New report shows low adoption of next-generation connectivity in some major cities
Aberdeen has the greatest take-up gap of superfast broadband out of any city or town in the UK, 60% of residents failing to take advantage of available connections, according to a new report.
According to the Delivering Change report from the Centre for Cities, 90% of homes in Aberdeen have access to superfast broadband, but only 30% of households have chosen to take advantage of it – a chart-topping 60 percentage point difference. At the other end of the scale, Crawley’s take-up gap of less than 40% is the narrowest of any conurbation included in the report.
The average availability level across the UK stands at 94%, with take-up of 43% – a gap of 51%.
Among the areas where take-up of superfast broadband is lowest are Merseyside (36%) and Greater Manchester (39%).
“Take up will grow as older contracts expire and new speeds are available,” the report said.
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It added that many UK cities are not taking advantage of their digital connections and suggested they need to get ready for the rollout of 5G to avoid falling behind international counterparts. It then set out a series of recommendations for cities, regions and national government to promote both improvements to digital infrastructure and uptake once it’s available.
To increase uptake of broadband, the centre suggested that a focus on skills and on digital exclusion are essential.
It suggested that cities can take action to speed up the rollout of digital infrastructure by making access easier to get pipes, masts and cells in place, by being a testbed or innovator, and by improving market conditions and mitigating risk for companies.
The latter might include city development plans that give investors a clearer idea of the business case and location for investment, using their own procurement power to aggregate demand from businesses, leveraging existing assets that could be used for fibre and taking advantage of the convergence of broadband and mobile.
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “The UK has invested significantly in becoming a global leader for digital infrastructure, but action is needed to ensure more people and businesses in cities across the country can benefit from this technology. Part of the problem is that cities need more powers and resources to address digital skills gaps in their communities. However, the onus is also on cities to learn from the innovations that some places are already pioneering, in using existing technology to transform public services.”
He added: “We also need a concerted effort from national and local leaders to ensure cities can provide the best possible built environment to deliver new digital infrastructure in the coming years, such as the rollout of full fibre and 5G. Other cities and countries across the world have ambitious plans to capitalise on digital technology – UK cities must do the same to compete with global counterparts as we leave the EU.”