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Ofcom produces broadband map of UK

by Andrew Moir

If you have ever thought that your broadband just wasn’t up to scratch or never meets the potentials as advertised then you just might be living in the wrong part of the country. The British communications regulator Ofcom has this week published an interactive broadband map allowing visitors to view availability, speed and take-up of broadband across the UK. The map accompanies a newly released report produced looking into UK broadband speed.

Each area has been marked on a series of four metrics on a scale one to five with one representing the best quality. This data is then translated into colour coding on the map with green representing the high performance areas going down on a sliding scale through turquoise orange, purple and red. Users have the additional choice to view the broadband map based on each individual metric so they can also view the average broadband take up; percentage receiving less than 2Mbit/s; the superfast broadband availability and the average modem sync speed.

An initial glance at the map reveals that a significant segment of the country is still living in the slow-broadband dark ages, with the whole of the Scottish highlands, much of the Borders and The Midlands and the majority of Wales all lying within the red zone. There are also vast areas in the second worst category of purple including most of Yorkshire, Aberdeenshire, Norfolk and a large part of Northern Ireland.

Those enjoying the best quality of broadband are in a distinct minority with far too few areas in the green. Unsurprisingly it is the capital cities which have the premium broadband with Belfast, Edinburgh and Greater London all showing up in green. However the general trend of poor quality in Wales continues with Cardiff only gaining a 3rd ranked orange.

Just because there is poor broadband in many areas does not mean that there is any lack of demand. The poorly rated Highlands have a 66% up take while the English county of Rutland has an incredible 74% upland despite all other metrics measuring in the red.

The map clearly shows how far that the UK has to go before it meets the government’s pledge for universal super-fast broadband by 2017. Recently the UK’s main broadband providers Virgin and BT have begun a widespread upgrade of fibre optic cabling. This has been aided by more than £800 million of government funding in order to get the services into more rural and less commercially viable areas.

Internationally the UK is years behind much of the developed world with Japan leading the way in terms of speed and North Korea not far behind. In Europe – France, Sweden, Belgium, Poland and Portugal rank amongst the many countries which provide better speed than the United Kingdom. Given the importance of the internet in terms of attracting international business to the country this is something that must be rectified.

This map represents a first step for Ofcom in detailing the UK’s broadband habits. A more detailed version is planned for later in the year.

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