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 1 March 2017, 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
- 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 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 achieved its aim of providing 95% coverage with 24 Mbps by the end of 2017, and has an ambition to ensure universal access to high speed broadband by 2020. To achieve the objectives, a mix of technologies – fixed, wireless and satellite – will be needed to deliver superfast broadband throughout the UK. Britain's approach to delivery therefore remains technology-neutral, although high-capacity fibre optic is likely to be a key feature of the UK’s network going forward. Whether this is directly to people’s homes, a street cabinet or to a pole will depend on local circumstances.
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 aims to extend superfast broadband access to 100% of premises across Scotland by 2021. A new procurement for public investments to support this commenced in December 2017.
Main measures for broadband development
The UK has provided guidance to local authorities on the deployment of micro-trenching and the application of street works permits and committed to allowing the deployment of new overhead telecoms lines. The UK Government is also committed to infrastructure sharing and is working with both the telecoms and energy sectors to remove the barriers for sharing infrastructure where possible. Ofcom have also mandated that BT, 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 Bill, will further encourage an efficient use of infrastructure by promoting site sharing. The UK 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 UK Government has committed to 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.
National and regional broadband financial instruments
State Aid: 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.
Launched in November 2017, the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund (LFFN Challenge Fund) is a capital grant programme of up to GBP 200 million with GBP 190 million remaining for competitive Waves, supporting ultra-fast digital communication networks. Public bodies can apply for projects that will deliver gigabit infrastructure.
A new 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.
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.