Ofcom’s Spring 2021 update shows that fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) coverage has grown from 18% in September 2020 to 21%
UK regulator Ofcom has announced its latest interim report on broadband penetration in the UK, showing the fruits of the operators’ efforts to accelerate their network rollouts.
When it comes to fixed broadband, the industry’s progress is clear to see. FTTP coverage has increased 3% since September 2021, now up to 21%. The report notes that while this boost is driven primarily by the larger fibre operators, smaller, regional altnets are also making a significant impact.
Perhaps more impressive, however, is that availability of gigabit broadband, with 10.8 million homes now capable of receiving the service. This represents 37% of the homes in the UK, up 10% since September. This major increase in this figure appears to be mostly derived from Virgin Media upgrading its existing network, but they, as well as Openreach and various altnets, are also rolling out gigabit-capable fibre at an impressive pace.
Currently, the UK government hopes to extend gigabit-capable broadband availability to 85% of homes by the end of 2025. If the industry can maintain the pace of the last four months, then this target will easily be achieved.
The reality, sadly, is that this is unlikely to be possible, especially once the industry begins rolling out the technology to hardest-to-reach areas in the UK. The government’s new £5 billion investment programme, Project Gigabit, should help the operators to reach the final 20% of properties, but whether it will be enough to improve availability quickly enough remains to be seen.
Ultrafast broadband (i.e., >300mbps) availability had also improved by 2% to 61%, while superfast broadband (>30mbps) was unchanged at 96%.
When it comes to mobile, Ofcom’s report only considered 4G, noting little change in coverage, with UK outdoor coverage by all operators at 98% and UK geographic coverage at 69%. 5G coverage has not yet started to be measured.
Despite the positive progress the report shows, the industry must nonetheless accelerate if it is to catch up with its European rivals when it comes to fibre.
“It’s good to see that more than one in five homes can now get this vital service. But this progress shouldn’t hide the fact that this country still lags far behind other European countries who rolled out Full Fibre far more quickly than we have. What’s more, take up is the vital measure – not coverage – and in order to increase that, Full Fibre needs to be affordable for ISPs and consumers alike”
“It is great to read that more UK homes have full fibre broadband, considering all the disruption brought on by the pandemic. While this brings us to a total of 21% of homes, that still means there are approximately 52 million people without access to full fibre broadband,” commented Phil Sorsky, Senior Vice President International at CommScope, discussing the report. “We need infrastructure providers to accelerate their targets for fibre roll out in order to provide equal opportunities for all, regardless of location.”
Such a pledge of acceleration is in fact expected to be announced by BT tomorrow.
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