Ofcom has today outlined the future challenges in ensuring the UK’s communications infrastructure serves the growing needs of consumers and businesses.
Although it found that the UK is making good progress in the roll-out and take-up of key communications services, Ofcom’s Infrastructure Report 2014 found that there is still a lot to do, especially in the areas of improving broadband and mobile availability and quality of service.
In the area of broadband, Ofcom specified four particular challenges: roll-out in rural areas, decreasing ‘city not-spots’ where urban access to superfast broadband is limited, availablily of fast broadband to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and deployments of ultrafast broadband as well as consideration on how to build on this.
There is more being down in the area of mobile, the report suggested.
As well as imposing a licence obligation that will ensure 4G coverage reaches 98 per cent of premises, Ofcom is prepared to auction additional spectrum that is likely to be used by mobile operators to improve capacity.
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: “Digital infrastructure is crucial to the UK’s future. As a country we are continuing to make real progress, particularly in the roll out and take-up of superfast broadband and 4G mobile services. But there is more to be done. We need to continue asking whether collectively we are doing enough to build the infrastructure of the future, and to maintain the competition that benefits consumers and businesses.
"The way consumers interact with their TV, phone and broadband is changing as fast as technology is evolving. 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.”
The research found that the average UK household or small business is downloading 53 Gigabytes (GB) of data on their fixed broadband line every month - equivalent to 35 feature films, and a 77 per cent increase on 2013. The average home is also uploading seven GB of data to the internet each month, equivalent to 3,500 digital photographs.
It was also found that 35 per cent of people now use channels such as Skype or Apple Facetime to make calls (up from 22 per cent in 2012), while the average mobile owner's data usage has increased by 55 per cent since last year, to around 1.5 GB per month.
Data usage is expected to increase four-fold between 2013 and 2018, driven by consumers using devices such as tablets, e-readers and mobile phones on developing 4G networks.