediately, ahead of new mobile spectrum being auctioned and 5G technology being rolled out,” he added.
Matt Hancock, the minister for digital, echoed the former Labour transport secretary’s concerns: “We’ve recently removed outdated restrictions, giving mobile operators more freedom to improve their networks including hard-to-reach rural areas.
“But industry needs to play its part too through continued investment and improvement in their networks, making sure that customers are not paying for services they don’t receive.”