To Gb or not to Gb?
People already receiving superfast broadband are more likely to take up gigabit than those on a standard speed. This suggests that unequal takeup of gigabit broadband could lead to greater inequality of broadband speed - a digital divide by speed.
Satisfaction with current provision matters greatly for likely take up. Those who feel their current broadband already meets their requirements are less likely to take up gigabit, so these people may need some persuasion of the full benefits of faster and more reliable broadband.
- Those aged 45 years or older in our sample are less likely to take up gigabit than respondents aged 18 to 44.
In 2019, the average home broadband speed in the UK was 64Mbs and only 2% of the UK population had gigabit-capable broadband (speeds of over 1Gbps). The government has an ambition to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, but achieving this will depend on households switching their broadband package to the new technology.
However, previous work by Which? on the adoption of superfast broadband has found that a number of behavioural barriers existed that inhibited consumers from switching their broadband and were holding back adoption.
Estimating likelihood of take up
To examine this issue, we conducted a consumer survey on knowledge and attitudes towards gigabit technology. The survey data was then analysed to see whether there existed demographic differences in the likelihood of takeup of gigabit broadband.
The survey asked five questions relating to the likelihood of takeup (see the technical annex for details). To maximise sample size and to distinguish between individuals who consistently respond with answers indicating high likelihood and those who only sometimes indicate high likelihood, we combined the answers to the five questions to create a single likelihood scale.
To assess what factors have the strongest influence on likelihood, we conducted a multivariate regression analysis. Several models were estimated to control and test for different factors and we found the results were robust to alternative specifications.
Using our survey sample, and our preferred specification of the regression model, we found the following factors were statistically significant in determining current likelihood of adopting gigabit capable broadband:
Women are less likely than men.
People aged 45 and over are less likely than people aged 18-44.
Smaller households (with 1 to 4 people) are less likely than larger households.
Households with an income of less than £28,000 are less likely.
People who believe that their current broadband meets their speed and reliability needs are less likely.
People on standard broadband or who don’t know their internet speed are less likely to take up gigabit broadband than people who have superfast broadband.
However, other demographic variables that we might have expected to be related to likelihood of take up were not found to be significantly related. For example, the regression analysis found no difference in likelihood according to whether people lived in rural or urban areas. This is despite there being a correlation between these variables when we do not control for other variables. It indicates that other variables are more important. In this case, age seems to matter more than location as older people are both more likely to live in rural areas and are less likely to switch to gigabit-capable broadband.
Our analysis indicates that people who currently have the slowest speeds (i.e. standard broadband) are less likely than people with higher speeds, both superfast or ultrafast, to take up gigabit broadband. This is concerning as our results imply that, without intervention, there will be greater inequality of internet speed. It could create a digital divide by speed with those with standard broadband lagging behind.
People whose broadband currently meets their needs (in terms of speed and reliability) are less likely to take up gigabit. However, this may be that they cannot anticipate their future needs and the potential benefits of faster and more reliable broadband. These people may need to be persuaded that these benefits are sufficiently great to switch to gigabit broadband. The demographic differences such as gender and age also suggest that different approaches may be needed for different groups to help overcome barriers.
This analysis is just one part of the puzzle of understanding how to encourage adoption of gigabit. Which? is working alongside DCMS, CBI and FSB as part of The Gigabit Takeup Advisory Group (GigaTAG) and will report to the government in Spring 2021 with a set of recommendations to help ensure that all consumers and businesses across the UK are ready to take advantage of the benefits of gigabit connectivity.
If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please contact Denise Lovett at firstname.lastname@example.org
A nationally representative survey of 2,072 individuals was conducted by Populus on behalf of Which? in June 2020 to gather knowledge and attitudes towards gigabit technology. Full technical details of the regression analysis are contained in this annex.