Although the gap is narrow, the fact that Britain has overtaken the US, traditionally the home of Internet and technology developments, was welcomed as highly symbolic by industry experts.
A spokesman for Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, said: “Broadband in the UK is proving to be one of the most significant and rapidly growing technologies of recent times.”
Analysts said the increasing uptake of broadband in Britain was down to several factors, including more competition, cheaper prices and greater investment by telecoms and Internet companies in the technology. More people were also starting to understand the advantages that broadband offered over dial-up services.
Blair Wadman, of uSwitch, which compares prices of Internet and telecoms products, said: “Our perceptions of the US are of it being ahead of us in many technological developments including broadband. But in the UK the availability of broadband has increased substantially so that everyone can have it if they want it and, in recent years, the increased number of suppliers has driven down prices.”
In Britain broadband take-up was initially slow. But, according to Ofcom, about 250,000 households are now signing up for the “always-on” Internet access each month — the equivalent of a city the size of Sheffield.
There are now more than 100 suppliers of broadband in Britain including players such as NTL, Telewest and BT. New players are still entering the market and speeds are constantly being upgraded.
Be, a Swedish Internet start-up, recently became the first player in Britain to provide 24 megabits per second (Mbps), “next generation” broadband.
Until early last year the average price for a 1 Mbps broadband connection in Britain was £35, now it is less than £20.
Tim Johnson, of Point Topic, said the US broadband market was now less competitive than Britain’s. “Although the US telecoms players face strong competition from cable companies, they do not face the same fierce level of competition from resellers and local loop unbundling that there is in the UK,” he said.
Despite Britain’s success, it is ranked only fourth in broadband density across the group of G7 countries, the research found, behind Canada, Japan and France.
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