Ofcom launches WiFi checker for improved broadband

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Free app enables consumers and businesses to assess the quality of their broadband connection, offering help to enable them to get the best from it

Ofcom has launched a WiFi checker app to enable users to check whether their in-home signal is providing them with the best service possible.

The tool, which is available as a free download on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, allows consumers and businesses to discover the quality of their WiFi signal, as well as offering steps to help people get the best from their connection.

Ofcom report

It is being launched alongside Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2015 report, which aims to take an in-depth look at the telecoms and wireless networks of the UK and its nations.

This revealed that wireless broadband may not be working as well as it could in nearly six million UK homes and offices,, which Ofcom said is often caused by the WiFi set-up slowing down broadband.

It shows 27 per cent or 7.5 million homes now have ‘superfast’ broadband – with a connection of 30Mbps or more, up from 21 per cent or six million homes a year earlier.

Superfast broadband is now available in 83 per cent or almost 24 million homes, up by 75 per cent from last year. Ofcom said this has been driven by BT rolling out its fibre network, virgin Media converting more homes to faster packages, and the Government’s ongoing Broadband Delivery UK programme extending superfast into areas not covered by the commercial market.

Broadband in rural areas is also improving, with superfast speeds available to 37 per cent or 11 million premises.

BT-broadband-web

Broadband challenges

However, the report also found that challenges still exist in improving UK coverage. Around eight per cent or 2.4 million homes can’t receive speeds of 10Mbps or above. This increases to 48 per cent or 1.5 million in rural areas, where speeds can be affected by premises lying further from the network’s local street cabinet or local telephone exchange.

Superfast services are now available to the premises of 68 per cent or almost 900,000 SME premises, up from 56 per cent in 2014.

However, almost half of SMEs (around 130,000) in areas like business parks are unable to receive speeds above 10Mbps.

Ofcom estimates that by 2017, when 95 per cent of all UK premises will have superfast broadband, around 18 per cent of SMEs will still not have access to a superfast service.

Working with Government 

It said it is working closely with the Government and industry to meet these challenges and improve coverage for all internet users and last month announced it was providing technical advice to it to inform it of its plans.

Ofcom is also working to remove barriers for smaller providers to invest in new network deployments, which often serve areas with little or no existing coverage.

According to the report, a 10Mbps connection remains the tipping point, after which most people rate their experience as ‘good’.

Ofcom added that looking ahead, industry and policy makers are considering what networks are needed to support the next generation of superfast services, with the report finding ‘ultrafast’ broadband, which it defines as a speed greater than 300Mbps, is available to 2 per cent or 500,000 homes.

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White
Ofcom chief executive Sharon White

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said: “Mobile and broadband have become the fourth essential service, alongside gas, electricity and water. There’s been a technological revolution over recent years, with 4G mobile and superfast continuing to extend across the country.

“Our challenge is to keep supporting competition and innovation, while also helping to improve coverage across the country – particularly in hard-to-reach areas, where mobile and home internet services need to improve.

“It’s vital that consumers have the tools they need, such as the new WiFi Checker, to get the most out of their communications.

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