Broadband availability in the UK: Facts, Stats & Figures

Dan Howdle | April 25th, 2023 swoosh image

With the availability of broadband in the UK is not only split among dozens of providers, networks large and small, and more differing delivery technologies than many may believe, where you live, compared to what you get, has never been so important.

In this fresh look at the picture of broadband availability country-wide, we will be unearthing all the latest facts and figures that contribute to the overall picture.

Overview of broadband availability in the UK

Over the past decade, the UK has seen significant developments in broadband technology. From traditional ADSL connections to newer technologies such as fibre broadband and 5G, the landscape of connectivity has changed dramatically. As of 2021, the UK government has set a target for nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, with a focus on bridging the digital divide between urban and rural areas. However, there is still much work to be done to achieve this goal.

The introduction of broadband in the UK began in the early 2000s with ADSL technology, which uses existing telephone lines to provide internet access. In recent years, this technology has been surpassed by fibre broadband, which provides faster and more reliable connections. ADSL remains available across the entire UK, though the providers themselves are increasingly phasing it out.

There are two types of fibre broadband: FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet), which delivers fibre to a street cabinet and then uses copper wiring to connect to homes, and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises), which delivers fibre directly to homes and provides the still-somewhat-elusive (and mostly unnecessary) 'gigabit broadband'. The latter provides faster speeds but is not yet available in many areas. More recently, 5G technology has also entered the market, providing fast mobile connectivity and potentially offering an alternative to traditional fixed-line broadband.

Broadband Technology Availability Percentage
ADSL 97%
FTTC 96%
FTTP 22%
Cable (Virgin Media FTTC) 53%

Source: Ofcom, Virgin Media

Despite these developments, there are still areas of the UK that lack adequate broadband connectivity. Rural areas, in particular, often suffer from slow and unreliable connections, leading to what is known as the digital divide. The UK government has set targets for improving broadband access in these areas, but there are still significant challenges to overcome, such as the high cost of installing fibre infrastructure in remote locations. This report will examine the current state of broadband availability in the UK, with a focus on identifying the remaining barriers to achieving the government's targets.

Places in the UK without broadband

There are still some areas in the UK where broadband is not available at all, leaving residents with limited or no access to the internet. Some of the types of locations where you're least likely to be able to get a broadband connection that offers useful download speeds include:

  • Rural areas: Many rural areas in the UK have limited or no access to broadband due to the lack of infrastructure and the distance from telephone exchanges or fiber-optic networks
  • Remote areas: Remote areas such as islands or mountainous regions can be challenging to reach and may not have the necessary infrastructure to support broadband connections
  • Historic buildings: Buildings that are listed or have historic significance may have restrictions on installing broadband infrastructure due to preservation regulations
  • High-rise buildings: Buildings that are too tall or have multiple levels may have difficulty receiving reliable broadband signals, particularly in areas with weak network coverage
  • Mobile homes: Those who live in caravans or mobile homes may find it challenging to get a reliable broadband connection due to the mobile nature of their residence

These locations and property types represent a significant challenge to the UK's ambition of providing universal broadband access, and many initiatives are underway to address this issue, including government funding for infrastructure development and alternative solutions such as satellite or 5G internet.

Ofcom considers any property unable to get at least 10Mbps download speed as 'unable to get decent broadband'. The number of homes unable to get decent broadband has shrunk dramatically over the past five years. Here is a breakdown according to Ofcom's Connected Nations reports:

Number of UK homes unable to get decent broadband in the UK

Year Percentage Number of Homes
2018 2.60% 677,000
2019 2.34% 610,000
2020 2.26% 587,000
2021 0.47% 123,000
2022 0.31% 80,000

Source: Ofcom

ADSL broadband availability in the UK

According to data sourced from Ofcom, the availability of ADSL broadband in the UK has increased significantly over the past decade. In 2011, around 80% of UK premises had access to ADSL broadband with a speed of at least 2Mbps. However, by 2021, this figure had risen to 99% of UK premises, with the majority of these having access to speeds of at least 30Mbps. This increase in availability has been driven by investment in infrastructure by broadband providers and government initiatives such as the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

Despite this improvement in availability, there are still some areas of the UK that have limited access to ADSL broadband, particularly in rural areas. Ofcom's data shows that in 2022, around 0.31% of UK premises were unable to access broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps, which is the government's universal service obligation. In response to this, there have been a number of initiatives aimed at improving connectivity in rural areas, including the Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme which aimed to provide gigabit-capable broadband to the hardest-to-reach areas of the UK.

Percentage of Britons able to access ADSL broadband, year-on-year

Year Availability of ADSL broadband with speed of at least 2Mbps (%) Availability of broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps (%)
2013 80% 71%
2014 85% 82%
2015 90% 89%
2016 96% 93%
2017 97% 95%
2018 98% 96%
2019 98% 96%
2020 99% 96%
2021 99% 96%
2022 99% 96%

Source: Ofcom

FTTC 'Superfast' broadband availability in the UK

Fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband has become increasingly popular in the UK over the past decade. Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, regularly monitors the availability and quality of broadband services across the country. Their reports show that the availability of FTTC broadband has grown significantly since 2012, providing faster and more reliable internet connections for millions of people.

In 2012, Ofcom reported that FTTC broadband was available to just 55% of UK homes and businesses. However, by 2020, that figure had risen to 96%. This increase in availability can be attributed to the significant investment made by broadband providers in building out their networks across the country. In addition, government initiatives such as the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) program have also played a role in extending the reach of FTTC broadband to areas that were previously underserved.

Ofcom's reports also show that the speed of FTTC broadband has improved significantly over the past decade. In 2012, the average download speed of FTTC broadband was just 36Mbps. By 2020, this had increased to 67Mbps, an increase of almost 90%. This increase in speed has been driven by the rollout of newer technologies such as, which allows for even faster broadband speeds over existing copper networks.

Despite the increase in availability and speed of FTTC broadband, there are still areas of the country where access to high-speed broadband is limited. Ofcom's Connected Nations report for 2020 found that around 620,000 UK homes and businesses still did not have access to broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps. However, the government has set a target of providing gigabit-capable broadband to all UK homes and businesses by 2025, which should help to further improve the availability and quality of broadband across the country.

Another challenge facing the rollout of FTTC broadband is the issue of network congestion. As more people use broadband services, there is a risk that networks can become congested, leading to slower speeds and a poorer quality of service. To address this issue, broadband providers are investing in upgrading their networks and deploying new technologies such as full-fiber broadband, which can provide even faster and more reliable connections.

In conclusion, the availability of FTTC broadband in the UK has grown significantly since 2012, providing faster and more reliable internet connections for millions of people. Despite some remaining challenges, such as network congestion and limited access in some areas, there is a clear trend towards faster and more widespread access to high-speed broadband across the country.

FTTC (superfast) broadband availability by country since 2013

Country 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
England 75% 84% 89% 93% 95% 96% 96% 96%
Scotland 66% 76% 81% 87% 90% 93% 94% 94%
Wales 62% 69% 79% 86% 89% 93% 94% 94%
Northern Ireland 60% 69% 76% 82% 85% 89% 91% 93%

Source: Ofcom

This table shows the availability percentage of FTTC superfast broadband in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland since 2013, based on Ofcom reports. The data demonstrates a steady increase in availability in all four countries over the past several years. In 2013, England had the highest availability percentage at 75%, while Northern Ireland had the lowest at 60%. By 2020, all four countries had reached a high of 94-96% availability.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all started with lower availability rates than England in 2013, but by 2018, all had surpassed 90% availability. Scotland had the lowest availability in the early years, but by 2020 was closely matched with Wales and Northern Ireland.

The steady increase in availability of FTTC superfast broadband in all four countries can be attributed to the significant investment made by broadband providers in building out their networks and upgrading their infrastructure. Additionally, government initiatives like the Broadband Delivery UK program have also helped to extend the reach of superfast broadband to areas that were previously underserved.

Overall, this data shows that the UK is making progress in its goal of providing access to high-speed broadband for all citizens, regardless of where they live. While there are still areas with limited access, the steady increase in availability of FTTC superfast broadband in all four countries is a positive sign for continued progress.

Fast broadband availability can affect property prices

The availability of fast broadband is considered a major factor affecting property prices in the UK. According to a report by the property website, Rightmove, homes with access to superfast broadband can sell for up to 25% more than those without. In fact, the report states that homes with download speeds of over 30Mbps can command a premium of up to £9,000. Moreover, a survey conducted by the Halifax bank in 2016 found that over a third of potential home buyers would reject a property if it did not have a fast broadband connection. This suggests that a lack of fast broadband could significantly reduce the value of a property.

The impact of fast broadband on property prices is also evident in rural areas, where access to reliable broadband is often limited. A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that improving broadband speeds in rural areas could add £12,000 to the value of an average property. This figure rises to £17,000 for homes located in villages or small towns. Furthermore, the study suggests that faster broadband could lead to an increase in property sales and rental values in rural areas, which would benefit both property owners and local economies.

Many schools, institutions and businesses still face broadband speed issues

Schools, institutions, and businesses have been facing significant issues with broadband speed and availability, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report by Ofcom, in 2020, around 1.8 million children in the UK did not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home, and almost a million children lived in households with only a mobile internet connection. This has resulted in many students struggling with remote learning due to poor internet connectivity, and many schools having to provide students with devices and access to broadband.

Institutions such as hospitals and care homes have also experienced issues with broadband speed and availability. A study conducted by the British Medical Association in 2019 found that over a third of GP surgeries had unreliable broadband connections, which impacted their ability to provide patient care effectively. Similarly, care homes have reported issues with slow internet speeds, which can make it challenging to manage residents' medical records and access online training resources.

Businesses have also faced challenges due to poor broadband speeds and availability, particularly during the pandemic when many employees have had to work from home. A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce in 2020 found that 50% of businesses reported that unreliable internet connectivity was a barrier to remote working. Moreover, slow internet speeds have been a significant issue for businesses in rural areas, with research by the Federation of Small Businesses showing that 31% of rural businesses did not have access to superfast broadband. This has put them at a disadvantage compared to their urban counterparts, with slower internet speeds impacting their ability to compete effectively.

FTTH (ultrafast, gigabit) broadband availability in the UK

Fiber to the home (FTTH) broadband is a type of internet connection that uses fiber-optic cables to transmit data directly to homes. It is known for its high speeds, reliability, and low latency. However, FTTH broadband availability in the UK has been quite limited, with most people relying on other forms of broadband connections such as FTTC or ADSL.

According to Ofcom's latest Connected Nations report, the availability of gigabit-capable broadband connections has increased significantly in the UK over the past five years. In 2017, only 3% of UK premises had access to gigabit broadband. However, by the end of 2021, this had risen to 37%, with an estimated 10 million homes and businesses across the UK having access to gigabit broadband.

Despite the significant increase in availability, the adoption of FTTH broadband in the UK is still relatively low, with only a small percentage of households currently subscribing to gigabit broadband services. This is partly due to the high costs of rolling out fiber infrastructure, which means that many areas still lack the necessary infrastructure to support FTTH connections. However, with the growing demand for faster internet speeds, it is likely that the adoption of gigabit broadband will continue to increase over the coming years.

Availability of FTTH broadband in the UK

The following table shows the percentage of homes in the UK that have access to FTTH ultrafast broadband since 2017. You will notice that in 2017, availability was all but negligible, but has risen meteorically over the year.

Year Percentage of premises with gigabit-capable connections
2017 3%
2018 5%
2019 9%
2020 22%
2021 37%
2022 42%

Source: Ofcom

Getting the UK to 100% FTTP full-fibre remains enormously challenging

When you consider that there are still nearly 100,000 UK properties which cannot get basic FTTC fibre, it becomes obvious that we wil be waiting many, many years – possibly even decades – before FTTP full-fibre (gigabit) broadband is available universally across the UK. Here are the challenges face by such a rollout…

  • Infrastructure: Rolling out FTTP requires significant infrastructure changes, including digging up roads and laying new cables. This can be costly and time-consuming, particularly in areas with high population density or difficult terrain
  • Cost: The cost of rolling out FTTP to every home in the UK is estimated to be in the billions of pounds, which makes it a significant financial challenge. Companies need to ensure they can generate enough revenue to offset these costs
  • Regulation: The current regulatory framework in the UK can make it difficult for companies to invest in new infrastructure. For example, there are concerns around the ability to generate a return on investment, and the potential for market dominance by large providers. This can make it challenging for new entrants to the market
  • Access to infrastructure: In some cases, companies may need to access existing infrastructure owned by other companies, such as BT's Openreach network. Access to this infrastructure can be limited, which can slow down the rollout of FTTP
  • Public acceptance: Rolling out new infrastructure can be disruptive and can be met with resistance from the public, particularly in areas where digging up roads may cause traffic disruptions. Companies may need to invest in public relations campaigns to help build support for the rollout of FTTP
  • Installation challenges: Installing FTTP in individual homes can also present challenges. For example, the need to drill holes in walls to run new cables can be disruptive, and companies may need to work with individual homeowners to ensure that the installation process is as smooth as possible

Broadband availability awareness and the USO

Despite year-on-year increases in the availability of increasingly speedy broadband technologies, there remains a broad lack of awareness both in terms of the availability of faster speeds and whether or not a household actually needs it.

Broadband availability awareness in the UK is an ongoing issue, with many households still unaware of the broadband speeds they could upgrade to. According to a survey by Ofcom in 2021, around 1.5 million homes in the UK are unaware that they could get better broadband speeds by upgrading to a faster package. This represents around 5% of all UK households. In addition, around 600,000 households experience speeds of less than 10Mbps, but could upgrade to a faster package if they were aware of the option.

Moreover, many people in the UK are also unaware that they are entitled to a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbps under the Universal Service Obligation (USO). According to Ofcom's Connected Nations 2022 report, around 300,000 homes and businesses in the UK are still unable to get a decent broadband connection. Of these, around 200,000 are eligible for support under the USO, but many people are not aware of this entitlement. Ofcom and the UK government are working to improve awareness of these issues and to ensure that everyone in the UK has access to reliable and fast broadband services.

See also

Frequently asked questions

What is the availability of FTTC broadband in the UK?

According to Ofcom's latest report, as of 2022, 96% of UK homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband with speeds of 30Mbps or more, which includes FTTC broadband.

What is the availability of FTTH (gigabit) broadband in the UK?

As of 2022, the availability of FTTH (gigabit) broadband in the UK was 42%, according to Ofcom's latest report. However, it's important to note that availability varies significantly by location, with urban areas having higher availability than rural areas.

Why is FTTH broadband availability lower than FTTC?

One of the main reasons FTTH broadband availability is lower than FTTC is due to the higher cost of deploying fibre all the way to the premises. This is particularly challenging in more rural areas, where the cost of digging up roads and laying fibre is much higher per household. Additionally, regulatory barriers and infrastructure challenges also play a role in limiting FTTH availability.