The BDUK process is the easy target to attack for those who live in rural areas and still suffer from poor broadband speeds so we are not expecting a good reaction to the news from the DCMS that the 44 projects have in total passed some 1.5 million premises with a service that should deliver superfast speeds if the person orders a service. The figure will obviously be higher if you remove the superfast speed qualifier.
The magic one million figure was announced in August 2014 and using the Ofcom data the DCMS is pleased that the UK average speed has risen from 5.2 Mbps to 18.7 Mbps. This figure is higher than what we recently published for the four nations largely in part due to our use of median speeds in that presentation. Take-up of fibre based services is running at around 26% and thus the upper quartile (top 25%) from our speed test gives a very good idea of what speed those on fibre based services are achieving and which parts of the UK take-up is still behind the overall curve.
|Broadband Speeds Across the Four Nations of the UK - October 2014|
|Nation||Download Median||Upper Quartile Download||Upload Median||Upper Quartile Upload|
|Northern Ireland||13.3 Mbps||34.7 Mbps||1.4 Mbps||7.1 Mbps|
|England||12.1 Mbps||31.8 Mbps||1 Mbps||5.8 Mbps|
|Scotland||8.8 Mbps||22.8 Mbps||0.8 Mbps||2.9 Mbps|
|Wales||6.8 Mbps||19.8 Mbps||0.8 Mbps||2.8 Mbps|
|Data taken from thinkbroadband speed test|
While many see the BDUK process as taking fibre based services to rural areas, the definition of rural is a very subjective one and the perception is not helped by a lot of the wording used by politicians and councils. Our view is that the BDUK process was about getting superfast broadband to 90% of UK households after commercial projects had announced the intention to reach roughly 66% of the UK and given the limited funding it was clear to us that this was always going to mean the cheaper to serve households, which will include areas many consider to be urban. Looking at the rural urban split for our broadband speed tests is revealing (data analysis based around ONS definitions of rural and urban.
So what do the charts tell us, well that speeds are increasing and given that Virgin Media coverage is concentrated in the urban areas of the UK, it shows that the BDUK process is helping to deliver improvements in the other parts of the UK. The most interesting aspect is that Other Urban and Significant Rural areas are trading position quarter after quarter and for those not fully up to speed with how the ONS define the areas have a read of Parliamentary Annex.
If we look at the R80 definition the slowest 10% in October 2014 saw speeds of 1.8 Mbps or below, which was the median speed back in November 2009 and the fastest 10% have risen from 6 Mbps to 40 Mbps in the same period. So while it is still the case that lots of people may have seen no improvements it is clear that things are changing for lots of people and until projects actually target 100% coverage and deliver it we will continue to see complaints.