UK 'gigaboom' brings fast connectivity to one in two premises
According to new figures from ThinkBroadband, 50.2% of all UK homes and businesses can access the fastest speeds available. This is up from just 6% in 2019 and marks a significant milestone in the government's ambitions.
Announced during London Tech Week, ministers and the telecoms industry welcomed the news and means that more than 15m properties across the UK can now access speeds of up to 1,000 megabits or one gigabit per second.
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said the government had passed the halfway point in bringing high-speed connectivity to the UK, with millions now able to access lightning-fast and reliable broadband. She said this would allow the UK to take advantage of new technologies for the next 40 years.
This big leap forward in connectivity comes shortly after the announcement by Virgin Media 02 to expand its gigabit network to 10 million UK homes. Coupled with the government's broader £5bn investment in an updated network, it means the UK's largest gigabit provider can lead the way in rolling out enhanced connectivity at a record pace.
Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media O2, said the provider had a clear plan to connect its entire network to future-proofed gigabit speeds by the end of the year. Schüler said Virgin 02 was proud to be leading the way in delivering the government's target ahead of schedule, boosting the UK up the global broadband table.
The greatest jump in availability was experienced by Stourbridge in Worcestershire, which went from 0% availability in January 2020 to 96% in 2021. Another big winner in the race to gigabit broadband was Solihull, which jumped from 3% to 91.5% over the same period.
Coverage in Blackpool has risen from 2% to 85%, and in Reading from 5% to 93%. Another big winner is West Dunbartonshire, where increased public and private investment has seen coverage rocket from just 1% in July 2020, to 95% today.
As more smart devices and entertainment and gaming tech becomes available to the public, the demand for gigabit internet will need to keep pace. With 8K TV and VR gaming on the horizon, households will need the enhanced bandwidth for seamless enjoyment.
Meanwhile, as remote and hybrid working becomes embedded post-pandemic, gigabit broadband will bring fast and reliable connectivity to every corner of the UK. In turns this will make every community a more attractive place to start a business and raise a family.
Andrew Ferguson, of ThinkBroadband, said he was pleased to see the UK breaking through the 50% barrier for gigabit broadband. Looking forward, he added, if existing plans come to fruition the UK could achieve 65-68% coverage as early as 2022.
He predicted that the coming years would be transformative for UK broadband with the number of full fibre networks being built across the country. He said ThinkBroadband would be mapping all available options, ensuring the public could easily see what was available.
Project Gigabit is the biggest next-gen broadband rollout in UK history and aims to connect over two million hard to reach homes and businesses as part of its levelling up agenda.