UK ‘Digital Divide’ Closing As Broadband, Digital TV Grow

UK broadband take-up is on the rise and the “digital divide” is closing, according to a new report from media regulator Ofcom. Broadband adoption in 2006 was 45 percent in England (up from 36 percent in 2005) and 42 percent in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales (up from 31 percent, 24 percent and 25 percent respectively), according to the Communications Market Report for the Nations and Regions. The gap between the highest and lowest broadband penetration rates had reduced from 12 percent two years ago to just three percent now, indicating better up-take in nations other than England.

Sixty-seven percent of households can now access broadband and phone services from companies other than the former state monopoly BT, thanks to unbundling of local exchange lines (up 27 percent since 2005) and 29 percent of homes took multiple bundled services from a single telecoms provider (the UK has seen a proliferation of multi-play broadband/phone/internet/TV offers in the last two years).

The report tries to kill off concern from access-to-infrastructure advocates, noting about the same number of people in rural areas have access to mobile phones (80 percent) as in urban areas (81 percent) – and the pattern is repeated for DAB digital radio (17 percent rurally against 18 percent in cities) and even broadband (41 percent rurally against 45 percent in urban areas). Amongst other tidbits – Wales has more WiFi hotspots per person than anywhere in the UK or Germany, Japan and the US; Scots use VoIP more than their UK brethren; digital radio take-up is highest in England.