This week Ofcom released their annual review of digital connectivity ‘Connected Nations 2018’ which charts the UK’s rollout of broadband and mobile coverage and some welcome proposals on how they are going to improve mobile coverage through the 700Mhz auction.

The Connected Nations report contains some good news for rural areas which showed broadband and 4G coverage improved across the country, however, it is still patchy and there is a lot more that needs to be done. The report showed that:

  • 9% of the UK landmass does not have good outdoor 4G coverage from any operator. This has improved from 21% a year ago but rural areas are still badly affected.
  • Good indoor coverage is available to 41% of rural premises, compared to 83% of urban premises.
  • Lack of access to a decent broadband service is more common in rural areas: 12% of rural premises cannot get access to such a connection, compared to 1% of urban premises.
  • Premises in the Scottish Highlands and Islands and rural areas of Wales are most likely to have neither a decent fixed or good mobile service available. 3% of rural premises in Scotland and 2% of rural premises in Wales are unable to receive either a decent fixed or good mobile service
  • 97% of premises in urban areas having access to superfast broadband compared to 74% of premises in rural areas. However, rural superfast coverage has improved from 66% of premises in 2017.
  • The number of UK premises that were unable to access a decent fixed-line broadband service fell from 1.1 million (4%) last year to 677,000 (2%) this year. This difference is more acute in rural areas with 496,000 (12%) of premises not able to receive decent broadband compared to 181,000 (1%) premises in urban areas.

Mobile coverage continues to improve but remains limited in many rural areas. The areas with limited or no mobile coverage tend to be sparsely populated rural areas where the commercial incentives to provide coverage are lower.

Ofcom also announced the steps they are taking to improve mobile coverage. This is good news for those who have poor connectivity, particularly in rural areas. The proposals outlined in the plans for the 700Mhz spectrum auction would ensure two mobile operators would have to provide coverage to 140,000 premises they currently don’t conver and build 500 new masts. This news from Ofcom is to be welcomed and is a postive step forward to closing the digital divide that has blighted the countryside for far too long.