Hyperfast broadband coverage is nudging up across the UK and the East of England according to latest data - but still has a way to go.

Data gathering by different organisations shows that full-fibre, gigabit speed broadband is beginning to become much more widely available - leading to far better network reliability across the East.

Across the country as a whole, old copper "superfast" wiring is being replaced with fibre-optic cable - which allows for much faster broadband speeds.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Suffolk is behind Cambridgeshire but it is ahead of Essex and Norfolk in terms of full fibre coverage, according to figures gathered by internet network provider County Broadband from Think Broadband. 

The company - which is based at Aldham, near Colchester - noted that across England as a whole full fibre availability has risen from just 6.2% in February 2019 to 62.4% in February 2024.

Cambridgeshire currently has the highest availability (65.1%) of full fibre broadband in February 2024, compared to Suffolk (61.9%), Essex (58.5%) and Norfolk (46.6%).

Cambridgeshire also saw the biggest boost to its full fibre availability over the last 12 months, with a 20.8 percentage point rise from 44.3% in February 2023.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Suffolk saw a 14.9% improvement (from 47% to 61.9%), 13.6% for Essex (44.9% to 58.5%) and 13.6% in Norfolk (33% to 46.6%). That still leaves two out of five households and premises on slower copper wiring.

Meanwhile, figures from online speed test company Ookla show the UK breaking through into the world top 50 for broadband speeds.

The UK is now achieving an average of 95 Mbps (megabits per second) - ranking it 49th internationally for fixed line broadband speeds in February 2024.

However, it is still behind countries including Trinidad and Tobago (41st, 112 Mbps), Colombia (36th, 124 Mbps), Portugal (21st, 172 Mbps), France (8th, 230 Mbps) and Singapore (1st, 277 Mbps).

Businesses have been campaigning for some time for hyperfast broadband infrastructure to fire the Suffolk economy.

This paper launched its own manifesto for change - Supercharge East - on February 7 calling for measures to power up the local economy through better infrastructure and other improvements.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce's head of public affairs Paul Simon said good, state-of-the-art digital infrastructure would catapult the county into another league - accelerating business innovation, productivity and growth.

East Anglian Daily Times:

"Gaining competitive advantage through the best broadband and wireless speeds is especially important for a predominantly rural county like Suffolk where poor upload and downloads times can be the difference between winning and losing orders," he said.  

“That is why Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has campaigned over many years with other partners to address our county’s remaining 4G super-fast broadband not-spots and to encourage a step-up in the rollout and awareness of next generation opportunities such as 5G, Project Gigabit and the Suffolk and Norfolk Long Range Wide Area Network.

“We are working with Suffolk councils to further boost business awareness and to encourage the speedy rollout of the very best infrastructure to ensure that our businesses and communities are at the front of the various funding queues – and not left to last.”

County Broadband said the reason behind the upturn in average speeds was that as construction of full fibre networks were completed, more were going live. At the same time, more householders and businesses are demanding higher-speed broadband.

Full fibre broadband - also known as Fibre-To-The-Premises (FTTP) - involves installing fibre optic cables directly into premises.

The new large-scale FTTP infrastructure provides speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (gigabit-capable) - which is 11 times quicker than current copper superfast networks.

Full fibre can also be upgraded to 10,000 Mbps in the future and provides vastly superior network reliability due to the technology of the fibre optic cables, said the firm.

Copper-based superfast connections are based on Fibre-To-The-Cabinet (FTTC) technology with fibre cables linked to roadside cabinets then distributed via copper cabling.

County Broadband - which is designing, building and deploying full fibre in more than 250 villages and market towns in the East of England - is backed by  £146m of private investment from Aviva Investors.

It is one of a number of alternative-network (alt-net) providers that now comprise around half of all full fibre connections in the UK and is reaching thousands of rural and remote residents and businesses.

Its East Anglian Daily Times:  said: “It is positive to see both the UK scaling the global league table and the East of England taking giant strides in recent years to ensure we’re not missing out on the clear benefits of gigabit-speed full fibre broadband.

“It is no secret that the only way for the UK to get closer to the likes of Portugal and France at the top of the league table, and for our rural and remote communities across the East of England to reap the benefits of incredibly fast and reliable broadband just as much as urban areas across the country, is through full fibre connections.

“County Broadband is committed to scaling up our current networks and helping to ensure as many premises as possible in our local communities are fully connected, so they too can enjoy the life-changing benefits of full fibre, from remote working and online banking to streaming and gaming.”

The government has set a  target to deliver gigabit-capable speeds across the UK by 2030 - with the help of network provider BT Openreach and alt-net providers like County Broadband.