A significant milestone has been reached in bringing next-generation internet speeds to the whole of the UK. New figures from ThinkBroadband suggest that over half of UK homes and businesses can now access the fastest commercial broadband speeds available. This announcement came on the second day of London Tech Week.
More than 15 million properties can now access broadband connections capable of download speeds of 1,000 megabits or one gigabit per second. Gigabit connectivity, which is predominantly delivered via full or hybrid fibre broadband cables running into homes and businesses, will be increasingly necessary for the coming years as more and more internet-connected smart devices become available for the home. It will also provide the bandwidth needed for families to run and enjoy new developments in entertainment such as 8K TV and VR gaming on multiple devices at the same time.
In January 2019 this stood at just 6%. The Government has invested £5 billion of funding to connect hard-to-reach areas in the Project Gigabit scheme. The telecoms industry has vastly expanded its investment in and rollout of gigabit-capable networks. Virgin Media O2 connected 1.7 million extra homes to gigabit services, expanding its gigabit network to cover more than 10 million homes across the UK. Plans are in place to upgrade the entire footprint of 15.5 million homes before the end of 2021.
Across the country, communities have seen massive increases in gigabit broadband coverage spurred by public and commercial investment. West Dunbartonshire in Scotland, for example, has seen gigabit broadband availability surge from just 1 per cent in July 2020 to 95% today. In Blackpool, gigabit broadband coverage jumped from 2 per cent in January 2019 to nearly 85 per cent today. In Reading, it has increased from 5 per cent in January 2019 to 93 per cent. Elsewhere, Stourbridge in Worcestershire has seen gigabit broadband availability jump from 0% in January 2020 to 96% today. While in Solihull in the West Midlands, it stood at 3% in Jan 2019 but has now hit 91.5% today.
As more people work remotely, gigabit broadband will also bring much faster and more reliable connectivity to rural and hard-to-reach communities, making them more attractive places for people to settle and start and grow businesses.