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New Ofcom app lets you check the quality of your home broadband

Tuesday, December 1st 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom has launched a new mobile app that lets users check the quality of their wireless internet connection.

The Ofcom Wi-Fi Checker, which runs on tablets and smartphones, tests a user’s home or work wi-fi set-up and offers tips on how to get more out of their broadband connection.

The launch of the free app coincides with the release of Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2015 report – an in-depth look at the telecoms and wireless networks of the UK.

The report says the coverage and quality of fixed broadband services across the UK has increased markedly over the past year.

More than a quarter of homes (27%, or 7.5m) now have ‘superfast’ broadband – defined in the report as a connection of 30Mbps or faster – up from 21%, or around 6m homes, a year earlier.

Ofcom said superfast broadband is now available to more than eight in 10 UK homes (83%, almost 24m) – up from 75% last year.

It attributed the increase in part to commercial broadband rollouts by BT and Virgin Media, and to the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

Broadband in rural areas continues to improve, with superfast broadband now available to almost 37% of rural premises across the UK, or 1.1m.

But Ofcom has identified challenges in improving coverage across the UK.

Around 8% of UK homes – some 2.4m – are currently unable to receive speeds of 10Mbps or above. This jumps to nearly half (48%, or 1.5m) in rural areas, where speeds are often affected by premises lying further from the network’s local street cabinet or telephone exchange.

Ofcom has also today published its latest European Broadband Scorecard, which compares the availability, usage and price of broadband services across EU member states.

Best coverage

The scorecard shows that, among major European nations, the UK has the best coverage and take-up of superfast broadband, the highest coverage of fast mobile services, and some of the cheapest prices.

More than seven in 10 premises (73%) can now receive a 4G signal from three of the four networks, up from 44% last year.

Four in 10 (46%) have 4G coverage from all four major operators. Ofcom expects this to increase significantly in the coming year, and has put in place rules to ensure that 98% of premises can receive a 4G signal indoors by 2017.

However, Ofcom’s Connected Nations report suggests there is also more work to be done on mobile coverage and quality of service.

While 99% of premises can receive a 2G signal, the proportion of the entire UK landmass able to receive a signal from all four operators has remained at 55% since last year.

Ofcom CEO Sharon White said: “Mobile and broadband have become the fourth essential service, alongside gas, electricity and water.

“There’s been a technological revolution over recent years, with 4G mobile and superfast continuing to extend across the country.

“Our challenge is to keep supporting competition and innovation, while also helping to improve coverage across the country – particularly in hard-to-reach areas, where mobile and home internet services need to improve.

“It’s vital that consumers have the tools they need, such as the new wi-fi checker, to get the most out of their communications.”

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