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British households “need at least 10Mbits/sec broadband”

Average UK household now downloads more than 50GB of data per month

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has said British households may now need a connection of at least 10Mbits/sec to cope with the average family’s internet needs. The warning comes in Ofcom’s latest Infrastructure Report, which claims that UK households are now downloading an average of 53GB of a data a month on their fixed-line connections, a 77% increase on last year. 

That huge explosion in data consumption is being partly driven by video on demand, says Ofcom, with services such as the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube gobbling up bandwidth. Indeed, family members will often be streaming on different devices simultaneously, and with HD streaming typically requiring at least 4Mbits/sec, you can see why Ofcom believes 10Mbits/sec is the new minimum requirement.

However, the government’s targets fall a long way short of Ofcom’s base recommendations. The government aims to deliver a minimium connection speed of only 2Mbits/sec to the entire UK population by 2016, a target that has already slipped once. Even then, it will mean many people will only get a fifth of the speed that’s now being described as the bare minimum today.

Ofcom says the “government and industry are looking at a range of options that might provide superfast broadband to the ‘final 5%’ of UK premises” and that “while this is technically complex and expensive, it is important that these remaining homes and businesses are not left behind”.

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It’s not only fixed-line broadband networks that are feeling the strain of increased consumer demand. Average mobile data usage has increased by 46% since 2013 to 1.5GB per month, and it is expected to increase to 6GB by 2018. The prevalance of 4G networks has obviously allowed users to download more data on their mobile devices, with Ofcom highlighting the growing popularity of VoIP services such as Skype and Apple’s Facetime. 

Allegedly designed to help people discover the quality of communications networks in their area, Ofcom has today released a new interactive map which highlights average download speeds, 3G/4G coverage, and digital radio/television coverage in your postcode. However, the data used is already six months out of date. Our test postcode showed no availability of superfast broadband, even though fibre has been installed in the area for the past four months.

Ofcom says the data will only be updated anually, which means it will be 18 months out of date by the time the regulator gets around to refreshing the maps. 

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