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UPDATE UK Still Absent on World Ultrafast FTTH Broadband Ranking

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 (11:52 am) - Score 1,969
fibre optic cable strands coloured

The FTTH Council Europe, which campaigns for the adoption of ultrafast Gigabit (1000Mbps+) capable Fibre-to-the-Home broadband technology, has published its latest global ranking of FTTH/P/B progress and unsurprisingly the United Kingdom still doesn’t even make it to the list.

Mind you it’s important to stress that a growing number of operators are deploying ultrafast FTTH/P services in the United Kingdom, with BT (Openreach) having already covered (premises passed) around 200,000 Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) lines and KC in Hull aiming to reach 105,000 premises by March 2017.

Elsewhere B4RN has also connected 1,600+ to FTTH/P in rural Lancashire and Gigaclear could cover 40,000 by the end of 2016 or possibly 80,000 a little further down the road. On top of that you also have Hyperoptic, plus various joint and independent developments from Cityfibre, TalkTalk, Sky Broadband and many smaller operators. Lest we not forget that Virgin Media are doing a little FTTP via Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG).

Overall we’d guesstimate that there are currently over 400,000 premises passed in the UK with FTTH/P networks and this figure rises dramatically if you use the more hypothetical “addressable market” term that Cityfibre enjoys, but in our view that is a poor gauge for actual real-world coverage.

At this point you might thus be wondering why the UK does not appear on the FTTH Council’s ranking and that’s simply because their table is based upon market penetration, where generally you need to have a certain proportion of homes subscribing to the service in order to be included and we’re not quite there yet.

2016_ftth_global_ranking

The good news is that UK FTTH/P coverage looks set to continue rising and at an increasingly rapid pace over at least the next few years, provided Ofcom doesn’t do something in their Strategic Review to screw that up. But we might still have to wait a little while longer before the FTTH Council shows us in their ranking and when they do we’ll be coming in at the bottom.

The main reason for that is of course because the most dominant two telecoms operators (in terms of infrastructure) – BT and Virgin Media – tend to prefer slower hybrid-fibre technologies like FTTC, G.fast and DOCSIS that usually adopt a mix of fibre optic, copper and coaxial cables to deliver their services. This is cheaper and faster to deploy than FTTH/P, but delivers slower speeds and often requires more maintenance over the longer term. The FTTH Council does not include these methods as they are not pure fibre optic lines.

UPDATE 18th Feb 2016:

Some extra details have just come in. At end-September 2015, there were more than 17.9 million FTTH/B subscribers on the European continent, excluding CIS countries (namely Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine). After Russia, which counts more than 15 million subscribers, the other largest markets in absolute figures are Spain (reaching 2.6 million subscribers with 65% growth rate over nine months), France (2.4 million subscribers with 31% growth) and Romania (2.3 million subscribers).

Three new economies have now entered the FTTH Ranking: Croatia, Germany and Poland. The deployment of FTTH in these countries was led by initiatives by both private operators and policy makers. For example, in Germany fibre projects led by municipalities coupled with private players had a great impact on fibre rollout in the country.

In terms of penetration, while Lithuania is still number one in the ranking with a penetration rate of 36.8%, Latvia (36.2%) and Sweden (35.2%) have made impressive progress. Both countries are now nearing lead position after greatly increasing their penetration rate since end-December 2014. They are not the only countries racing forward.

Luxembourg’s penetration rate gained almost three points from 11.2% at end-December 2014 to 14.1% at end-September 2015. The high-level engagement and support of politicians, along with the involvement of incumbent operator POST and other stakeholders, explain the significant rise in penetration.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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14 Responses
  1. Avatar MikeW

    You estimate 400,000 coverage?

    With the number of premises around 28 million, and the last census coming up with 26.4 million households, surely that estimate would mean the UK is over the 1% threshold for the FTTH council?

    • The FTTH Council Ranking is talking about subscribers, as explained above.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Doh! Good point.

      I wonder how that chart changes for coverage rather than penetration. Looking at old presentations, takeup is around 25%. If we follow that (and it seems in line with superfast takeup here, so it is plausible), we’ll need coverage of a million before appearing.

  2. Avatar New_Londoner

    The self selected “FTTH Council” (mainly FTTP equipment manufacturers)seems to believe two things:

    1. Having Gigabit speed broadband is good and worth buying its kit to deliver
    2. FTTH is required to deliver Gigabit speeds

    On the first point, hardly a surprise but it is rather biased! What evidence does it have to make the business case that gigabit is important today (eg vs say 50Mb today, 500Mb in 5 years and gigabit in 10 years)?

    On the second point, what about developments such as XGfast and even bonded GFast? Oh, and what about Ethernet for businesses that do need gigabit speeds today?

    In my view this is promotional puff from manufacturers masquerading as market research.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “Oh, and what about Ethernet for businesses that do need gigabit speeds today”

      Explain.

      There is no widespread gigabit broadband available in the UK.

    • Avatar MikeW

      The FTTH council is going to end up in something of a confused state.

      They already allow FTTB to qualify (presumably to help their stats look better), so long as the fibre gets within a couple of metres of the building, or within a couple of metres of one building in a cluster.

      But they don’t qualify what copper technologies they allow for the in-building portion. It could be anything. They also don’t specify any speed targets.

      Which means, of course, they could already accept FTTB with in-building VDSL2.

      The South Korean’s will also qualify with their FTTB systems that are being upgraded with G.now. That has very similar capabilities to G.Fast.

      At which point, they’ll probably be forced to include MDU deployments with FTTB and G.Fast, even if the copper has to reach over 100m to the furthest apartments.

      Once they accept that, they’re going to look silly when FTTdp with G.Fast on the final drop performs identically to some of the FTTB architectures that they do accept.

      All of a sudden, that nice inclusion of FTTB starts to look no more than arbitrary.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – are you saying VM cannot provide it to 50% of the population?

      Isn’t 10G internet access available to 90% of businesses?

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: First of all, I must apologise. It was supposed to be a reply to New_Londoner (unless you are the same poster?)

      About your question: This is about fibre broadband, not leased lines! And yes, unless you can show me otherwise, there is virtually no widespread fibre broadband in the UK (I am not talking about VDSL).

    • Avatar FibreFred

      His point is that businesses can buy 1G and 10 Internet access all over the UK.

      Which they can

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @GNewton

      “Oh, and what about Ethernet for businesses that do need gigabit speeds today”
      Explain.
      There is no widespread gigabit broadband available in the UK.

      You’re correct that, AFAIK, there is no widespread gigabit broadband available today (nor is there widespread demand but that is another matter). There is however widespread availability of Ethernet for businesses at speeds of up to 40Gbps I believe, more if you take multiple connections.

      In my view, the report is all a bit of nonsense, as exemplified by the graph. For example, Russia appears to be ranked fourth, however only 3% of the 30% of premises can get FTTP, the remainder being FTTB,the throughput of which to individual premises in a large block could well be less than VDSL – and certainly less than a G.Fast deployment to individual premises.

      Or take France, with around 8.5% of premises connected, but again only 1.5% with FTTP. When you consider the appallingly low availability of any form of fibre broadband in France (less than half that of the UK), why on earth would you want to wait a long time simply to get FTTB? And again, why is this better than FTTC today with an upgrade path to G.Fast?

      Anyone in the “FTTP or bust” camp needs to look at these stats and reflect on the trade off in time and cost to deliver it (and being on ADSL in the meantime), verses a series of incremental upgrades in a timely manner to keep up with real bandwidth needs? A basic understanding of finance (eg TVM) would also be helpful.

      In summary, always be suspicious of reports like this from trade bodies clearly motivated by selling their kit to network operators. Especially when the underlying premise is so obviously flawed.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @New_Londoner: Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      About France, as far as I know France had 4 million FTTH homes in 2015, and will increase this to 20 million FTTH homes in 2022. Also, unlike in the UK, in France when they talk about fibre broadband, it really means just that, and not inferior hybrid fibre-copper solutions.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @GNewton
      So you’d wait 6 more years on ADSL until you got FTTP rather than have FTTC now, and probably a G.Fast upgrade before your FTTP arrived? And what specifically would FTTP enable you to do today that you could not do with FTTC?

      Bearing in mind the incredibly slow build speeds for FTTP, let alone the greatly inflated costs of kit and manpower, you need to have a really compelling case to justify building it. Especially for those people waiting 6 years before they get it, let along for the millions that won’t get anything in France, presumably due to the cost?

      I think this explains why the economic impact of digital is so much greater in the UK than other countries. A pragmatic approach to infrastructure that has enabled our economy to benefit much more quickly.

    • Avatar gerarda

      @New_Londoner – Given that the SEP contracts are already stretching out to 2019/20 and that period only does half the outstanding premises you must have a fairly fluid definition of “now”

  3. Avatar ExKYPROS

    Off topic but here’s an anecdote from the dark ages.
    1979 CYTA (Cyprus telecoms Authority) International direct dialling available.
    Could call family from my house.
    Public Kiosks which calculated cost of call and issued change.

    1979 Cornwall UK Had to place calls through an operator to call family less than 50 miles away.

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