The Government has ensured superfast broadband (speeds of 24 Mbps or more) coverage for over 95% of UK premises. Other areas across the nation with speeds of less than 2 Mbps have access to a scheme which provides basic broadband of at least 10 Mbps. The UK Government supports the stimulation of private investment in full fibre connections through a programme that is currently funded through March 2021. Moreover, the UK will continue to complete the roll-out of 4G and is supporting investment to provide superfast broadband coverage to as many premises as possible beyond the 95% level achieved in December 2017. The UK is also introducing a broadband Universal Service Obligation so that by 2020 everyone across the UK will have a clear, enforceable right to request high-speed broadband.

Summary of broadband development in the United Kingdom

The UK government’s targets for superfast broadband availability set in the national broadband strategy of the United Kingdom are to a large extent consistent with the European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) targets.

On 23 July 2018 the UK Government published the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review which sets out a national, long-term strategy for digital connectivity to meet the government’s targets to roll out full fibre to 15 million premises by 2025 and achieve nationwide coverage by 2033, and provide 5G access to most of the population by 2027.

The UK government published a Digital Strategy addressing the main milestones for future broadband development throughout UK. The UK has published a 5G Strategy, which sets out the Government's ambition to become a world-leading digital economy.

National broadband strategy and policy

Responsible authorities

  • The Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for broadband policy.
  • Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is part of DCMS and is the delivery vehicle for the Government’s broadband policies relating to stimulating private sector investment and using available funding across the UK, including the Superfast Broadband Programme. BDUK is the National Competence Centre for state aid compliance within the UK and acts as a national Broadband Competence Office.
  • Local authorities in England develop local broadband plans, and develop and manage projects to support superfast broadband roll-out in areas not served by commercial coverage. They are responsible for managing EU funding and other local funding alongside funding from BDUK.
  • Ofcom is the communications regulator in the UK for the TV, radio and video-on-demand sectors, fixed-line telecoms, mobiles and postal services, as well as the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.
  • The Scottish Government is responsible for the management of public sector funded broadband roll-out in Scotland.
  • The Welsh Government is responsible for the management of superfast broadband roll-out in Wales.
  • The Department of the Economy is responsible for the management of broadband roll-out in Northern Ireland.

Main aims for broadband development

The UK Government has set targets to roll out full fibre to 15 million premises by 2025 and achieve nationwide coverage by 2033, and to provide 5G access to most of the population by 2027.

 

The UK Government has achieved its aim of providing 95% coverage with 24 Mbps by the end of 2017, and is on course universal access to high-speed broadband by 2020.

The 5G Strategy sets out steps for the UK to become a world leader in the next wave of mobile technology and services.

Welsh Government Superfast Cymru project is on course to deliver superfast broadband access of at least 30 Mbps to nearly 700 000 premises. On top of this project, it is introducing a suite of measures to further extend fast broadband coverage across Wales. These measures include a three year successor project to Superfast Cymru to target significant numbers of unserved premises, shorter term projects to address premises where the local infrastructure is nearly complete, a review of current voucher schemes and work to develop a community-level demand-led scheme.

The Scottish Government has committed to extending superfast broadband access to 100% of premises across Scotland by 2021. A new procurement for public investments to support this commenced in December 2017, with contracts to be awarded in 2019.

Main measures for broadband development

  • Regulation measures: The UK has provided guidance to local authorities and undertakers on numerous street works issues such as micro-trenching, permitting and the deployment of new overhead telecoms line. The Government has also recently published a best practice toolkit that advises on street works planning and deployment. The Government is also committed to infrastructure sharing and is working with both the telecoms and energy sectors to improve engagement and remove the barriers for sharing infrastructure where possible. The Government is also working to assess whether changes to planning regulations are needed to assist in the deployment of next-generation mobile infrastructure. Ofcom have mandated that Openreach, as an operator with significant market power, should allow access to their duct and pole network. Reforms to the Electronic Communications Code, made through the Digital Economy Act 2017, will further encourage an efficient use of infrastructure by promoting site sharing and seeking to make it cheaper and easier to deploy networks. The Government has also revised its planning guidelines (National Planning Policy Framework) and has included a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which is making a positive contribution to planning decisions on broadband deployment.

  • Broadband mapping: the UK's NRA, Ofcom is in charge of broadband service mapping from a market analysis perspective. The mapping tool contains georeferenced data according to the post code, which shows information on broadband take-up, speed and availability. The post code checker provided by the DCMS gives information on the availability of superfast broadband options for specific UK addresses.

  • The UK Government is introducing a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) by 2020 to ensure universal access to high-speed broadband for the hardest to reach premises in the UK. The USO will give every individual, business and public premise across the country the right to request an affordable high-speed broadband connection, at a sufficient speed for an average family to make full use of the internet, up to a reasonable cost threshold. The USO is being implemented by Ofcom.

National and regional broadband financial instruments

  • Funding of GBP 780 million from the central government to achieve the primary objectives of achieving 95% UK-wide superfast coverage by 2017 is being delivered by combining central and local funding sources. Local bodies were encouraged to match BDUK funding from their own public sector budgets, as well as other funds, such as funding from ERDF and the EAFRD. Total public funding including all of these sources is approximately GBP 1.7 billion. Efficiency savings through a profit-sharing mechanism resulting from end user take-up will lead to at least GBP 527 million being returned, which will be available for further investment. Broadband State Aid advice emphasises the availability of high-speed broadband in rural areas.

  • From the GBP 740 million National Productivity Investment Fund, the Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN) and the Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme are launched. The LFFN programme stimulates commercial investment in full fibre networks in both rural and urban locations across the UK. In late 2017, LFFN launched the first wave of its programme, designed to test the market stimulation approaches the programme is taking. GBP 10 million was allocated to the launch of four pilot projects across the country, along with a project on rail connectivity run jointly with the 5G team. GBP 190 million was allocated to a Challenge Fund - a capital grant programme supporting ultra-fast locally-led public digital communication networks. The LFFN programme also launched a GBP 67 million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which can be used by small businesses and the local communities around them to contribute to the installation cost of faster connections using gigabit-capable infrastructure. GBP 200 million from the National Productivity Investment Fund will also launch the Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme to trial a model to deliver full fibre to premises in rural and remote areas from April 2019.

  • The GBP 400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, launched in 2017, provides investment capital for new and growing broadband infrastructure providers. The Fund is managed by Amber Infrastructure Group and M&G Investments.

  • A 5 year Business Rates Relief for all new lit fibre connectivity backdated to 1 April 2017.

  • The Better Broadband Scheme makes available subsidised connections using satellite, or other technologies such as wireless where available, to premises, which do not have access to speeds of at least 2Mbps. The scheme is scheduled to run until the end of 2018.

Data on broadband development and technologies in the United Kingdom

For the latest data on broadband coverage, subscriptions and penetrations, coverage of different broadband technologies and costs check the scoreboard reports and the country reports of the Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI).

Spectrum assignments for wireless broadband

Check the overview for details on harmonised spectrum assignments and consult the study on Spectrum assignments in the EU.

National publications and press documents

Contact information

BCO UK (national Broadband Competence Office): Broadband Delivery UK, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Address: 100 Parliament St, London, SW1A 2BQ, United Kingdom
Contact via email
Phone: +44 207 211 6000
Website

Ofcom

Address: Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Rd, London, SE1 9HA, United Kingdom
Contact via email
Phone: +44 20 7981 3040
Website

Scottish Government

Address: St. Andrew's House Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG, United Kingdom
Contact via email
Phone: +44 131 244 4000
Website

Welsh Government

Address: Welsh Government Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NQ, United Kingdom
Contact via email
Phone: +44 1443 84550
Website

Northern Ireland Government

Address: Department for the Economy, Netherleigh, Massey Avenue BT4 2JP, Belfast, United Kingdom
Contact via email
Phone: +44 28 9052 9900
Website

Country information - UK