Exploring the Welsh broadband problem header image

Published: 27th Nov 2013

The issue of broadband services in Wales has received a fair amount of attention in recent weeks, as it has been revealed connections in many parts of the country lag behind those in the rest of the UK. We take a closer look at this problem and what people can do to solve it below.

Slow speeds
The most recent research from Ofcom revealed the typical connection speed in Wales was 13.2 Mbps, compared to the national average of 17.6. However, when it comes to rural areas - which comprise a significant proportion of Wales - speeds drop to six Mbps and this again is lower than the national average.

Such speeds are a long way off being considered super-fast and using connections of this standard makes it harder to enjoy the benefits of the internet such as working from home, video streaming and downloading large files.

Ofcom’s figures also revealed that while 70 per cent of Welsh households have fixed broadband of some sort, only 48 per cent have the potential to receive a super-fast service - the UK average stands at 73 per cent. 

The rural nature of many Welsh communities is likely the main factor behind this, as it is very expensive and time consuming to bring fibre-optic-based broadband to such locations and currently only nine per cent of homes in the countryside can access high-speed services.

Regional differences
Broadband problems are not something that is experienced by everyone in Wales, as research has shown there is a considerable north-south divide in the country. Statistics collected by the Daily Post have revealed the highest average connection speed in northern Wales is just 11.2 Mbps, compared to 21.3 Mbps in Cardiff.

Meanwhile, a study by WalesOnline found only half of the 22 local authorities in the country have high-speed coverage in more than 50 per cent of their constituency.

The impact
Naturally, this poor standard of internet access has wide-reaching consequences for the residents of Wales. As well as making it harder to enjoy the recreational benefits of the web, there are also implications for the economy and education.

Indeed, a report by education watchdog Estyn in July said the government needs to take action to improve connectivity in Wales as the current situation is affecting the quality of teaching at schools. Furthermore, as the internet becomes increasingly important to the business world, Wales-based companies will struggle to compete if broadband services remain slow and unreliable.

What can be done
The government is working to roll out super-fast broadband in Wales, but the project will take at least two years to complete and will only bring high speeds to 90 per cent of households. This isn't the only option however, as satellite broadband is a technology that is ideal for improving connectivity in the country.

Satellite requires no major infrastructural developments to work and can be installed and functioning with speeds of up to 20 Mbps within a few weeks of an order being placed. This makes it perfect for remote locations, which could otherwise face a long wait for an improved service.