Broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps are now available to one in four homes across the UK, Ofcom has said.

But 600,000 people in towns and more rural locations remain restricted to 10Mbps or less.

This year has seen increased demand for faster connections, with many people having to work from home.

The government had promised everyone access to broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps by 2025 – but that target has been cut to 85% of homes.

Nearly eight million UK homes can access 1Gbps broadband, according to Ofcom’s Connection Nations report.

Northern Ireland has the highest availability, with most homes able to access faster services.

In Scotland, 42% have access.

“For millions of families this year, life during lockdown would have been even more difficult without reliable broadband to work, learn, play and see loved ones,” Ofcom network and communications group director Lindsey Fussell said.

“So it is encouraging that future-proof gigabit broadband is now available to a quarter of homes.

“And we expect that to rise even faster in current months.”

According to the report, the average home consumed a third more data than last year, with data usage increasing by 225% over the past four years.

The coronavirus pandemic had driven this surge but also exposed the divide between people able to access fast connections and those who could not, Uswitch head of regulation Richard Neudegg said.

“There are still too many homes without even the most basic broadband speeds,” he said.

“In rural areas, a fifth of households cannot get superfast, which, with a minimum download speed of 30Mbps, is a fraction of full-fibre speed.”

But Assembly consultancy founder Matthew Howett said: “As end-of-term reports go, it’s a pretty encouraging one .

“More households are taking higher-speed packages than last year.

“But take-up of gigabit-capable broadband is still fairly low.”