Just how covered is the UK with basic broadband?
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.