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The UK's superfast broadband coverage has seen improvements over the last 12 months, but there is still some way to go.

That is the main finding of the Connected Nations 2015 report from industry regulator Ofcom, which compared the performance of the UK in a range of areas to 18 other major countries.

The report found the UK had made good progress when it comes to the availability and take-up of communications service, both of which were found to be a crucial part of many people's personal and working lives.

Fixed broadband services across the country recorded a marked increase in coverage and quality over the last 12 months.

The report found that 27% of homes now have 'superfast' broadband access, up from the 21% recorded a year earlier.

The availability of superfast broadband has reached 83%, up from 75% last year, a rise mainly driven by the rollout of BT's fibre network, as well as Virgin Media converting more more homes to faster packages.

The government's Broadband Delivery UK programme is also helping to extend superfast connectivity to areas otherwise not covered by the commercial market.

Broadband access in rural areas has improved, with coverage reaching a rate of nearly four in ten premises.

However, Ofcom has identified several challenges in implementing improvements, with around 2.4 million homes (8%) still unable to receive broadband speeds of 10 Mbps or above.

That number increases to 48% in rural areas, with speeds affected by premises lying further from the network's local street cabinet or local telephone exchange.

Superfast services are also available to 68% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), although nearly half of SMEs in areas such as business parks are still unable to receive speeds above 10Mbps.

The regulator claims that even if the target of 95% coverage for superfast services is reached by 2017, some 18% of SMEs will still not have access.

Ofcom said it would be working closely with the government and industry to meet these challenges.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: "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 Wi-Fi Checker, to get the most out of their communications.”

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