[holding answer 12 March 2007]: At the present time there is no Universal Service Obligation (USO) in relation to broadband. Thus, there is no absolute obligation to supply broadband, of any speed, at all.
The latest Ofcom figures reveal that Broadband is, however, available to over 99 per cent. of UK households. 37 per cent. of households can choose between four wholesale broadband providers, 8 per cent. can choose between three wholesales providers, 12 per cent. between two wholesale providers and the remainder can access a BT wholesale offering.
At the retail level consumers have access to a very wide choice of retail broadband products provided by over 60 Internet Service Providers currently operating in the UK.
[holding answer 12 March 2007]: In the UK, over 99.9 per cent. of households are connected to a broadband enabled exchange.
However, not all of these households will necessarily be able to get broadband and there are two main reasons for this:
1. there could be fibre in the network between the exchange and the household
2. the telephone line could be too long to support broadband.
It is difficult to be precise about the number of UK households that are able to receive a broadband service over the telephone line, but the figure of 99 per cent. probably represents a lower bound.
It is not possible to provide data of this sort at a more local level.
The definition of broadband that Ofcom uses in its economic market assessments is that it must have the following three characteristics:
the service is always on, i.e. no dial up is required. This feature allows the user to maintain a permanent connection to the network so allowing real-time delivery of services such as email;
it is possible to use both voice and data services simultaneously, whether they are provided together, for example over the same access route, or separately, perhaps using more than one access route; and
it has a faster downstream speed than a dial-up connection (essentially >128kbit/s).
While BT has rolled out broadband to over 99 per cent. of UK households, cable and Local Loop Unbundling operators have so far only rolled out broadband in certain parts of the UK. Thus, different areas in the UK are supplied by a different ‘mix’ of wholesale providers. The latest figures available to Ofcom are as follows:
Percentage of UK households with only one (BT) wholesale broadband provider—42 per cent.
Percentage of UK households with only two wholesale broadband providers—12 per cent.
Percentage of UK households with only three wholesale broadband providers—7 per cent.
Percentage of UK households with four or more wholesale broadband providers—37 per cent.
It should be noted that broadband rollout, particularly based on LLU, is currently ongoing and therefore the coverage numbers presented here should be seen as a snap shot in time. This is a dynamic market and it is likely to look very different in a year from now.