According to Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report, more than 98% of premises in urban areas can access superfast broadband. The Government’s Superfast programme has been instrumental in reaching this level of coverage, with £1.8 billion invested to date. The programme is still ongoing, and future delivery will further increase superfast coverage.
For consumers unable to access download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second, including those on exchange only lines, the Government has legislated to introduce the broadband Universal Service Obligation, which provides households with a legal right to request this minimum speed up to a reasonable cost threshold of £3,400 per premise.
In addition, the Government is committed to delivering nationwide gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible and has already invested in stimulating demand for gigabit broadband, including in urban areas. The £200 million Local Full Fibre Networks programme has funded projects in urban areas such as Belfast and London, for example.
The Government has also announced that it will invest a further £5 billion to provide gigabit-capable networks in the hardest to parts of the UK. This funding will focus on connecting more rural and remote areas but, alongside this, the Government is also taking action to reduce the barriers to deployment, and make it cheaper and easier for BT Openreach and other operators to roll out broadband commercially, including in urban and suburban areas. For example, we are taking the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill through Parliament, which will make it easier for network builders to access blocks of flats where there is an absent or unresponsive landlord.
Finally, mobile network operators already provide 4G mobile broadband services which provide a viable alternative to superfast coverage in urban areas. In addition, according to Ofcom’s December 2019 Connected Nations report, more than 40 towns and cities already have access to even faster 5G mobile services, and the rollout has developed further since then.
As part of this, the Government has allocated £200 million from 2017 to March 2022 to support the further development of 5G through its 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme, including up to £20 million in the West Midlands 5G (WM5G) Programme (over three years, to March 2022).