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One in five may still be without 100Mb broadband in 2020

Thursday, October 16th 2014 by Hannah Langston

Access to fast broadband in 2020 will still depend on where you live, despite the government investing millions in boosting universal coverage, an expert has said.

Oliver Johnson, Chief Executive of market intelligence firm Point Topic believes the government and Ofcom should facilitate equal access to fibre broadband services.

He predicts that by 2020 75% of the UK will have access to speeds of 100Mbps and above from Virgin or BT and their resellers. Around 5% of the population will also get this speed but from alternative providers via a mixture of technologies such as mobile and satellite broadband.

However, around 20% of people, most of whom will be living in rural areas, will struggle to get to 100Mbps and won’t be commercially viable for a speed boost.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, he said the government’s £10m innovation fund to deliver faster broadband to the final 5% of the country excluded from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, “might actually result in some competition particularly since it’s of less interest to BT purely by being the very tail end of any revenue”.

“I think though that this doesn’t account for the future risk of further divides arising. VDSL is good for a lot of reasons but it isn’t going to be straightforward making the next move. G.fast is likely to be the next technology out of the box for the UK, in mass deployment terms.

“So we fix a problem today but in five years or so there’s going to be another deeper digital divide but a little further out this time.”

Responding to Point Topic’s research, an Ofcom spokesperson said: “Access to fast broadband is an important part of modern life. We know from previous research that rural areas often lack fast broadband coverage, something the government is helping to address with public funding.

“We are continuing to work with government to see how rural coverage can be improved further, and we have also put in place rules to ensure that superfast 4G mobile broadband will be available to 98% of premises in the UK”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport added: "We are on track to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017 and want to extend coverage to the final 5% of premises using a variety of technologies, including Fibre to the Premises.

“We are currently analysing future infrastructure needs and what future public and private investment might be needed to ensure that connectivity is fit-for-purpose.”

[UPDATE: The original headline of this story was 'One in five may still be without superfast broadband in 2020'. Following contact from BT that noted that 'superfast' is defined as 24Mbps and above, we have acknowledged our mistake and amended the headline accordingly]

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