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What does the rural versus urban broadband battleground look like?
Wednesday 16 December 2015 12:14:35 by Andrew Ferguson

The reality of the original 90% superfast broadband coverage targets are being brought into the spotlight as some original deadlines have passed and the end of 2015 is looming up very quickly and what better time to share our analysis of where things for the various rural and urban parts of the United Kingdom.

Difference in USO coverage levels across rural and urban parts of the UK
Rural vs Urban with regards to proposed broadband USO

The USO chart reflects the problem and the 10 Mbps speed point probably is a fair speed above which people are a lot less likely to complain to their MP about slow speeds since it allows what for millions is the killer app which is streaming films and TV.

We have analysed rural/urban splits before but this is the first time we have done a UK wide analysis and while others may run figures we believe ours are the most up to date since the figures change weekly mirroring the continuing roll-outs.

thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast, USC, USO and Fibre Broadband Coverage across the UK
In descending order of population size - figures 14th December 2015
Area % pop. % fibre based % superfast
> 24 Mbps
% superfast
>= 30 Mbps
% cable % Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under 10 Mbps USO
GB Urban 72.3% 96% 94.6% 94.2% 61% 0.98% 0.2% 1.7%
GB Town and Fringe 9.3% 87.4% 82% 80.5 12.6% 0.98% 1.1% 7.3%
GB Village 6.3% 75.1% 58.1% 55.1% 2.1% 1.25% 3.4% 25.2%
GB Urban (sparse) 4% 94.9% 94% 93.6% 60.5% 0.01% 0.1% 1%
GB Town and Fringe (sparse) 3.3% 92.8% 90.9% 90.3% 34.3% 0.56% 0.2% 2.1%
GB Hamlet 2.7% 66.3% 37% 33.6% 2.4% 1.09% 6.9% 42.2%
GB Village 1.5% 76.4% 67.4% 65.3% 2.4% 0.84% 1.8% 16.7%
GB Hamlet (sparse) 0.7% 56.5% 38.8% 37.4% 0% 1.3% 6.8% 46%
Northern Ireland
Belfast Metropolitan 36.2% 98.3% 96.6% 96% 66.1% 0.01 0.4% 1.3%
NI Small Village 24.9% 92.5% 35.1% 31.9% 0.4% 0.23% 27.5% 50.2%
NI Large Town 13.4% 94.1% 88.5% 87% 0% 0.01% 1.1% 3.7%
NI Small Town 6.4% 97.4% 90.4% 88.5% 0% 0% 0.9% 2.6%
NI Medium Town 6% 96.7% 90.3% 87.6% 0% 0% 0.6% 2.1%
Derry Urban 4.8% 98.9% 95.6% 94.8% 60.7% 0% 1.6% 2.4%
NI Village 4.2% 91.4% 81.3% 79.5% 0% 0% 2.7% 8.6%
NI Intermediate Settlement 4.1% 94.7% 87.8% 86.4% 0.2% 0% 1.5% 3.3%

Notes: In the image 'less sparse' and 'sparse' refers to the surrounding areas, so when we say 'GB Village sparse' we are referring to the surrounding area as been sparsely populated. The split of the postcodes and subsequent population into the categories was dictated by ONS classifications of the postcodes.

By now hopefully the myth that the BDUK process was targeting just rural areas has been exposed, and the data table above allows people to make up their own mind on what the current state of play is. One of the major challenges for 2015 has been the realisation by people that their area may been in the final 10% not helped by the current project or worse missed out by the phase 2 projects looking to take superfast coverage to 95% overall.

We track the impact that the altnet providers have too, but generally don't include them in our tables yet, but our analysis of B4RN, Gigaclear, IFNL and others reveals that when combined with Virgin Media cable, Openreach and KC FTTP that GB Hamlet (sparse) has 1.41% ultrafast coverage, GB Village (sparse) 3.26% and GB Hamlet 4%. We have not taken into account the non-ultrafast altnets at all in this data analysis, so areas that for example have a fixed wireless option will have better coverage levels at 2 and 10 Mbps and depending on the operator better superfast coverage too, we plan to incorporate these in 2016, as the public funded roll-out will be more diverse.

Once Q4 2015 has finished we will work on the speed test statistics for the quarter based on the same area definitions and everyone can then see whether the speeds people are receiving mirror the coverage levels.


Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
Despite the posturing the BDUK process was not targeted at rural areas. If it had been then the chosen solution,FTTC, would not have been one was so unsuitable for providing rural coverage. Although to be fair the politicians had been mislead by Ofcom etc as to the real state of ADSL availability and the distance limitations of FTTC.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Gerarda and Others.
In Surrey the politicians have not been mislead they were sold 620 Cabs with a 100 pair access point FTTC ( payed by SCC) that may cover the 15 meg target if not would be covered by the later OMR ,if there was money still in the (POT clawback and under spend from Openreach) They may have to top up (LA) the POT because many Post Codes do not show the 15 meg target results. I think BT is only payed if the post code can receive 24 meg.
Posted by jabuzzard about 1 year ago
Whether it target rural or not surely depends on your definition of rural. A small town say population 10,000 in the middle of the countryside is rural if you ask me. The idea that it's only rural if it is a small village of couple hundred at most or a house all by itself if ignorant nonsense.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@jabuzzard hence why the definitions we use line up with other places that use ONS definitions, i.e. its not us defining what is and is not rural.
Posted by jumpmum about 1 year ago
If it is 5,000 in Wales ( Outside S.Wales) people think it it is an urban area!

Everywhere north of the A465 and south of the A55 corridor this would be a major town. Look at Machynlleth as an example.
Posted by comnut about 1 year ago

Posted by RuralWire about 1 year ago
"BT does not think that the case for a USO of 10Mbit/s in the UK can be made." Not my words, but what is stated in the written evidence submitted by BT to the current DCMS inquiry looking at establishing world-class connectivity throughout the UK. In fact, BT went as far as to state in their written evidence that "it is not obvious that a legal USO is merited", but were a new USO to be introduced, then 5Mbit/s would be "a better judged minimum" broadband speed than 10Mbit/s.
Posted by cyberdoyle about 1 year ago
RuralWire, It matters not what USO is declared, BT can't deliver it through copper. Not even a 2 Mbps one. They will just fob us peasants off with satellite and keep patching up their old phone network until the urban mob realise that 'upto' infinity is as slow as dial up used to be. Whilst folk can 'manage' on 10Mbps download they will keep raking in the revenue to spend on their content portfolio and the infrastructure can just rot.
Posted by RuralWire about 1 year ago
@cyberdoyle - Interesting that you should mention satellite broadband, as satellite and 4G are the technologies that are heavily referenced, in the written evidence submitted by BT, in relation to the delivery of any new USO. Apparently, BT think that "it is not obvious that the burden should be put upon fixed line, when mobile and satellite are already capable of delivering equivalent broadband speeds." In any event, as you point out, "BT can't deliver it through copper."
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
BT make good points about the 10Mbps level for USO, but also miss a point.

They are right that many people don't want a service at all. Making a universal right for a service that isn't universally demanded is a tough call.

They are right that many people (at sub-10Mbps speeds) feel no need for a higher speed. Setting a 10Mbps level for these people is forcing unnecessary expenditure.

What they miss is that *some* of the sub-10Mbps premises are ones that need more, and would buy more, if only they could. Families with teenagers needing homework, for example.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Perhaps the USO needs to account for the fact that some houses, wanting cheapness, will be fine with sub-USO speeds - basic functionality. The USO shouldn't force higher speeds on these people.

Instead, maybe the USO should represent a higher speed that any premise can request (at any time they choose) that represents some level of "reasonable" functionality.

You never know when any one premise will change their needs from "basic" to "reasonable". Their fixed-line length shouldn't be the factor that stops access from matching their needs.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
I think BT misses the point that at some stage the government will be expecting universal coverage in order to provide services such as health care at home etc. At that point there needs to be a facility for USO capability at every home even if there is no actual subscription
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Why BT? Surely others should be racing to hoover up all the revenue that this premises will generate?
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
It was a reply to the BT suggestion, as debated in the previous posts that a 5Mbps download speed in sufficient for a USO.

Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
As BT uses the best infrastructure they can provide a better service to get too the USO under 10 meg if the customer wishes to use them. The land line service is not in the same class as the water services. If Health care is required then they should pay and not to be Subserdised by any ISP
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Your point is valid, for setting a truly "USOmin" level of what we need (socially, as a nation) for bare minimum. And it is worth debating what that means for things such as health care ... and I'm sure it means something.

I'm not sure BT misses that particular point, though, because it probably is a service that could be handled with a 5Mbps USO.

Other evidence to the DCMS inquiry talks of speeds at the 7,8,9,10 Mbps speeds as transitioning into the "perfectly reasonable" level. There is debate to be had there...
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
I suspect you're a little too "relaxed" from living in Surrey. There are still plenty of places where BT's "best infrastructure" isn't good enough to get close to a 10Mbps USO.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@wwwombat and the debate also needs to consider uploads speeds. The applications that are likely to be around in 2020 are probably going to be 2 way intensive - video, cloud computing etc. I am not sure now whether you can buy microsoft office other than with cloud computing
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
cloud computing as in things like SSH just need low latency and not masses of bandwidth. Most health care monitoring is low bit rate too, only two way GP Skype consultations will chew 1 Mbps either direction for Freeview quality.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@andrew - so a 1Mbps upload and low latency requirement will rule out satellite and ADSL connections on the basis of your latest speed tables, and that is without 5 more years of software development. Even if Neilsens law is overstated that 1Mbps today could be 5Mbps in five years time.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi WWWombat.
After rechecking today the % results on TBB for Surrey the customers that are receiving under 10% I am relaxed and smiling but the LA are still not happy with the result and the letter complaints over slow speeds. I do understand that you do not refer to TBB results.
Posted by RuralWire about 1 year ago
@andrew + @WWWombat - Perhaps not everyone at BT Group thinks that a universal 10Mbps broadband service is unnecessary and not achievable, as Sean Williams (Group Director, Strategy, Policy and Portfolio, BT Group) made it reasonably clear to the CMS Committee on 9 December 2015 that "we stand ready to deliver that without public money if action is taken by the Government and by Ofcom to make that a commercially viable opportunity for us."
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@RuralWire - probably delivered by BT in the same way as they did the 2Mbps USC, with Satellite. If so they certainly woud not want any obligation on upload speeds
Posted by RuralWire about 1 year ago
@gerarda - Exactly. Rural residents and businesses do not need to see a repeat performance of the unfolding USC fiasco. Cornwall Council, in their written evidence to the CMS Committee, made it clear that the subsidised satellite broadband services they offered to their residents unable to access 2Mbps resulted in only 25 satellites being installed during the two year scheme. Data caps and latency were identified as significant issues (particularly for anyone running a business).
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
I think the BT managers have been looking at the updated results on TBB at the 10 meg down % results over the country and are trying to extract a few more £ out of the situation its up to the LA,not to take the bait.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
@BM - I expect BT managers look at line connection speeds from the network and not TBB.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Somerset.
I would exspect they are looking at all speed options even these remarks on this web/page,papers,tv,ewhurst as they did back in the 1970.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
BT certainly have the technical ability to deliver a 10Mbps USO, but don't have the willingness to fund it themselves exclusively - hence the "commercially viable" proviso. It will need to be done with "industry money", not public money.

But I'm pretty sure the other sources of "industry money" will not want it all to go to BT; the USO consultation is bound to bog down in them deciding ways to make sure BT doesn't get its hands on that money!
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
The higher the figure above the 2 meg the Goverment sets (5----10) the more money they will have to gamble so it is very inportant to get the 10 meg % results on TBB correct so all parties will be watching and who will be playing the Joker card.
Posted by nervous about 1 year ago
Wish you would make BAR CHARTS HIRIZONTAL so I don't have to break my neck. :-)
Posted by nervous about 1 year ago
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