UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has just released its first report describing the state of the UK’s communications coverage. So how’s the country’s broadband and mobile coverage doing for the nation, and you?
The telecoms landscape has changed beyond recognition over the last 10 years. Believe it or not, just 36% of the UK population had an internet connection back in 2001. It’s something that seems hard to fathom now that most homes have broadband access.
And so we come to 2011, with Ofcom mapping the state of communication networks and services in the UK. It’s nice to see that we’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t mean we should sit back and relax – where do we need to go from here?
Communication for the nation
It’s strangely comforting to find that despite the increase in popularity of mobiles, the majority of UK households – a massive 23.7 million households – still have a landline.
And though many like to argue that our landline phones are permanently hung up (and only used to connect us to broadband), we’re still using them. There were an average of 72 calls made over each landline in March 2011 alone, and we nattered away for a total of five hours, making each call an average of four minutes long.
Mobile phone penetration is also high, with 93% of adults using one. In fact, there are 76.4 million active mobiles. That’s higher than the UK population, showing that many have more than one handset.
Interestingly, average call durations for mobiles are shorter than landlines, at just 1 minute and 13 seconds. Is it no longer good to talk? I guess the kind of calls you make while out and about aren’t likely to be the deep and meaningful ones, but if the number of mobile-only households increases in the future (currently 15%) will we miss out on some serious chats?
As for broadband, the 18 million of us with a home connection now use an average of 17 gigabytes of data a month. That’s the equivalent of streaming 12 hours of BBC iPlayer HD video. Plus, according to the London Internet Exchange, average UK internet traffic is now seven times greater than it was five years ago. It’s mind boggling really.
Room for improvement
Ofcom’s next report is in three years – can you imagine what these numbers might look like in 2014? And although the improving broadband and mobile landscape is exciting, I still have a number of concerns.
Firstly, with usage rising at a fairly rapid rate we’ll need to move fast in order to cope with demand. Secondly, not everyone is benefiting from the same level of service.
Of course, the industry is aware of these issues. The rollout of superfast broadband and a 4G mobile network will need to be pushed with urgency if we are to keep up with increased demand. And as for rural households missing out on even basic broadband connections, we’ll have to try harder to eliminate so-called ‘not-spots’.
Do you think communications in the UK have changed for the better in the past 10 years? Or perhaps you’re not impressed with the broadband and mobile coverage in your area? If so, what do you want to see addressed with urgency before Ofcom’s next report?