Belfast Telegraph

Broadband let-down for 60,000 Northern Ireland homes and offices

Ofcom’s NI director Jonathan Rose
Ofcom’s NI director Jonathan Rose
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Almost 60,000 homes and offices in Northern Ireland still struggle to get a decent broadband connection, it has emerged,

However, the number of premises which can't get a good service has fallen by 7,000 in the last 12 months.

The findings emerge in Ofcom's Connected Nations 2017 report.

Jonathan Rose, Ofcom's Northern Ireland director, said this year's findings show progress on the availability of broadband and mobile services.

"Broadband coverage is improving, but our findings show there's still urgent work required before people and businesses get the services they need," he said. "We expect the picture to continue to improve on the back of a number of government funded UK-wide and regional initiatives that have and are being undertaken to improve broadband speeds, especially in rural areas.

"Everyone should have good access to the internet, wherever they live and work. So we are supporting plans for universal broadband, and promoting investment in full-fibre technology that can provide ultrafast, reliable connections."

Some 56,000 homes and offices - around 7% of properties in Northern Ireland - still cannot get the broadband speeds needed to meet a typical household's needs, with most located in rural areas.

This is down from 63,000 premises in 2016.

The communications watchdog currently defines this as broadband offering a download speed of at least 10Mbit/s, with an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s - although it expects these requirements to increase over time.

Ofcom's report also shows that broadband remains worse in rural areas, where properties are often situated a long way from the telephone exchange or local street cabinet.

Around 23% of rural premises in Northern Ireland (53,000) are not getting basic broadband services, compared to just 1% in urban areas.

Local authorities that are more rural and with more dispersed properties have a higher number of premises that cannot access 10Mbit/s. Although significant, the number has reduced over the last year.

Nearly a quarter of premises (10,800) in the Fermanagh and Omagh council area can't get a service delivering more than 10Mbit/s.

Mid Ulster (7,900) and Newry, Mourne and Down (7,900) also have significant numbers of premises that fall into this category.

Ofcom is supporting the UK Government's plans for universal broadband, so homes and businesses across the country - including in rural and remote areas - have the right to request a broadband connection with a download speed of at least 10Mbit/s, and an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s.

Superfast broadband - defined as a download speed of 30Mbit/s or more - was available to 85% of Northern Ireland homes and small businesses by May 2017, up from 83% a year earlier. That compares to a UK-wide figure of 91%. However, availability is lower in rural areas, where 57% of premises have access to a superfast service.

The Connected Nations report shows average download speed of a connected broadband service in Northern Ireland rose by 15% in the year, from 34 Mbit/s to 39 Mbit/s.

Average download speeds are lower in rural areas but have increased to 24Mbit/s in 2017, compared to 21Mbit/s in 2016.

Belfast Telegraph


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