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Just how covered is the UK with basic broadband?
Friday 04 May 2012 15:11:02 by Andrew Ferguson

Compared to ten years ago, the can I get any broadband questions on our forums, have changed drastically, around 2006 the why can't I get broadband type questions tailed off significantly, and now in 2012 it is questions about whether people can get fibre broadband and when it is coming to their area.

Thus it is interesting to see a letter to European Commissioner Neelie Kroes from the International Telecoms User Group (INTUG), over the misrepresentation of reality over the quoted 99.6% coverage of broadband in the UK.

The 99.6% figure first appeared back in 2004, when BT announced the final tranche of its commercial ADSL roll-out. This left 100,000 premises connected to 565 telephone exchanges with no ADSL, no account was taken as to whether a line would or would not work with ADSL at that time. A year later the 99.6% figure surfaced again, with a qualification, that 99.8% of the 99.6% households should be able to get a 0.5 Mbps service.

ADSL coverage did improve to cover more exchanges, with around 540 exchanges gaining a basic service via the Exchange Activate scheme initially, with upgrades to full up to 8Mbps support at a later date. How far this improved the coverage figures we do not know as no figures are available.

Certainly if one takes the UK has having around 26 million households. with just 20 or so exchanges having no ADSL, the theoretical figure is around 99.98% (5,000 households). Of course there are properties around the UK that can get no ADSL service, either the telephone line is too long, DACs present, TPON, the later two should be largely resolved, and on the line length issues, in theory the unpopular Broadband Extension Technology (BET) is an option - though expensive.

There was some years ago a figure of around 33,000 quoted by BT as the number of lines in its ADSL availability checker marked as not supported ADSL after having applied for service, this brings the UK figure down to 99.85%. Of course lines that cannot support any speed of ADSL are not known about until the service has been attempted on the line, and with around five million properties to not have ordered any broadband any figures will be estimates or projections from areas with very high levels of demand.

Of course a lot of time and effort could be made to identify those who cannot get a service, to produce a nice statistic, but would that be money well spent? Or would the time and money be better spent on providing a better broadband service to the easily identifiable poorly served areas.

Of course being one of perhaps 100,000 to 250,000 properties in the UK with no access to basic ADSL broadband will make life very difficult, and this is where in theory the satellite service providers should be stepping in. Additionally in areas where ADSL is available but unreliable or just slow, the fixed wireless provider segment is working to carve a niche.


Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
"Of course a lot of time and effort could be made to identify those who cannot get a service" No cost at all, if the INTUG say the figures are wrong they must be basing that on something, we just ask them the areas that don't have broadband, easy ;o)
Posted by PhilCoates over 5 years ago
I disagree that 'satellite service providers should be stepping in'.

I cannot get ADSL BB and simply do not want what satellite offers which is high cost, low download limits, ridiculous latency and no chance of acheiving the mythical 25Mbps target for later this decade.

I also see no evidence of fixed wireless providers 'carving a niche' in my location.

Posted by Alchemyfire over 5 years ago
There is no way I would touch satellite. I tried it once, and had latencies of 2500ms sometimes. Tried wireless and latencies were a bit better at 600ms, but this is still far off the latency that can be achieved on ADSL, 30-60ms. Weather also plays havoc with wireless and satellite, which everyone who punts it conveniently forgets to mention.
Posted by krol over 5 years ago
Surely it's a bit cheeky to say to those running satellite services "oh we only want you to mop up the ~200k customers that can't get a better service". If this is meant to be a commercial option, then why would anyone see that as attractive?

Posted by timmay over 5 years ago
@Alchemyfire two way satellite is usually 600-100ms and therefore I'm guessing the service you had was a one way service. Satellite for download and dial-up modem for the upload. Sounds like the wireless service your had was using a two way satellite connection at the time.

Pings on Fixed Wireless services should be less than 100ms and average close to 10~30ms if the backhaul is a fibre leased line.
Posted by timmay over 5 years ago
@krol a single satellite covers all of Europe and some! even if there was only a few thousand customers in the UK alone there'd still be a business as there's plenty in Europe.

Satellite is a life line for those that can't/will not get anything else due to their extremely remote location.
Posted by timmay over 5 years ago
*EDIT* I mean "two way satellite is usually 600-1000ms" ... I missed a zero!
Posted by timmay over 5 years ago
The No ADSL Broadband figures for Kent are:-

14,688 homes
1,987 business

'09 figures but little has changed in regards to ADSL - There are wireless services available so just because a BT service isn't available doesn't mean they have no service at all!
Posted by Alchemyfire over 5 years ago
timmay, no it was a 2-way satellite. Trying to play any online multiplayer game was definately a no no. Fixed wireless was also a pain. I had to put the receiver on the windowsill to get any decent connection. Even tried installing a booster on the roof, which helped a bit, and this was with the wireless tower being less than half a mile away with a good line of sight
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Was 99.6 % ever anything other than "connected to an ADSL enabled exchange" ?

Just under 2.5% of Kent households then from the above not receiving a service.
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