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The state of the communications nation

November 1, 2011

New report reveals communications coverage and capacity in the UK

Ofcom today launched digital communications coverage maps, including outdoor mobile coverage and mobile broadband availability, using data supplied by communications providers.

The maps, available at http://maps.ofcom.org.uk, are part of Ofcom’s first report on the UK’s communications infrastructure which it is now required to submit to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport every three years. Ofcom’s report also refers to the coverage and capacity of the UK’s landline network, digital radio and TV.

Each of the 200 areas of the UK has been ranked according to a score given for coverage and colour coded with green ranking highest and red lowest.

Ofcom’s data shows considerably better household coverage compared with geographic coverage. This is because mobile providers tend to prioritise investment in network infrastructure where the maximum number of consumers and businesses can be served.

The maps show that 97% of premises and 66% of the UK landmass can receive a 2G signal outdoors from all four 2G networks. This means that approximately 900,000 UK premises do not have a choice of all four 2G mobile networks.

For 3G, 73% of premises and 13% of the UK’s landmass can receive a signal outdoors from all five 3G* networks, with lower coverage in less densely populated areas. This means that approximately 7.7million UK premises do not have a choice of all five 3G mobile networks.

The areas of lowest 3G geographic coverage are in the highlands of Scotland and mid-Wales which are both sparsely populated with hilly terrain.

Ofcom is currently working closely with the Government to consider how the £150m that it has allocated to help address mobile not-spots, can deliver the greatest benefits for UK consumers. Working to address mobile not-spots is one of Ofcom’s priorities as set out in its 2011/12 annual plan.

Demand for data

The report also shows significant demand for broadband data from UK consumers. Residential fixed broadband customers are using on average 17 Gigabytes of data per month.

This is the equivalent to downloading more than 11 films per month, streaming 12 hours of BBC iPlayer HD video or more than 12 days of streaming audio content.

This compares with mobile broadband demand which is on average 0.24 Gigabytes per month per connection.

The report reveals a substantial increase in data use over time. Data from the London Internet Exchange shows that traffic over its network, which connects UK internet service providers, has increased seven fold in the past five years.

Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) and Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB)

The new maps also include Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) coverage and Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) radio coverage. The report shows that DTT national coverage is 89% and DAB national coverage is 91% for public service broadcasting channels.

Ofcom’s first report to Government gives a snapshot of the UK’s communications infrastructure and provides a base against which Ofcom can measure in subsequent reports.

Ofcom’s Chief Technology Officer, Steve Unger, said: “This is our first report to the Government on the UK’s communications infrastructure. We hope it will be a useful reference point for interested parties, particularly in the light of the recent Government funding package of £150million to help address mobile not-spots.

Ofcom welcomes feedback from all stakeholders, particularly around whether there are others areas it should consider for future reports in order to build up the most complete picture of the UK’s communications infrastructure. Over the next 12 months, we expect there to be continued rapid growth in availability of super-fast broadband services and data use, and we aim to publish an update on this next summer.”

The full report can be found here.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, O2 and Three provide 2G and 3G mobile services. Three is the only operator to hold a licence for 3G spectrum only.

2. The consumers’ actual experience of mobile services may not be accurately reflected in the maps published today. Mobile coverage can be affected by a number of factors including buildings, geography and handset type.

3. Under section 134A of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to prepare reports for the relevant Secretary of State on certain networks and services available in the UK every three years.

4. Ofcom used existing data wherever possible to produce this report and gathered additional data from the larger communications providers who made up over 80% of their market, with the exception of mobile network operators and digital terrestrial broadcasters. Ofcom gathered data from all four mobile network operators and all four digital terrestrial television multiplex owners.

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