Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 00:11 UK

Rural homes 'lead broadband UK'

By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology Correspondent, BBC News

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Rory Cellan-Jones meets the man in North West Scotland who sails across a loch to go online wirelessly.

Rural households are now more likely to have a broadband connection than residents of towns, says Ofcom.

The regulator's regional communications market report shows that 59% of rural households have broadband compared to 57% of urban homes.

It is the first time that the country has overtaken the town, according to the report.

Four years ago urban dwellers were twice as likely to have broadband as those living in the country.

Ed Richards, Ofcom's chief executive, said: "Our report highlights a closing of the geographical digital divide in the UK. Rural households are today as well connected to broadband as their urban neighbours."

The report also reveals big differences in take-up of modern communications across the UK.

House graphic

Sunderland appears to be the UK's most connected city, with 66% of households having broadband and 96% using digital television. Glasgow has the lowest take-up of broadband in the UK at 32%.

Ofcom could not explain why Sunderland was at the top of the broadband league but said Glasgow's position probably reflected low levels of household income and computer ownership.

Broadband figures

By contrast, in the Highlands and Islands, 62% of homes have broadband, and Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee are all well ahead of the UK average.

There has been a major drive to bring broadband to every corner of Scotland, partly to sustain the economies of isolated communities where many residents can now work from home.

Who would have thought that Sunderland would be Britain's most connected city?
Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

Ofcom's report also shows just how rapidly new mobile technology is changing Britain. About 20% of UK households now rely solely on a mobile phone, and in Greater Manchester 28% of homes use a mobile but have no fixed line telephone.

And 3G phones are also taking off rapidly. Dundee is the city with the highest levels of 3G phone use, with nearly three in 10 people using one. Ofcom also provides evidence that the mobile internet is now beginning to take off.

Broadband figures

One in five UK adults has surfed the web on the move, but use is highest in London and Birmingham. In Devon and Cornwall, where 3g phone coverage is pretty sparse, just 7% of people have used the mobile internet.

Large numbers are also watching TV or video online, with a national rate of 30%, but again there are big regional variations. In London, 40% have tried services like the BBC iPlayer, while the figure in Greater Manchester is just 16%.

One more fact from the thousands sprinkled across this comprehensive survey of media habits across the UK - there are now 14,000 Wikipedia articles in Welsh, more than twice as many as the number in Gaelic. Which is not a bad effort, considering that Wales has a lower rate of broadband take-up than the rest of the UK.

DIGITAL BRITAIN

Most connected parts of UK

Digital TV households (top)
Sunderland 96%
Glasgow 95%
Plymouth 92%
Mobile-only households
Greater Manchester 28%
Wales 19%
UK average 12%
3G phone owners
Dundee 29%
London 26%
Liverpool 13%
UK average 17%
Watching online TV
Edinburgh 45%
Newport 19%
UK average 30%
VOIP (voice call over the internet)
Aberdeen 26%
London 20%
Swansea 18%
Birmingham 14%
Liverpool 4%
UK average 12%




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