Ofcom has published its latest International Communications Market Report for 2013 and with hundreds of pages it makes for good bed time reading. The report covers the broadband, TV, radio and traditional telephone market place. Revelations that the UK consumer is paying less for their communications/TV basket than US counterparts is not a new revelation but one people easily forget. What may surprise many is that the UK is the cheapest of those countries where pricing can be compared, so ahead of Italy, France, Germany and Spain too.
The report due to the time it takes to source data from the many various International sources is based largely on 2012 data, and IDATE that has been operating since 1977 tracking telecoms and media markets is the source for much of the data in the report, and with the wide international reach of IDATE there is no real reason for them to make the UK figures look any better than any other country.
Availability of NGA broadband i.e. a VDSL/FTTH or cable (called FTTLA - Fibre to the last amplifier) in the reports reflects the 2012 position, and thus has moved on a far amount since then. In the figure it is worth pointing out that while some may think it means only 48% of households could get a NGA solution, the reality is that some areas have a choice of 2 solutions, some 1 solution and a small few may even have a choice of 3. This is why in the USA the totals add up to over 100%.
Of course the UK is ranking very low with respect to FTTH roll-outs, but the countries that fare well in this respect largely started and built their FTTH networks before the economic crisis and with lending for capital expenditure much harder to obtain now it is very likely that rather than Japan increasing its coverage of fast services the UK will creep towards that lofty goal. It is worth pointing out that even Japan which many people consider a broadband heaven has its FTTH/B products available to 87%, leaving a lot of people in the slow lane. The changes between 2009 and 2012 in terms of speed are interesting and while the UK is a long way behind the Netherlands, even in the Netherlands, plenty of people still have first generation type broadband speeds.
The wider International picture is important because the UK being better than other countries may help to attract International investment, and for the politicians and in particular the DCMS there is the goal of the UK having the best broadband among the major European countries i.e. Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK. Which many people say will never happen, but on the balance of the statistics the words of Jeremy Hunt may come true.
The UK broadband market and availability is not perfect, but is the constant negative social and press coverage showing a skewed view of the UK situation, with other countries viewed through rose-tinted spectacles?