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TV households falling in the UK for the first time: Ofcom

MUMBAI: After years of consecutive growth, the number of TV households in the UK fell from 26.33 million at the end of 2012 to 26.02 million at the end of 2013, as viewers increasingly turned to alternative devices.

There are now nearly one million homes with broadband but no TV. Catch-up content in particular is growing in importance and being consumed on devices such as tablets, smartphones, computers and games consoles.

Ofcom CEO Ed Richards 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.

“Our new interactive map is a simple way for people to check coverage for a range of services which are increasingly important in their lives. 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.”
Ofcom has outlined the future challenges in ensuring that the UK’s communications infrastructure serves the growing needs of consumers and businesses.

The UK is making good progress in the roll-out and take-up of key communications services, according to Ofcom’s Infrastructure Report 2014, an in-depth look at the UK’s telecoms, broadcasting and wireless networks.

However, the report recognises that there is still more to do, particularly in improving broadband and mobile availability and quality of service for consumers and businesses across the UK.

Broadband: Although the overall availability and quality of broadband services is getting better, Ofcom’s report identifies four specific challenges:

Rural roll-out: The government and industry are looking at a range of options that might provide superfast broadband to the ‘final 5%’ of UK premises. While this is technically complex and expensive, it is important that these remaining homes and businesses are not left behind.

City not-spots: Some urban areas, including parts of central London, also have poor superfast broadband coverage. City not-spots are generally caused when there is no street cabinet to upgrade, because a customer has a direct connection to the local telephone exchange. Communications providers are looking at ways to take fibre closer to the customer where there is no cabinet.

Availability for SMEs

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make a substantial contribution to the economy, so it is important they have high quality broadband. But a lower proportion of SMEs have access to superfast broadband compared to UK premises as a whole. Ofcom has a major programme of work to assess how to support the needs of SMEs.

Ultrafast broadband: Looking further ahead, industry and policy makers are considering what networks are needed to support speeds of a gigabit per second (1Gbit/s), commonly referred to as ultrafast broadband. The UK is seeing some early deployments of ultrafast broadband and more consideration is needed on how to build on this.

Mobile: There is more work to be done on mobile coverage and quality of service. As well as imposing a licence obligation that will ensure 4G coverage reaches 98 per cent of premises, Ofcom is preparing to auction additional spectrum that is likely to be used by mobile operators to improve capacity.

More widely, the Government has committed £150 million to bring mobile coverage to unserved households, and is now exploring other policy measures to improve coverage on which Ofcom is providing technical advice.

New tool to check communications coverage: People can check their local broadband, mobile, TV and radio coverage using a simple, powerful online tool launched by Ofcom .

The Ofcom Interactive Map provides a single-stop for consumers and businesses to discover the quality of the communications infrastructure in areas where they live and work, or somewhere they intend to move.

Users can zoom to a specific location on a UK map, or simply enter a place name or postcode, to receive comprehensive data on:

Fixed broadband: Average download and upload speeds by postcode, comparing standard and superfast services, and illustrations of superfast broadband coverage.

Mobile: Average 2G, 3G and 4G coverage in a council area by premises, roads or geography, and coverage illustrations for each operator’s services down to 100 square meters on the map.

Freeview: levels of coverage across a council area for both public service and commercial channels on digital terrestrial TV.

Digital radio: Local council-area coverage for BBC and commercial digital radio channels.

All the data shown on the maps was taken in June 2014, and will be updated annually by Ofcom.

How fast does broadband need to be: The Interactive Map is launched alongside Ofcom Infrastructure Report 2014.

The report finds that a typical UK household may now need a connection offering at least 10 Mbit/s to support its internet activities, as the amount of data consumed over residential broadband is growing at an unprecedented rate.

Ofcom has 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 7 GB of data to the internet each month, equivalent to 3,500 digital photographs.

The growth is being driven not only by increasing use of high-bandwidth services such as video streaming, but also the roll-out of faster connections supporting multiple users. On connections slower than 10 Mbit/s, performance of these web activities may be impaired. Video streaming, in particular, can work less well when there are simultaneous demands on bandwidth from different devices in the home.