London - digital disaster or digital powerhouse?
The woes of parts of London with respect to superfast and ultrafast broadband connectivity are well known by residents but at the policy making level things always seem to meet barriers in terms of generating a significant level of change.
London as a region is already past the 95% superfast broadband target but this is not a consistent footprint across the various parts of Greater London and not unlike some other cities once you drill into the historic center things are not so great, for example the City of Westminster down at 77.9%, though it does have well above average full fibre coverage at 9%.
A report on Digital Connectivity in London has been seen as roundly slamming the situation in London, but the picture is very variable and things are improving as evidenced by the growth in superfast coverage in places like Southwark, though for those missing out still the changes in the coverage levels will be heavily disputed.
The above map highlights the central London postcode areas (i.e. SE1 etc) and is showing the median download speed and is a very good picture of the patchwork, a less detailed map (less detail so that it performs reasonably for those using it) showing median speeds and recent speed test results is available. There are spots of green, but even those areas hide a wide range of speeds, and looking at the actual companies delivering the fastest speeds reveals names like Venus and Hyperoptic plus some others and these are full fibre options. Hyperoptic counts in our full fibre coverage data, but Venus does not as while they endeavour to undercut traditional leased line prices their footprint does not count as premises passed by FTTP.
The picture when you zoom out to the wider Greater London area continues to show a patchwork, with take-up levels often being more of a hinderance to turning an area a nice green than actual availability. Is it possible that years of static wages for millions means people are watching utility bills and opting for slower broadband deals that are £5 to £10 cheaper per month, plus set-up and activation fees may be putting some off.
As for the Gigabit cities in the UK, can you spot them on this map of the median speeds for the UK? We doubt it and that is not because of the size of the map but the reality that Gigabit Cities are a marketing dream, and while York does have a good chunk of residential full fibre via CityFibre, with full fibre coverage running at 24.7% (10% Openreach, rest CityFibre) we are only seeing speed tests on full fibre for 5.8% of tests in the city in Q1/2017. So as yet people are not stampeding to rip the arm off the sales people, some are but many seem not to be.
A full fibre future is the future and its all very good producing reports and speeches on the topic, but what is needed is concrete action, such as refusing planning permission on all new builds unless full fibre connectivity is guaranteed, encouraging private landlords of existing residential and commercial premises to ensure decent connectivity is available.
What of the big bad evil empires that are BT and Virgin Media, well BT via its commercial London Extension Project (LEP) is delivering more VDSL2 and a good number of exchange only postcodes in central London are showing as in line for native FTTP, though exact timeline for any one postcode is unknown as part of the commercial expansion of their FTTP footprint. Virgin Media via its Project Lightning has been expanding particularly around East Ham.
A couple more maps we have made screen shots for cover the South East and the North West, in the North West the impact of B4RN particularly in the LA2 area where the top 10% speeds are clearly influenced by their network.
A thought for the day, if areas have decent levels of superfast coverage and ultrafast coverage and this has been in place for sometime then perhaps more effort needs to be invested in understanding why people and business are not upgrading, it may be people thought the upgrades were automatic and they are not, or not aware of the options, financial or even as its a different network landlord is refusing to allow the install. What other reasons do you think are key drivers in people not upgrading when much faster services are available?