How is the rural versus urban broadband divide looking?
There is a common complaint when we talk about the levels of broadband coverage across the UK and that is that averages hide the reality, but when tracking towards national goals if quoting a single figure or talking for just 30 seconds on radio it is impossible to convey the full picture. Our labs.thinkbroadband.com/local stats site lets people drill down to the constituency and district council levels and even further down to the individual postcode level, but we thought given the latest news on broadband spending in the it is time to once more publish our rural versus urban data.
The table below shows the currently levels for the different rural and urban classifications as used by ONS, and then three aggregate figures are included, GB Urban and GB Rural make up the full GB area, but a deeper rural classification that is sometimes called the final 10% or the most deeply rural areas of the UK is also present as GB Deep Rural.
|thinkbroadband analysis of Superfast, USO and Full Fibre Broadband Coverage for the rural and urban areas of Great Britain and Northern Ireland|
In descending order of superfast coverage - figures 11th September 2017
(change since 14th September 2016)
24 Mbps or faster
30 Mbps or faster
100 Mbps or faster
% Full Fibre
|% Under 10 Mbps download|
GB Urban (74.8% of premises)
|98.6% (+1.6)||98.4%||66.1% (+2.6)||1.4%||0.5%|
|GB Urban - less sparse||98.6% (+1.6)||98.4%||66.1% (+2.5)||1.4%||0.6%|
|Belfast Metropolitan||98.4% (+0.9)||98%||72.7% (+5.3)||0.1%||0.5%|
|GB Urban - area sparse||98.3% (+2)||98.1%||64.4% (+3)||0.1%||0.3%|
|GB Town and Fringe - area sparse||97.7% (+3.1)||97.4%||41.4% (+4.7)||0.8%||0.4%|
|Derry Urban||97.5% (+1.7)||96.9%||76.5% (+13.6)||0%||1.7%|
|NI Large Town||95.4% (+2.2)||94.5%||0.2% (+0.2)||0.2%||1%|
|NI Intermediate Settlement||94.6% (+3.3)||94%||0.4% (+0.2)||0.1%||2.2%|
|NI Medium Town||94.5% (+2.2)||93.8%||0.3% (+0.3)||0.3%||1.6%|
|NI Small Town||94.4% (+2.3)||93.2%||0% (=)||0%||1.7%|
|GB Town and Fringe - less sparse||92.8% (+4.3)||92.2%||15.5% (+1.3)||1.5%||3.2%|
|NI Village||91.1% (+6.8)||89.7%||0.6% (+0.6)||0.6%||4.3%|
|GB Rural (23% premises)||83.8% (+6.2)||82.5%||15.7% (+2.4)||2.5%||9.8%|
|GB Village - less sparse||78.5% (+8.7)||76.4%||8.4% (+2.3)||3.2%||13.9%|
|GB Deep Rural (10.8% premises)||72.1% (+8.6)||69.9%||8.3% (+2.6)||3.8%||18.2%|
|GB Hamlet - area sparse||58.5% (+11)||57%||9% (+2.9)||8.5%||32%|
|GB Hamlet - less sparse||54% (+9.2)||50.8%||9% (+8)||4.1%||29.8%|
|NI Small Village||43.8% (+5.6)||41%||2.2% (+1.1)||1.7%||40.2%|
The good news is that in the last 12 months the gap between urban and rural areas has been closing up, but clearly still a good deal more work to do, hence the continued announcements from local authorities of project extensions and the gainshare news from the weekend. The figures also help to highlight why when people from villages complain that 90% and 95% looks totally impossible it is very often down to the reality that villages and hamlets are still well behind the larger towns.
The good news for rural areas is that full fibre (FTTP) is growing rapidly as the following bar charts that show Sept 2016 and Sept 2017 illustrate, though if your concern is just ultrafast downloads and not the technology itself the presence of Virgin Media in urban areas means they are still king for ultrafast coverage and with DOCSIS 3.1 cable on the way over the next few years those download speeds could be 500 Mbps to 1000 Mbps.
The next few months as the UK races to the overall 95% target will of course see things change, but as is obvious from the chart the urban areas will be well ahead still and the size of the UK is such that even with a 98% superfast ambition it would be possible to reach that goal without any further roll-out in the GB Hamlet - area sparse grouping which comprises some 174,500 premises.
One sneaking suspicion we have had for some time, is that some people believed the BDUK roll-outs were to deliver 90% coverage specifically to the rural areas i.e. in those 6.5 million premises that make up the GB rural 23% of premises that the aim was to deliver superfast broadband coverage to 5.85 million, when the reality was that the 90% goal was always the combined result of commercial + BDUK footprint.