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Gigabit capability and broadband speed in the UK

Being online and staying connected is an integral part of modern society. Research suggests that the average person spends around two hours a day on their phone and in a normal week, spends 18 hours online – whether that’s shopping, gaming or using social media.

Having a fast-enough connection is pivotal for effortless roaming. You want to be able to download that film everyone else has seen and youngsters want to go online and join the 40 million people that play Fortnite. Imagine missing out on that?

According to The Telegraph, the Government has proposed that every Briton should have the legal right to request access to internet speeds of 10Mbps by 2020.

Over 1 million UK homes and offices don’t have access to speeds of at least 10Mbps, according to the communications regulator, Ofcom.

Ofcom said rural families were being left behind where properties are far from the local exchanges that provide fast speeds. It said 17% of homes were not getting decent internet, compared with 2% in cities and towns.

Currently, the UK sits 35th in the world for mean download speed, with Singapore leading the way and Yemen at the bottom.

A typical HD movie that is 5GB in size will take 11 minutes and 18 seconds to download in Singapore, 36 minutes and 46 seconds in the UK, whilst in Yemen – you will have to wait just shy of 37 hours. In this time you could watch all Lord of the Rings films four times, before any film was downloaded.

The UK is a world leader in super-fast connectivity with more than 95% of premises covered. However, next generation Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – or ‘full fibre’ – coverage is only 5%, where we lag behind current world leaders like South Korea (c.99%), and Japan (c.97%).

In the coming decades, fixed and mobile networks will be the enabling infrastructure that drives economic growth. The Government is committed to providing the UK with world-class digital connectivity that is gigabit-capable, reliable, secure and widely available across the UK - and to do so at pace.

There is an ambitious target of making gigabit-capable networks available to 15 million premises by 2025, with nationwide coverage by 2033.

However, at this current stage rural communities are struggling and Miserden, Gloucestershire has the worst internet in the UK – where it can take half a day to download a film – the same as Mount Everest.

Connection speeds vary around the UK and a survey undertaken by Which? revealed the fastest and slowest broadband speeds across the 12 major regions – from the North East to the South West.

London came out on top, with a speedy 30.16Mbps, whilst Wales were bottom with a slow 21.84Mbps. The full list of results was:

London – 30.16
North East – 28.82
South East – 26.75
East Midlands – 26.42
West Midlands – 25.65
East – 25.40
North West – 25.37
Yorkshire and Humber – 24.34
South West – 23.89
Scotland – 22.86
Northern Ireland – 21.94
Wales – 21.84

Wales falls behind with acceptable broadband speed and in rural areas, some are connected to the internet via copper wiring to a telephone exchange four miles away.

Some home-business owners have struggled to even send an email from their house and have had to drive to a local café in order to connect to Wi-Fi.

It’s no surprise that London tops the list, but the busiest city centres are in fact in the internet slow lane and the higher priorities of bringing a mobile connection through 4G and subsequently 5G in the future, broadband connections are still lower than average.

So what’s the future of broadband connections? BT now offer a router that switches to 4G if a broadband connection is lost. So could we all be moving to a 4G/5G connected world?

EE have announced plans to launch proper 5G mobile service throughout parts of the region, with a 16-city rollout planned for 2019.

The first phase of the rollout will begin with capital cities across the UK, including Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London. Two other England cities, Birmingham and Manchester, are also included in phase one, which is scheduled for some time next year.

EE is focusing its efforts on high-volume centres in those first six cities, including Hyde Park in London, the Manchester and Belfast airports, Edinburgh’s Waverley train station, the Welsh Assembly, and Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre.

After the initial rollout, EE is planning to bring 5G to 10 additional cities in the UK. Those include Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, and Bristol.

The first 1,500 sites EE intends to upgrade in its initial phase are responsible for 25 percent of the cell traffic, the company says. As part of its 5G plans, EE is launching 5G home broadband service, which will pair a specialised router and external antenna to bring higher speeds to UK homes.

Matt Broad

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