Ofcom has published a report outlining the availability of different communications services across the UK, examining how coverage varies between areas and might be improved.
The report looks at access to seven services: fixed voice telephony, fixed broadband, mobile voice telephony, mobile broadband, digital television, radio and post.
The availability of communications services matters because of the increasing integration of digital communications within daily life. These networks provide consumers with access to important political, educational, cultural and economic resources.
They also offer businesses the opportunity to increase efficiency, develop new services and reach new markets. And they make possible new and more effective means of providing public services to citizens.
The report finds that:
-Several services have almost universal availability in the UK. Fixed telephony and postal services are subject to universal service obligations, and digital terrestrial television is also available to almost all households following digital switchover;
-Other services differ more widely. For example, the availability and speed of fixed broadband internet access varies according to what technology is available and proximity to telephone exchanges, while superfast broadband is still being rolled out, especially in more rural areas;
-For mobile services, even where outdoor coverage delivered to households is good, there can be particular challenges associated with providing coverage inside buildings, on roads and on rail;
-While analogue radio coverage is nearly ubiquitous, DAB digital radio is not.
Variations in availability between nations and regions is largely due to parts of the UK being more rural than others. Once factors such as population density and the nature of the landscape – such as hills, valleys and buildings – are taken into account, the probability of good coverage is relatively similar between different parts of the UK.
Where markets cannot deliver coverage to those who need it, public bodies often take action.