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Scotland trailing on superfast broadband

Only 9% of rural properties have access to the service. Picture: Contributed

Only 9% of rural properties have access to the service. Picture: Contributed

  • by JANE BRADLEY
 

Superfast broadband is now available to almost three quarters of UK homes – but only 52 per cent of properties in Scotland, an Ofcom report has revealed.

The figure is up from 45 per cent last year, but only 9 per cent of rural homes have access to the service, compared with a quarter across the whole of Britain, according to the watchdog’s “Infrastructure” report.

More than half of Scotland is not covered by any 3G operator, the report showed, while more than a quarter cannot even get access to basic 2G coverage.

Technology experts said that anyone with slower broadband would have to wait 11 hours to download a Blu-ray film.

“The Scots are trailing well behind England and Northern Ireland when it comes to superfast availability – frustrating for anyone suffering sluggish speeds,” said Marie-Louise Abretti, broadband expert at uSwitch.com.

“With mobile internet not up to scratch in Scotland either, Ofcom’s report makes for grim reading.

“There is a glimmer of hope as EE has plans to roll out 4G to rural areas, but the network has suggested these plans may be put on hold if Ofcom increases spectrum fees,” she said.

A total of 4.8 million people across Britain are now using superfast services – more than double that in the previous year.

Consumers are also making far greater use of public wifi hotspots – which allow them to access fixed-line internet via their mobile devices in places such as restaurants, hotels, banks, supermarkets and coffee shops.

Mobile data use in Scotland rose by 51 per cent in 2013, but still remained lower than in the UK overall. The number of public wifi hotspots doubled over the year to 34,000, as demand for the service grew.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “Superfast broadband is rolling out fast across the country, and 4G mobile will reach at least 98 per cent of the population. This is really good news but there remain considerable challenges, not least in hard-to-reach areas for mobile and home internet services.

“We know consumers increasingly expect superfast speeds, but it’s also important to make sure people can connect over a very wide area. That is why we are doing everything we can to support moves to improve coverage in difficult areas such as roads and train lines.”

For the first time, the annual report has looked at mobile coverage on the nation’s roads, revealing that 28 per cent of A and B roads in Scotland do not have 3G coverage from any operator, and only 15 per cent of these roads have 3G coverage from all operators.

It added: “There are a number of reasons why 3G coverage on A and B roads in Scotland is not as high as elsewhere in the UK. These include its size and that it has the highest proportion of rural geographic area in the UK.

“Therefore its A and B roads are more likely to be serving less densely populated parts of the country with fewer users and hence are areas which are more expensive per capita to roll out mobile infrastructure.”

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