Why Does the Take-Up of Superfast Broadband Lag Its Widespread Availability?

Mark HeathIn its 2018 Connected Nations report, Ofcom found that “people do not always sign up to faster broadband packages when they are available”. Although at the time 94% of premises had access to superfast broadband packages (30 Mbps+), only 45% had signed up to them. Ofcom stated, “People should be given the choice to sign up to a fast broadband service but may not choose to do so for different reasons, for example where the slower service is sufficient for their needs or because the faster service is too expensive.”

According to Ofcom, as of May 2019, 28.058 million premises (equating to 95% of UK premises) had access to superfast broadband, offering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps. We believe that there are five reasons why everyone has not yet upgraded:

  • there is lack of awareness about the availability of superfast broadband
  • broadband users are not automatically upgraded to superfast broadband
  • users may think they are tied in to contracts
  • users are concerned about the costs of superfast broadband
  • users do not adequately value the benefits of superfast broadband (or are not aware of the benefits).

Let’s consider each of these in turn.

Lack of awareness about the availability of superfast broadband, so check now!

In the last few years, there has been rapid deployment of superfast broadband across the UK, bolstered by public investment in infrastructure. As a result, superfast broadband has become available to the vast majority of premises in the UK. As of May 2019, 95% of premises had access to superfast broadband with download speeds in excess of 30 Mbps. Getting this message to all broadband users has been challenging for broadband providers and local councils, particularly to those users who do not regularly review their broadband service. As shown in our new dedicated Broadband Statistics page, 3.3 million broadband customers have been out-of-contract with their broadband supplier for more than two years.

Even if you have checked in the past, please check to see if superfast (or ultrafast) broadband services are available in your area.

Broadband users are not automatically upgraded to superfast broadband, so upgrade now!

While superfast broadband generally provides substantial speed upgrades over standard broadband, broadband users are not automatically upgraded when faster services become available.  So, if you wish to benefit from improved speeds, you need to proactively upgrade! Otherwise, you will remain on standard broadband services that offer relatively poor speeds and, in our view, poor value for money.  As described in our Broadband Statistics page, Ofcom has found that “many customers with slower, entirely copper-based broadband pay more than superfast customers”.

If superfast or ultrafast broadband is available in your area, there will generally be many good deals available.

Broadband users may think they are tied in to their existing service, so check your contract!

According to Ofcom, nearly half of all broadband customers are no longer tied in to a contract with their broadband provider so are free to choose from a large variety of broadband services and providers. As described in our Broadband Statistics page, in its September 2019 report ‘A Review of Pricing Practices in Fixed Broadband’, Ofcom analysed over 20 million customer records to get a detailed understanding of prices paid by broadband customers. Ofcom found there are around 8.8 million out-of-contract broadband customers in the UK, representing 41% of all broadband customers.

So, please check any conditions or contracts that you may have with your existing broadband provider. You may well find that you are now out-of-contract and able to benefit from the many excellent broadband deals that are available in your area.

Some users are concerned about the costs of superfast broadband, but you could actually save money!

Perceived costs of superfast broadband could potentially put some broadband users off from upgrading to faster services. The market for broadband services is highly competitive, which means that there are some great deals available. So, you may be in for a pleasant surprise if you wish to upgrade to superfast broadband.

Ofcom has found that those who engage, either by signing a new contract with their provider (re-contracting) or switching to a new provider, get better deals than those who remain out-of-contract. It found that customers who sign a contract with their existing provider typically pay £8 to £9 less than if they were out-of-contract. So, upgrading to superfast broadband could actually save you money while benefitting from much better speeds.

Some users may feel that standard broadband is sufficient for their needs, but how true is this?

Whenever people are presented with something new, there will be those who embrace the opportunities and some who will be far more reticent. Superfast broadband generally provides a step-change in download and upload speeds, which can make existing services (such as browsing) much snappier and more responsive. It can also open the door to new services, such as TV streaming in very high quality (for example, Ultra HD 4k TV). Broadband users with relatively modest broadband usage requirements may initially think that superfast broadband is ‘overkill’, but may severely underestimate the change in their future behaviour from having a high-speed broadband connection.

The main benefits of superfast broadband are:

  • the ability to support an increasing number of devices in the home. Standard broadband simply cannot cope with connecting an ever-increasing number of Internet-enabled devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, PCs and notebooks, e-readers (such as Kindles), games consoles, smart watches, media players and set-top boxes. Count up the number of devices that you already have, and consider whether this is likely to increase in the future
  • the capability to support high-quality streaming of TV and video services (including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, BBC iPlayer and Sky Q). Streaming and downloading of content represents the future of TV. The lack of high-speed broadband services could prevent you from accessing mainstream services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime, which are becoming increasingly popular. In the future, the BBC will use broadband as the key means to distribute Ultra HD 4k content as terrestrial broadcasting networks lack the bandwidth required. Over time, more and more content will be accessed via broadband connections meaning those without the necessary broadband speeds will be able to access less and less
  • the ability to support an increasing range of services delivered over broadband. Over time, more and more services are being delivered over broadband connections. These include: browsing, streamed music services (e.g. Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL), online back-up services, home security, social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), streamed video services, messaging (e.g. WhatsApp and iMessage), home shopping, and online banking. The average broadband usage per household continues to increase substantially, reflecting the growing importance of broadband
  • improved connection reliability and reduced latency (delays). While many focus on the improved download and uploads speeds provided by superfast broadband, less well known is the fact that superfast broadband tends to improve other performance aspects such as latency. Latency is very important for online gaming, for example, as well as video and voice telephony (e.g. Skype). The perceived unreliability of accessing services using standard broadband may well become a thing of the past with superfast broadband.

For more information, visit our page:
Why You Need Superfast Broadband

Other pages you may be interested in:
Increase Broadband Speed Guide |  Blog | Test Your Speed With Our Speed Test