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Demand for broadband higher in rural areas
Thursday 22 May 2008 11:56:31 by Andrew Ferguson

The demand for broadband in rural areas will be of little surprise to people living in these regions, or those who get contacted asking for information on how they can get broadband. With the rapidly rising costs of both personal and public transport, the ability of broadband to bring the shops to your own home, or work from home even just one day a week can save a worthwhile amount of money.

Ofcom has published its analysis of the communications markets around the regions and nations of the UK, and this is the first time since 2003 that broadband take-up in rural areas (59%) has exceeded that of urban areas (57%).

Year UK urban areas take-up UK rural areas take-up
2003 8% 3%
2004 16% 8%
2005 35% 32%
2006 45% 41%
Q1 2008 57% 59%

The division between rural and urban around the the UK is perhaps more revealing.

Area Urban take-up Rural take-up
England 58% 60%
Northern Ireland 52% 54%
Scotland 52% 59%
Wales 43% 51%

Whether the current growth in demand can continue is of course a great unknown, but what is interesting is that the vast amount of choice of up to 8Mbps (ADSL), up to 24Mbps (ADSL2+) and 20Mbps cable broadband services in most urban area does not appear to mean the take-up is greater.

UK City Broadband Take-up
UK 57%
London 62%
Bristol/SW Urban 59%
Birmingham 55%
Newcastle 55%
Sunderland 66%
Middlesbrough 60%
Manchester 52%
Liverpool 40%
Cardiff 58%
Swansea 52%
Glasgow 32%
Edinburgh 62%
Belfast 60%
Londonderry/Derry 60%

The difference in take-up is much more marked between the various cities in the UK, with Glasgow showing only a 32% take-up compared to the national average of 57%.

The digital divide which is often mentioned as a danger, seems to exist in several forms.

  • Those who can and cannot get broadband in any reasonable form. Figures of 99% or better availability are often mentioned, but no complete analysis has ever been published for the UK wide picture. Lack of broadband is not solely a rural issue as cities can still have pockets with no coverage.
  • The division between those in areas with cable and LLU broadband who have access to ever faster services, which can at times offer higher speeds at a lower price than is available in rural areas.
  • Social inclusion, those families able to afford a computer can take advantage of things like online billing and the various discounts available. This means those less well off and unable to afford the ongoing subscription of broadband and costs of owning a computer can find common services costing more even though they have a smaller income.

It seems amazing that across the UK as a whole only 30% of adults have watched TV or video online given that video streaming has existed for many years. If the figure is for all adults, i.e. includes those who have no broadband connection, it would seem a more reasonable figure. The difference in the last year has been the amount of plugs it gets in the mainstream media. Oddly while England, Scotland and Northern Ireland manage a 3 in 10 adult figure for this metric Wales is lower at just 24% of adults. The low level of video viewing in Wales seems to be a reflection of the low take-up in the country.

Comments

Posted by normcall over 8 years ago
I tried watching TV via broadband once.
Bit like digital radio, if you forgot to set the PVR/VCR it's better than nothing, otherwise not anything like proper broadcast standards.
But then, mobile phone quality is worse than a 'proper ' phone, and some seem to accept it.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
Liverpool figures look shocking as that city has great broadband coverage, it looks like affordability might be hitting the takeup figures or I wonder if things like cable modem cloning has broadband users off the radar?
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
2% difference between urban and rural is so small to be meaningless.
Posted by timmay over 8 years ago
Time to roll out fibre to the contry side before the towns as there is more demand there ... lol, in my dreams.
Posted by CaptainW over 8 years ago
@timmay - i think we'd all want to join you in those dreams, FTTK dreams that is :P
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"It seems amazing that across the UK as a whole only 30% of adults have watched TV or video online given that video streaming has existed for many years."

Not really especially when there are so many ISPs where you cant even watch a youtube vid without it stuttering away.

@normcall try downloading content rather than streamin it from services like iplayer, the quality of the downloaded stuff is much better and on a par with freeview.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
The Glasgow and Liverpool figures probably tell us something, though not sure what. Perhaps the absence of Scouse and Glaswegian content is the problem ?

"Consumers who do not have fixed-line phones, mobile phones or broadband typically say that this is because they don’t want them or that the cost is too high. Less than 1% of survey respondents said that lack of service availability was a reason for not having a broadband connection."
Posted by KarlAustin over 8 years ago
"It seems amazing that across the UK as a whole only 30% of adults have watched TV or video online given that video streaming has existed for many years." - Not really, I have a TV for watching err... TV, and it's a lot bigger screen than my PC and a lot better sound to boot.
Posted by csimon over 8 years ago
"The low level of video viewing in Wales seems to be a reflection of the low take-up in the country.
"
Not really. Rural takeup is higher than urban, as shown by the report. Rural areas = low speeds due to lack of investment, as operators think there is only money to be made in urban areas. Therefore there in Wales there are more people unlikely to be able to get streaming video than able. That's why video viewing is low in Wales. My speed ranges from 128K-512K. Looks like operators have got it wrong targetting well-populated areas, there's mroe demand in rural areas.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
2% higher take-up for what is 10% of the UK population or target the 90% who live in urban areas.

90/10 urban/rural split based on some census info from around 1998, so may have shifted and depends on what you call urban.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote""It seems amazing that across the UK as a whole only 30% of adults have watched TV or video online given that video streaming has existed for many years." - Not really, I have a TV for watching err... TV, and it's a lot bigger screen than my PC and a lot better sound to boot."
Can online assume your web browsing or use is very limited if you have never seen any type of VIDEO online.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
80/20 urban/rural
http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/strategy/annex_b.htm

but the point stands.

"only 30% of adults have watched TV or video online" - depends on the precise question I suspect.
Posted by RoyBenford over 8 years ago
This overlooks the issue about quality of broadband connection. I am about 4.5 miles from the exchange. BT Wholesale will only address speed issues if the service falls below 50kbps which is not much better than ISDN!
Posted by KarlAustin over 8 years ago
I assume they meant something of watchable quality, not the dire quality you get on youtube and their ilk.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
50 kbits/s is less than ISDN and indeed less than the minimum speed ADSL will connect at. If that's a measured throughput you have other issues than your line length.
Posted by nemesis1 over 8 years ago
They have Mickey Mouse cities like Swansea,Cardiff & Middlesbrough.

What about Leeds,Bradford,Sheffield & Hull all far bigger than those three?
Posted by NetGuy over 8 years ago
Hull may be bigger but last time I looked, KC was costly. @csimon - which ISP and what echange? Time to switch ISP?
Posted by tony_pennell over 8 years ago
I suspect unemployment figures - generally high in rural areas (and some of the high takeup cities) - may correlate fairly well with takeup. It is noticeable that 'peak times' when my rural DSL-max speed drops to 128kbps (normally 3-5Mbps)are from about 2pm (wake-up time?) to 2 or 3am, not 'normal working hours'- these users are not at work and spend hours on the their computers streaming whatever is available! If you want high speeds, try 6am!
Posted by csimon over 8 years ago
@NetGuy: The ISP isn't the issue, the 8.5km line length *is*!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"I assume they meant something of watchable quality, not the dire quality you get on youtube and their ilk."

Thats the problem its not very clear, if the statement was left at TV online id agree the figure will be low, but when it comes to video, i imagine most of us have seen some type of online video, just visiting big business sites nowadays is a multimedia, video and flash frenzy. You dont even have to touch Youtube etc
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
youtube I noticed is a excellent source of listening to old trance, tons of it is on there. :)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
I wonder what ridiculously low percent figure they would had tagged onto the make believe question of 'how many have used their connection for any multimedia content?'
(CONT)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
The quoted 30% figure and quote of "watched TV or video online" seems even more bizaree when you could IN A FASHION argue some content like iplayer is now on virgins cable service, and PPV stuff with sky needs (or it did at one stage) your phone line plugged in to activate it, then there are services like Tiscali TV, etc, surely to the strict meaning of the term that all is "Online TV and Video" maybe it should be quoted "internet TV and Video"? Once again its a bit wishy washy from ofcom.
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