Britain a leader in superfast broadband coverage

March 12, 2014   |   Oliver Johnson

Three out of every four homes in Britain can now get fixed broadband services at superfast speeds if they choose.  Contrary to frequent jibes(1) that the UK is backward in developing next-generation broadband services, this is one of the highest proportions for any major country in Europe.

Superfast or Next-Generation Access (NGA) services are defined as those providing download speeds of 30 megabits per second (Mbps)[2] or more.  New research by Point Topic, the broadband analysts, shows that as of the beginning of 2014, 20.4 million (75.2%) of the 27.2 million homes in the UK were in areas covered by one or more superfast broadband services.  The services are mainly those provided by Virgin Media over its cable TV network and BT over the telephone network.

Point Topic’s research, part of its continuing UK Broadband Mapping service, shows that superfast broadband coverage increased by 4.9% during 2013 in the UK.  The growth has mainly been driven by BT’s rollout of its “fibre-to-the-cabinet” services, sold by both BT Retail and a range of other ISPs.

Figures for other countries are not yet available, but Point Topic believes that superfast broadband is now on offer to a higher proportion of homes in the UK than in any other major country in Europe.

“Britain was ahead of all the other big countries in the EU a year ago,” explains Oliver Johnson, Chief Executive of Point Topic.  “With its growth in 2013 we are confident that it has held its place.”

Germany is the country which comes closest to the UK among the European Union’s big six, with 66.2% coverage a year ago.

Coverage at lower speeds still leaves many people unable to use the full range of broadband applications.

“Consider the plan to take BBC3 off air, for example,” says Johnson.  “We reckon about 1.2 million homes would not be able to get those programmes online if that happened today.”

Some 91% of British homes can get at least 4Mbps, often seen as the minimum for a decent broadband service.

 Broadband speeds (downstream) available in the UK at the start of 2014

2014 UK bandwidth

Downstream bandwidth in the UK 2014

“Being able to get a service doesn’t mean you actually buy it, of course,” says Johnson.  “Many people in superfast areas are still using standard broadband over the telephone network and find it’s enough for their needs. Many other homes don’t have fixed broadband at all, although they may be using mobile connections.”

These results come from Point Topic’s detailed research on the geography of broadband in the UK, which has been running continuously since 2005.  The research provides estimates of broadband coverage and take-up right down to the postcode level.  The general public can use it to find what broadband is available at a particular house, for example, by using the Rightmove property-search website.  ISPs, retailers and content providers use it to pinpoint where people can use their services and to target their sales messages accordingly.


[1] From Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor for example, see The Telegraph

[2] Point Topic has now changed its definition of superfast or NGA services to be those services which provide a download speed of 30Mbps, instead of 25Mbps or above as previously.  This brings Point Topic into line with the definition used by the European Commission and also adopted recently by Broadband Delivery UK.