Skip Navigation

UK rural broadband take-up higher than urban
Thursday 04 August 2011 12:15:20 by Andrew Ferguson

Ofcom has published its eighth Annual Communications Market Report, which covers the world of TV, radio, internet and telecoms services. The figures show some interesting variations across the UK regions, and are usefully split out to show differences between urban and rural areas.

Take-up of broadband services in English and Scottish rural areas surpasses that of the urban areas, though Scotland does have a much lower take-up overall. Oddly the rural/urban trend is reversed in Wales and Northern Ireland. The rises in broadband take-up show that it is very close to the levels of take-up for fixed landlines, and raises the question as to whether Ofcom needs to revisit the issue of Universal Service Obligation (USO). Current plans are for a USC (Universal Service Commitment) of 2Mbps in 2015, but the current USO that requires a landline to deliver functional internet access of 28Kbps is looking more like something from the 19th century.

The Scottish broadband take-up figure shows an even more distinct difference if you look at just Greater Glasgow where take-up is just 50%. Scotland was the only region to show a decrease in satisfaction with broadband speeds, now 73% rather than the 83% of the previous report. The issue with Scotland does not appear to be one of availability as the age group 35-54 year olds show a take-up of 85% (UK average 83%), so other factors are most likely at play.

UK communication markets: fast facts






Northern Ireland

UK Urban

UK Rural

%'age Broadband take-up 74 76 61 71 75 74 80
%'age LLU Availability 89 91 81 84 75
%'age Cable broadband coverage 48 51 37 23 30
%'age FTTC 23 23 8 14 81
%'age Mobile Broadband 17 18 9 16 13 17 14
%'age Mobile phone take-up 91 92 86 87 92 91 92
%'age Use mobile to access internet 32 34 21 25 29 34 23
%'age Fixed landline take-up 85 85 80 80 84 84 90
%'age Households taking bundles 58 54 49 47 46 54 47


Eng Urban

Eng Rural

Scot Urban

Scot Rural

Wales Urban

Wales Rural

NI Urban

NI Rural

%'age Broadband take-up 75 84 60 68 72 67 75 74
%'age Mobile Broadband 18 15 8 13 18 12 15 10
%'age Mobile phone take-up 92 94 85 88 88 85 91 92
%'age Use mobile to access internet 35 23 21 25 26 22 33 22
%'age Fixed landline take-up 85 92 78 86 78 85 83 87
%'age Households taking bundles 55 50 51 41 49 37 52 36
All figures are percentages

As well as looking at how popular services are, the Ofcom report also looks at what people do with their connection, with social networking sites being the most popular use of internet access on mobile phones, which has led to the smart-phone addiction headlines.

UK communication markets: fast facts


PC internet users

Mobile phone internet users

%'age Using search engines 95 42
%'age Email 94 53
%'age Reading/browsing News/info websites 82 35
%'age Finding info for work/job/studies 72 27
%'age Booking travel/other leisure 71 16
%'age Shopping for groceries/other items 67 14
%'age Buying/selling online 67 18
%'age Banking/paying bills online 66 13
%'age Looking at social networking sites 62 57
%'age Watching TV, video or listening to music online 59 25
%'age Playing online games 26 8
%'age None of the above - 10
All figures are percentages

We all spend on average 100 minutes a day online, though with the rise of smart-phones it could be said some people are online 24/7. As many would expect younger people, men and those in higher socio-economic groups are more likely to have internet access at home, with access highest amongst the 25-34 (88%) and 35-54 (87%) age groups. Households with children are more likely to have internet access, 91%, compared to just 66% of those without children.

The report really shows how the Internet in the UK is now more than ever just another utility that has become a central component to many peoples lives and livelihoods in a very short number of years. We hope that in 2012 and 2013 that FTTP services will start to figure in the percentage tables.


Posted by camieabz over 5 years ago
One possible factor (in Scotland) that is probably diffiicult if not impossible to factor in, is that in some areas it might be too costly to get broadband at home, so the users instead utilise their employer's broadband connection.

Scots being 'tight' and all that. :P
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Delivery of 28k internet services in the 19th century would have been a fantastic technology to deliver. The absence of any hardware to take advantage of this would be the downside.

Still a pertinent question on USO. Would the existing customer cost be kept? Anything over £3.5k, would be met by the customer?
Posted by camieabz over 5 years ago
Wouldn't 512Kbps be a more realistic minimum USO for current times? That at least would be a workable speed for the 'necessity' online requirements.
Posted by epyon over 5 years ago
Not suprising i know heaps of people dying to get fast broadband out in the sticks.
Posted by Talk1968 over 5 years ago

I assume you are joking by playing into the stereotype of Scottish people but just in case please read the link below.
Posted by mac_d over 5 years ago
I think the key to the Scottish figures is highlighted in the "Greater Glasgow where take-up is just 50%". Probably the most heavily populated part of the country, but it has the least take-up, so it skews the figures somewhat. Probably lots of different reasons for the low figure in Glasgow, and not just the usual stereotypical ones....
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
I think relative occupancies are higher in Rural than Urban areas. This may skew things a tad too.
Posted by camieabz over 5 years ago

Yes, I was joking. I'm Scottish myself. :P
Posted by rich_jtg over 5 years ago
It's not surprising the take up of mobile broadband is lower in rural areas than urban.

You often struggle to get enough signal for a voice call, let alone data.
Posted by cobbower over 5 years ago
If there were more services in rural britain the take up would probably even be more.
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.