The Government’s national Broadband Delivery UK programme has today announced that some 4,309,668 additional homes and businesses in the United Kingdom can now order a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) service as a result of their £1.6bn+ public investment.
At present around 92% of premises in the United Kingdom can access a fixed line superfast broadband connection and Phase Two of the BDUK project aims to push this to 95% by 2017/18, before possibly rising up to around 97% by 2020. The rest are likely to be catered for by alternative networks (altnets) and the forthcoming 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO).
Take note that, prior to BDUK, the commercial market (purely private investment) had already enabled operators like BT and Virgin Media to expand the reach of superfast Internet services to around 70% of the country. However, the major operators’ tend to view the final 30% as being “not commercially viable” and so the BDUK programme was setup to offer support via state aid.
So far most of Phase One (90% of the UK) and Phase Two (95% of the UK) have been supported by Openreach’s (BT) deployment of ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and some ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology, as well as a little work from alternative operators like Gigaclear, AB Internet, Call Flow and UKB Networks etc.
However the future expansion beyond 95% will almost certainly involve greater input from alternative network (altnet) ISPs like those mentioned above, which is partly because BT would find it increasingly difficult to cater for such remote areas where the economic model can become prohibitively expensive for a traditional commercial operator.
The “premises passed” figure used below only reflects those able to order “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+ as a result of the BDUK project (i.e. it excludes those that have benefited but which would receive sub-24Mbps speeds). They also exclude “overspill effects” of BDUK-supported projects on premises which already have superfast broadband available.
Likewise the following table only reflects state aid from the Government (BDUK) and does NOT include match-funding from local councils, the EU and other public or even private sources.
The headline figures used above are said to be cash based (i.e. when grants are made or budgets transferred). On an accruals basis, which matches costs incurred to the timing of delivery, cumulative BDUK expenditure to the end of 2016 has been estimated as £548,074,780 and that equates to 7,863 premises covered per £million of BDUK expenditure (expenditure is higher for this because the work has been delivered in advance of payment).
Admittedly the roll-out pace has slowed somewhat since the early years, although this is to be expected because the programme is now concentrating on the most challenging rural and some tedious sub-urban locations (e.g. Exchange Only Lines). Related areas take longer to reach, often cost more and deliver fewer premises passed in the same space of time.
One other final point to make is that future deployment phases, such as those aiming to deliver coverage above 95%, will also be adopting the slightly improved 30Mbps+ definition for “superfast broadband“. The EU and Ofcom have been using this definition for 6 years, although official BDUK contracts have been a bit slow to adopt the same approach.