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UK Local Authority Connectivity Landscape: 2024

As we plunge further into the decade, the UK's digital infrastructure continues to make significant strides, particularly in the realms of fibre, 4G, and 5G coverage. This article on the UK local authority connectivity landscape takes a closer look at the state of connectivity through the lens of local authorities, revealing the progress made in local authorities and the digital divide that still permeates the Home Nations. Yet, it is crucial to recognise that even regions with advanced levels of connectivity cannot afford complacency. Robust digital connectivity is merely the first step towards becoming truly smart connected places.

Fibre Connectivity: A Leap Forward

In a single year, the UK has achieved a remarkable 16% increase in premises passed by fibre, climbing from 41% to 57% since this time in 2023. This signifies an additional 4.6 million homes and businesses now able to connect to high-speed broadband, evidencing a determined push by fibre operators towards a more connected nation at a rate of 387 thousand premises per month.

Northern Ireland holds steady as the Home Nation with the most premises passed at 94%. England and Wales follow suit, surpassing the UK average of with 58% coverage. Scotland, however, lags at 48%, hinting at the impact of delayed initiatives like the UK Government’s GBP 5 billion flagship Project Gigabit program which will undoubtedly be having an adverse impact upon Scotland’s economy.

Scottish local authorities trailing in advanced digital infrastructure may want to explore innovative strategies like the Anchor Tenant model, an award-winning concept pioneered by Intelligens Consulting to accelerate fibre deployment while leveraging private investment.

As per last year, Kingston upon Hull tops the UK fibre connectivity league table boasting a near-perfect 99.7% fibre availability which is testament to ISP KCOM’s investment in the region. In Northern Ireland Mourne and Down has the highest fibre coverage at 96%. Aberdeen has the highest fibre coverage in Scotland at 87% while in Wales Conwy has the highest fibre availability at 81%.

The greatest growth over the last year has been in Burnley District – in the North of England – with a 61% increase in fibre coverage. This highlights a transformation in the region's digital infrastructure through investment made by fibre operator BRSK taking the region to 79% fibre availability.

The Scottish islands and the Isles of Scilly perform worst in terms of fibre coverage and they require innovative strategies to level them up with the rest of the UK.

The Race Towards 5G: London vs UK Digital Divide

In terms of mobile coverage, on average 97% of premises across the UK have outdoor 4G coverage from all four mobile network operators (MNOs). The relatively consistent 4G coverage across the UK suggests a mature network with Wales at 93% coverage being the lowest of the Home Nations.

However, the race towards 5G is where the next competitive edge lies.

London Borough of Islington is at the forefront of 5G with 97% outdoor coverage available from all four MNOs. In fact, it is probably of no surprise that nine out of the top ten regions in the UK with the highest 5G coverage are in London including the likes of City of Westminster, Newham, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea, Brent, Hammersmith and Fulham, Lambeth, Hounslow and Lewisham. The concentration of such advanced connectivity in London suggests a digital connectivity divide.

While London boasts the highest 5G coverage, the capital cities of the Home Nations also enjoy substantial 5G connectivity within their respective regions, albeit not quite matching London's leading figures. Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast also show strong 5G coverage, reflecting a trend where urban centres are well ahead of the curve compared to their rural counterparts. This urban-rural divide is an ongoing challenge that requires strategic focus and investment to address.

Comparing the Home Nations, 5G coverage across England's is 21% which contrasts with lower coverage in the other Nations which only just make it into double figures. This discrepancy not only points to a potential averaging effect of London and the South East but also marks an opportunity. This is a clear call to action for local authority decision makers and leaders to seek external support to attract investment and foster 5G expansion, particularly in areas lagging behind.

The Road Ahead: Beyond Connectivity

For those local authorities lagging behind in fibre and mobile connectivity there is a clear case for alternative intervention programmes to stimulate investment in digital infrastructure and to ensure rural citizens and businesses are not left behind.

However, although the digital journey for local authorities starts with great fibre and mobile connectivity, it does not end there. The true goal for local authorities lies in becoming smart connected places where a robust digital infrastructure underpins the foundations of a smart connected ecosystem and data driven decision making.

Smart connected places pave the way for local authorities to optimise service delivery, reduce costs, improve productivity, create economic growth, and deliver meaningful social impact. At a time when local authority budgets are under scrutiny, Intelligens Consulting has long advocated for this holistic approach, where connectivity becomes the foundation upon which smarter places and communities are built and efficiencies are gained.

To remain at the forefront of digital transformation, local authority leaders must seek expert support to continually innovate and leverage their digital capabilities to create truly interconnected, intelligent, and smart environments. To do nothing is not an option. The journey towards smart connected places is an ongoing one, and it is only through sustained effort and strategic foresight that local authorities can realise the full spectrum of benefits that come with such an evolution.

About Intelligens Consulting

Intelligens Consulting is a multiple award-winning telecoms, smart city and digital transformation management consulting firm to investors, operators and local authorities.  Intelligens Consulting collaborates closely with local authorities to enhance digital connectivity and transform communities into smart cities, driving innovation, efficiency, and sustainable growth. Please contact us on should you wish to discuss anything discussed in this article or if you should require our support. Download the full article and infographic below.

20240205 The UK Connectivity Landscape 2024
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Article Notes

In preparing this article, we have sourced our figures from publicly accessible data up to January 31, 2024. We have taken due diligence to ensure the accuracy of the information from our sources; however, we do not hold responsibility for any discrepancies in the data presented. For clarification, the data points are as follows:

The fibre data reflects the average number of premises that have been included in fibre broadband rollouts, as reported by Think Broadband in their January 2024 update.

The 4G figures represent the coverage of outdoor premises across the UK by all Mobile Network Operators, based on Ofcom's January 2024 data.

The 5G statistics pertain to outdoor coverage for all Mobile Network Operators and carry a "High Confidence" designation from Ofcom. This label implies that there is at least an 80% likelihood that the predicted coverage accurately corresponds to the actual service available, based on Ofcom's January 2024 data.

Please consider these details when interpreting the connectivity landscape discussed in this article.


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