Broadband News

Ofcom integrates 4G into broadband coverage figures in latest Connected Nations report

The latest Ofcom Connected Nations report seems to have pre-emptively worked through the 4G footprints ahead of the launch of the broadband Universal Service Obligation in March 2020 and Ofcom is claiming "that as few as 155,000 homes should be unable to access a decent fixed broadband service, though there is a big caveat "subject to confirmation of individual premises coverage".

This big drop in the number without a USO capable service option is due to the integration of fixed wireless and 4G broadband services into coverage analysis at the 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up connection speeds. If you ignore the impact of fixed wireless and 4G the number of without access to a USO level connection is 610,000 premises.

There is one bit of the report we have not managed to square with those, it is also states "We estimate that 53,000 premises cannot access either a decent fixed broadband service or get good 4G coverage indoors (from any operator)". So is it 155,000 or 53,000?

On the fixed wireless operator side, we believe 89,248 premises with only sub 10 Mbps download speeds via fixed line broadband have access to a fixed wireless operator. So the biggest factor appears to be the 4G coverage from the mobile operators and the improvements in antenna that the 4G home routers can provide and the option of an external antenna.

The headline of 155,000 homes without access to decent broadband is a really good stat to make things look good, but until people have actually decided to try the various other options it is not going to a reality. The danger we foresee is that the mainstream press and politicians will see such a small figure and see the USO now as a job done. This potenitally could mean some local authorities stop the slow drip drip of additional BDUK phases as they recycle savings and gainshare.

Our best case intepretation of the 155,000 figure in relation to the broadband USO, is that those premises in this 155,000 are those where BT thinks it may be able to deploy FTTP to help perhaps 46,000 and the remainder may be those who fail the £3,400 cost limit. The next 465,000 will be in the easy we will post you a 4G home router using the EE network if you agree to pay something in the £25 to £40/m region, with maybe an install visit to add an external antenna on the roof line of the property to improve line of sight.

What do we believe is the situation with regards to slow fixed line broadband, well this is covered in our monthly reports but this does not include all the figures so we'll take this opportunity to share the full set for the slower speeds across the UK.

  • Under 2 Mbps download connection speed 162,044 premises (i.e old USC)
  • Under 10 Mbps download connection speed 475,098 premises
  • Under 15 Mbps download connection speed 695,614 premises
  • Under 10 Mbps download AND 1 Mbps upload 755,969 premises (i.e. new USO)

The final figure includes all ADSL and ADSL2+ services, since while ADSL2+ can achieve over 1 Mbps connection speed it is only marginally over 1 Mbps and once overheads are taken into account the public will invariably not see 1 Mbps speeds. We should add that slow VDSL2 can fall into any of the four speed brackets we are discussing.

We suspect that 2020 is going to see a lot of people feeling upset with the broadband USO and with the low level of engagement in what broadband options do exist a large number of these people will only get better broadband if a body was to pro-actively seek these slow premises out and guide them through their options. At this time it seems hard to believe that BT who holds the USO for all the UK apart from Hull will actively point those contacting them at a fixed wireless service provider or non EE 4G option if that is their best chance of over 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up connection speeds.


According to the BT Wholesale checker I should be getting close to 17Mbps/1.2Mbps but because of part of my line being aluminium the actual figures I get are <9Mbps/<1.0Mbps and that I don't believe will change until my local B4RN project gets the green light for funding from DCMS. The next door project has just connected their first few customers - Oh for 1Gbps/1Gbps.

  • mollcons
  • 10 months ago

Time to make Openreach mutually owmed by the Service Providers (like some of the Internet Exchange Points) and impose a regulation to roll out FTTP?

  • techguy
  • 10 months ago

If it was mutually owned, what makes you think that the ISPs would cough up the funds to deploy FTTP? TalkTalk can’t even fund deployment to a few tier two northern locations due to its weak balance sheets, certainly couldn’t contribute pro-rata to a national rollout.

  • New_Londoner
  • 10 months ago

If 4G availability has now been integrated into the USO figures this now means those that have 4G available to them are now out of scope and other than being sold a BT 4G service are going to get absolutely no further help.

Advise to anyone in this situation shop around and get the best 4G service for your money.

  • dect
  • 10 months ago

No, Techguy. Really not.

Openreach are a somewhat different beast from an Internet exchange for many reasons, not least of which that they are privately owned by people who will want compensation not a brand new enterprise.

There are better things to do with our taxes than buy Openreach because a relative few want FTTP. They are building it about as quickly as is feasible.

  • CarlThomas
  • 10 months ago

"The headline of 155,000 homes without access to decent broadband is a really good stat to make things look good". Helped to look good by Ofcom's ludicrously overstated mobile coverage data.

  • gerarda
  • 10 months ago

Mobile coverage always seems to be over stated. Also if a network giving good coverage reconfigures their network, reducing your signal to unusable, there seems no recourse other than wait for the end of contract, I'm left wondering how this would work when 4G is used for USO purposes.

  • brianhe
  • 10 months ago

Including mobile coverage is a horrible idea.

I have a Three data SIM and on a given day/time it can be anything from 50Mbit to single-digits, with ping times measured in seconds. I have a friend on O2 who says they are no better when he actually needs it.

That might be good enough for browsing but isn't the whole point of USO that its supposed to be good enough to actually rely on for work?

  • alexatkinuk
  • 10 months ago

The Ofcom broadband checker does not give accurate figures - using the speed test on the Ofcom website I get around 5.5mb and it says I am among the fastest in my area - this would mean I am below the USO - but if I just put in my postcode SE16 7PY and select my address it says the highest available download speed is 12mb which is above the USO and also nobody in the area gets above 6mb apart from the few properties that were selected for a trial by Hyperoptic who now have no plans for the area - as to 4G coverage it depends on the time of day - getting a sinking feeling about the USO

  • Malcolmb1
  • 10 months ago

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