UK lagging in European race for broadband

BRITONS are the most active users of the internet in Europe’s top five economies, yet the UK still lags behind Germany and Spain in superfast broadband coverage.

A report from communications regulator Ofcom, released yesterday, found that in terms of use and take-up of internet services, the UK is as enthusiastic or more enthusiastic than Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Despite this, however, superfast broadband – connections offering speeds higher than 30 megabits per second (mbps) – are available to just two-thirds of the population.

This places it third among the five countries researched, and far behind the likes of Belgium and the Netherlands – where at least 95 per cent of households are covered. The government has set a target of the UK having the best superfast coverage in Europe by 2015, pledging to invest £1.2bn of public money to improve coverage.

Despite currently having lower coverage than some other countries, Brits are buying superfast broadband at a rapid rate, communications minister Ed Vaizey said. “Take-up of superfast services in the last quarter alone was well over 650,000,” Vaizey said.
BT, which has the UK’s largest broadband network, says it is installing fibre at a rate of 100,000 homes a week.

“The UK is already a world leader in the online economy, with the internet contributing more than eight per cent of GDP. Our flagship businesses are tapping into global markets, and our consumers enjoy excellent choice and services when choosing their broadband and phones.”

Ofcom’s report did find, however, that regular broadband and mobile internet coverage was as good or better than the other top five economies, and that broadband and mobile services were relatively cheap compared to the UK’s European counterparts.

A 16mbps broadband connection costs on average £26 per month in the UK, compared to £33 in Germany, £38 in France and £49 in Spain. Ofcom chief Ed Richards has put this down to more competition in the UK.