December 20, 2019 / 2:51 PM / a month ago

UK rural areas still lagging in broadband and mobile coverage -Ofcom

LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - More people in Britain can get faster broadband and a good mobile signal than last year but some rural areas are still behind towns and cities for coverage, telecoms regulator Ofcom said on Friday.

Broadband access was a big issue in this month’s general election campaign. Labour’s left-wing leadership outlined a plan to nationalise the fixed-line network of telecoms group BT while Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised full-fibre broadband to all homes by 2025.

Ofcom’s annual report noted further progress from industry in rolling out their networks, with the full-fibre connections - the gold standard for broadband - rolled out to 10% of homes, up from 6% a year ago, and all four mobile networks launching 5G.

Demand for getting online has also increased, with average monthly broadband data use going up from 240 GB per connection in 2018 to 315 GB in 2019 – the equivalent of watching up to four hours of HD video content a day.

The report shows more than half of homes (53%) can get ultrafast broadband – defined as speeds of at least 300 Mbits per second - broadly in line with last year.

Superfast broadband, which offers speeds of at least 30 Mbits per second, sufficient for most households’ current needs, could be accessed by 95% of homes, Ofcom said.

“This year we’ve seen full-fibre broadband grow at its fastest ever rate, and all four mobile networks launch 5G,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Strategy and Research Group Director at Ofcom.

“But despite this good progress, there is more to do to bring all parts of the country up to speed – particularly rural areas. So we’re working with industry and the government to help bring better services to people who need them.”

The government said the figures showed real progress was being made in building faster networks.

“But we’re determined to go further by investing 5 billion pounds to make sure no one is left without access to gigabit speed broadband, and are close to a 1 billion pound deal with industry,” said Matt Warman, Digital and Broadband Minister. (Reporting by Shalini Nagarajan and Paul Sandle; editing by Stephen Addison)

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