UK spreads the bandwidth around

Broadband outside the South East show the most gains in late 2013

Analysis of the change in bandwidth around the UK 2012 to 2013 and the implications for the ISPs

The South East of England has been the recipient of most broadband advances in the UK since the late 90′s. A densely populated area with plenty of disposable income this has been a logical choice for all operators seeking to maximise their return on investment.

The advent of a digital strategy for the UK has started to make itself felt though.  According to Point Topic’s analysis there is on average a bigger improvement in bandwidth availability during the last six months of 2013 in areas outside the warm hearth of the South East.

Figure 1: Change in actual available bandwidth at Local Authority level

Change in bandwidth

The percentage change in bandwidth on average by LA from Dec 2012 to Dec 2013

 

We can see from the map the relatively low percentage increases in bandwidth during 2013 in parts of the South East since supply was already in place. In Wales and parts of the Midlands and some of Western Scotland however consumers will have to wait a little longer to see significantly faster broadband. The dark green areas by contrast are where BT and BDUK have made a real impact during the last year.

Many of the BDUK projects are phased to enable superfast from town to country over the next two to three years. In the coming 18 months we’ll see more suburban and rural areas gaining ground predominantly outside the South East again.

Choice and availability are increasing – competition breeds bandwidth

2013 saw a peak in the spread of superfast broadband services.   We estimate that over 47% of premises could access the cable network and over 75% could access FTTx services.  Just being in the footprint of a ‘superfast’ service doesn’t mean you’ll be able to achieve superfast speeds however with a proportion of those on FTTC cabinets still at the end of too much copper to make 24Mbps  (let alone 30Mbps) possible.

While choice is good for the consumer there is one major supplier in the UK that is watching the spread of FTTx carefully.  Virgin Media has seen its local superfast monopolies eroded as BT continues with its purely commercial and state backed program of activating exchanges and cabinets for FTTx services.

Figure 2: Premises covered by broadband technology choice in the UK end 2013

Broadband choices

Broadband technologies available in the UK at end 2012 and end 2013

We have already seen reaction from Virgin Media.  Since almost all of BT’s deployment is FTTC, topping out at 76Mbps for a lucky few they cannot at the moment provide as much downstream bandwidth as Virgin.  It is unlikely to be a coincidence therefore that Virgin are now offering their top tier at 152Mbps, twice what BT can offer at best.

Competitive pressure may help drive bandwidths in areas where there is actually competition but there is still plenty of work to do to allow access to superfast downstream speed for many in the UK.  Questions remain over coverage for the last five to ten percent in the most rural areas. There are more options available to fill the gaps with the new head of BDUK, Chris Townsend, recently stating his desire to engage with the nimble smaller players. Some of whom are already signing contracts to cover those hard to reach areas.

What’s the audience?

This sets the scene for the escalation of the battle of the content providers.  The ISPs  have been going head to head for some time with varying tempting video offerings generally featuring ‘event’ TV.  BT’s bet on sport for example seems to have paid off so far with strong subscriber growth reported.

Audience reach is becoming more important than ever.  Point Topic will be reporting on how many are subscribing to which provider and where along with the remainder in areas around the UK in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned for more from our UK Broadband Mapping service or see below if you just can’t wait or if you need the real detail of broadband in the UK.

Find out more

The full version of this report along with access to the complete geography of broadband in the UK is available to subscribers of Point Topic’s UK Broadband Mapping service. To find out more, please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail toby.french@point-topic.com.

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