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Vodafone – Just 6.5% of UK Homes Covered via FTTP Broadband by 2020

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016 (10:33 am) - Score 1,321
fibre optic broadband cables

A new Vodafone commissioned study from Point Topic has predicted that only 6.5% of UK households can expect to be covered by Gigabit (1000Mbps+) capable FTTP/H fibre optic broadband cables by 2020, but other data from Point Topic forecasts a figure of 9.4% when business premises are included.

At present just shy of 2% of premises in the United Kingdom have been covered by a Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP/H) based pure fibre optic broadband service, including 330,000 premises passed via Openreach’s (BT) national network and the rest from alternative network (AltNet) providers.

However Vodafone warns that only 6.5% of UK households can expect to receive gigabit-capable fibre-optic cables by 2020 and they claim that BT’s focus on 330Mbps hybrid-fibre G.fast technology will only improve UK “ultrafast broadband” coverage by around 3.78%, largely due to the presence of Virgin Media’s similarly capable Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) network in many of the same urban areas. We’ve pasted the full results at the bottom of this article, which includes a breakdown of forecast FTTP/H coverage across the UK’s various regions.

At this point we note that Vodafone fails to strictly define the speed for “ultrafast“, but since they reference it alongside Virgin and BT’s G.fast then we’ll assume it reflects the a top speed of around 100-300Mbps+. Meanwhile “Gigabit” performance is more strictly associated with FTTP/H, at least for now, and usually means 1000Mbps+ (1Gbps or faster).

Vodafone also claims that 80% of homes in Sweden and Spain are “already passed by fibre” and in Portugal the figure is now above 60%. Portugal and Spain are apparently expected to get to 95% FTTP coverage by 2020, which is well above the UK but then linear country-to-country comparisons are tricky animals to fairly balance. Sadly the EU’s own data is now woefully out of date (here).

Helen Lamprell, Vodafone’s UK Director of External Affairs, said:

“We call upon BT to be up-front with the British public about its roll out plans and acknowledge that G.Fast will do nothing to help those stranded on archaic and woefully inadequate broadband today.

BT is pushing a muddled compromise rooted in the past, while the rest of the world is focused on building the Gigabit Society at light speed over fibre.”

As usual some of the points that Vodafone make require a little clarification. The first thing we’d say is that BT’s G.fast deployment has made no secret of the fact that it’s a commercial project and will focus on rolling out to economically viable urban areas, which should largely mirror Virgin Media’s own reach (i.e. BT’s primary infrastructure competition in the urban space).

The Government has already hinted that they may eventually need to recreate something similar to today’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, which would be needed in order to help push ultrafast broadband technology beyond the low hanging fruit of urban and busy sub-urban areas.

Vodafone’s criticism of BT’s G.fast deployment is also a touch weak unless they themselves are similarly willing to commit clear funding to help deliver truly universal FTTP, but in practice Vodafone would face many of the same economic and engineering challenges in doing non-urban areas as BT; irrespective of Openreach’s future status as independent or not.

However we do know that G.fast and FTTP from BT will later be pushed out to “most” UK homes by 2025 and ISPreview.co.uk has previously predicted that such a roll-out would be similar in scope to BT’s commercial FTTC deployment, potentially reaching around 60-70% UK coverage. On the other hand Openreach has yet to set a solid target for their post-2020 strategy.

Another problem is that Vodafone’s figures are focused on “households” and Point Topic informs ISPreview.co.uk that this excludes business premises, which is a key distinction. The predicted FTTP/H coverage figure of 6.4% in Vodafone’s report thus rises to 9.4% when you look at total coverage (premises passed), including both homes and businesses.

Here’s what Point Topic actually predicts for the UK (overall total coverage) by 2020 and then also 2025, with the “Net premises” figure below reflecting the total in terms of “ultrafast broadband” coverage (note: Point Topic define this as 100Mbps+, rather than the 300Mbps+ mooted by Ofcom).

ultrafast_broadband_coverage_by_2025

The above also reflects the fact that BT has already promised to make their own Gigabit capable FTTP network available to 2 million UK premises by 2020 and Virgin Media has just set a similar target for 2019 (total of around 4 million).

Meanwhile Alternative Network (AltNet) ISPs have so far been able to deliver around 400,000 – 650,000 premises passed via FTTP/H/B (here), depending upon which set of figures you believe. There’s also a rather overly optimistic prediction from INCA that, with the right support, AltNet’s could reach 4.9 million premises by 2020.

If all of the above pans out then FTTP coverage by 2020 could be a fair bit stronger than the 9.4% currently predicted, potentially rising to around 20-30%. Otherwise here are the figures from Vodafone, make of them what you will but remember these are only for “households“.

Nations and Regions UK Households in FTTP footprint (coverage in 2020) UK Households in G.Fast Footprint (coverage in 2020) UK Households in G.Fast Footprint incremental to cable (coverage in 2020)
North East 2.8% 33.7% 5.02%
East of England 4.2% 26.4% 2.76%
South East 4.3% 24.6% 2.35%
East Midlands 5.0% 30.7% 1.59%
North West 5.1% 39.7% 5.63%
West Midlands 5.3% 42.8% 2.27%
Northern Ireland 5.7% 27.2% 5.18%
Yorkshire and The Humber 7.7% 29.0% 4.07%
Scotland 8.4% 54.3% 4.98%
South West 8.9% 17.3% 1.87%
London 9.2% 52.9% 4.66%
Wales 11.5% 30.5% 7.94%
TOTAL 6.5% 35.0% 3.78%

UPDATE 1:50pm

Point Topic has now released a bit more detail on the overall figures, which splits the household (HH) and business (Bus.) coverage.

ultrafast_broadband_coverage_by_2025_point_topic

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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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34 Responses
  1. Avatar Oggy

    I’m sure Voda will be getting their chequebook out to build their own fibre network so all those not able to get a connection from BT or Virgin can get a connection from them.

    Or maybe not….

    • Avatar brianv

      Or more taxpayer bungs to BT? HMG hoping to save face as Britain languishes at the very bottom of the OECD league for fibre availability. With just 2.3℅ of homes passed by fibre, compared to 65℅ – 70℅ in the former Soviet bloc, we are the laughing stock of Europe.

      According to FT today, the Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce in Autumn Statement tomorrow, another dollop of public cash for BT – the charity case of telcos.

      Hammond will announce £400m cash pot to fund FTTP for two million premises. Or so Hammond hopes. Targetting mainly business parks and the beleaguered “high street” reports the FT. Mary Berry will be pleased(!)

      Devil in detail of course, with Hammond reckoning private finance will stump up a further £1bn (from where and why now?)

      And that £400m public funding must also fund more FTTC in rural areas, and 5g trials.

      Drop in the ocean once that public cash is spread across those three separate projects. And with BT the main recipient, we can be sure it won’t go very far.

      Alas, it’s another bum deal for internet users in Britain. Too little, too late. And no evidence of that private match-funding even coming through.

      Universal FTTP rollout for Britain has been costed at £25bn. Money that privately-owned BT could never find by itself. It has other more pressing priorities. Foremost, plugging the enormous gaping hole in its pension fund. That Pension Deficit now standing at a staggering £14bn. And rising rapidly, says UBS. Clearly no cash left over for FTTP rollout.

      The best answer would see BT’s loathsome Openreach unit spun-off as separate company, without delay.

      Rival operators – Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone et al – then invited to form a consortium. Buying their own stakes in the newly-formed Openreach PLC. A chance for then to come together to invest in the country’s fibre future.

      Each consortium member tapping their own investors to fund that £25bn required to bring universal FTTP to every home in Britain.

      What’s the alternative? Leaving our fibre future to BT? To screw up for another 20 years? With more of its copper kludging? Sweating its corroded copper network for every last shekel?

      Time to say no more. Britain deserves better. Britain must have fibre today.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @brianv: I have to agree with your thoughts. Though the issue of BT’s pension deficit burden would have to be sorted out. The usual idea of using historical employment patterns to shift a large portion of this pension burden to an independent Openreach won’t work, and would be counter-productive. The remainder BT (without Openreach) would need to become more like a business, less regulation, it already is moving towards becoming a media company.

    • Avatar brianv

      Here’s the FT article on the paltry £400m that Hammond will announce tomorrow for FTTP rollout, and FTTC to the shires, and 5G trials.

      It will have spread very thinly, given the way BT squanders public money.

      https://www.ft.com/content/53b8abfa-affb-11e6-a37c-f4a01f1b0fa1

    • Avatar brianv

      The BT Trolls are out in force this morning! Are they coordinated from a central control room at Newgate Street?

    • Avatar fastman

      really Brian V so fastman wonders why Voda and Others have not announced big commercial network plans and did not bid for BDUK when they had the chance or invested 2.5bn if their own funding prior to any Government funding (which also has to be matched) !!!! — oh — that because its hard and costs money and the is a lon period of return and its easier just to Snipe and do nothing — will be vey interssting to see if anything changes — I suspect not

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      ” Are they coordinated from a central control room at Newgate Street?”

      More like tiny cubicles…. Which is where they should be kept 24/7.

  2. Avatar AndyC

    Put ya money where your mouth is voda….. maby if more of the “big” players sold openreachs fttp products AND there was good uptake there would be a huge case for bypassing g.fast and rolling out fttp. As it is they are targeting new builds, yes its cheaper but at least they are now thinking of the future.

  3. The Ofcom versus the rest of the world ultrafast definition game is over, Virgin is making 300 Mbps option available in more areas, and once that goes standard Ofcom will jump from a low 2% to 51% or more.

    OH WAIT – that’s the idea proclaim the jump is down to policy decisions.

  4. Avatar gerarda

    This is the same Vodafone that promised Ofcom it would have 98% indoor 3G coverage by the end of 2015?

  5. Avatar Tolq

    I am bit surprised to see such high expected figures for Scotland – particularly for G.Fast considering the reach limitations vs. geographic population spread. Can anyone explain?

  6. Avatar GerbilTamer

    Vodafone Spain – FTTP project 9M properties
    Vodafone UK – FTTP project ZERO

    Unwilling to invest in the country where they have their head office…

    Kettle Pot Black…

    • Avatar brianv

      Another BT Troll, deflecting from the mess created by the Scrooge incumbent.

      Let’s just get Openreach spun-off. So that committed investors can fund our fibre future.

      BT sure as hell won’t bankroll FTTP. Not with a huge black hole in its pension fund to plug.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      You don´t understand the simple English? It´s a very old proverb…

      BT crap… Vodafone crap…. hence kettle calling pot black… not very bright are you?

  7. Avatar FibreFred

    So vodafone

    • Avatar FibreFred

      …joins the sky and talktalk who complain about a lack of widespread fttp yet as a telco do nothing about it.

      All the whining is just game playing trying to divert the attention and lack of investment away from them.

    • Avatar brianv

      Vodafone will invest in FTTP, but not with BT gouging all the profits. The spin-off of Openreach is so overdue, it’s painful waiting.

      A well-seasoned BT Troll like your good self, FibreFred, know that any way.

    • Avatar AndyH

      Some intelligent comments by brianv (who clearly has multiple usernames).

      Anyone who doesn’t criticise BT = a troll sent from the evil organisation

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Oh Carpetburn ever the man of disguise eh… how you like to fool us 🙂

      Vodafone can gouge their own profits by building their own network, just like naughty Virgin gouges and Hyperoptic and all of the others that build their own networks.

      The telco market is full of back stabbers, rather then get on and build these networks people are supposed to be craving them spend most of the time saying

      “Hey look what they aren’t doing (please don’t look at us)”

      Only Virgin and BT are investing and making a difference, the others just continue to cry a river.

    • Avatar brianv

      BT cannot afford to invest in anything for years to come. It will do well to just keep its bankrupt pension fund afloat. Or will it go cap-in-hand to the government over that? Just as it has with the BDUK FTTC fiasco. Please Mr Hammond, Sir, may we have some more cash?

      I can actually see BT agreeing to spin-off Openreach. Just so long as the taxpayer agrees to take on the BT Pension Fund liabilities. All £45bn of liabilities. Completely dwarfing any value left in Openreach. Such is the miser mindset of the telco from hell.

    • Avatar AndyH

      The net pension liability as of 30 Sep was £9.5bn. The recent move in bond yields means you can easily reduce that liability by £1bn now. But hey, I wouldn’t want to get in the way of some real facts and figures on here….

    • Avatar brianv

      Nope. We’ve been through this already, @AndyH. There are Liabilities and there is a Deficit. Not the same thing.

      The total liabilities of BT’s Defined Benefit Pension Scheme are £53 billion and rising.

      From the FT — (“BT pension deficit balloons by nearly £3bn” by Josephine Cumbo; Financial Times; June 17, 2016):

      https://www.ft.com/content/59b0da16-347a-11e6-bda0-04585c31b153

      —–
      A funding update this week showed the group’s pension deficit had widened from £7bn in 2014 to £9.9bn by the end of June 2015.
      ..
      Over the period, the value of the scheme’s assets had grown from £40bn to £43bn, but its liabilities, or the cost of future pension promises, had risen from £47bn to £53bn.
      —–

      Those are BT’s own figures. Though Swiss bank UBS reckons the Deficit is being grossly understated by the troubled telco, and the pension fund shortfall as at Oct 2016 is at least £14.2bn.

      Just as a benchmark, the size of that pension black hole – £14.2bn – would be enough to roll-out FTTP to more than half of Britain. The total UK bill for FTTP rollout has been estimated at £20bn to £25bn.

      Starkly illustrating just what a mess BT is in, and how poorly it manages its finances.

      BT Group has reached the point of no return now. Its funding crisis and starving of fibre investment will go on indefinitely without outside intervention.

      That’s why spinning-off Openreach is so important. To attract new finance for upgrading the network to FTTP. With an independent Openreach, BT’s competitors would happily invest in our fibre future. While BT is still gouging all the access fees, no chance of any collaboration.

      At the moment Openreach is struggling on a shoe-string budget. Poorly-trained linesmen on a never-ending, penny-pinching programme of patching up the collapsing copper network. That just can’t go on.

      For chrissake, even the former Ceausescu dictatorship of Romania has rolled-out FTTP to 70% of premises. Britain should be aiming for that and more. But only with BT Group removed from the equation.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      So who is going to invest “brian” in this new Openreach where investment FTTP may not see a return for many many many years (in some areas if ever)

      Who is waiting on the sidelines to invest?

      5 companies, 4 ?

      One?

      Anyone?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      It’s a tough one isn’t it. Brian/Evan/Deduction/Carpetburn

      When the questions get tough, switch id

      The classic traits of a troll

  8. Avatar MikeW

    More information, including a UK coverage map, over on Point Topic’s own website
    http://point-topic.com/free-analysis/forecasting-ultrafast-broadband-uk-2016-2020-2025/

    Strangely, they aren’t touting it as commissioned by Vodafone.

    One piece of commentary they make:

    In this context BTs strategy to focus FTTP on business and G.fast on residential areas makes sense.

    What context? Go and have a read.

    Interesting too to see that, where they mention FTTP, they seem to be limit this to “native” FTTP variants (such as GPON), while VM’s style of fibre to the home (that carries RFOG) is classified alongside the DOCSIS variants. In the context of how PT are measuring, and how VM are using their fibre, I think that’s a fair classification.

  9. Avatar Chris P

    Just why do we need fibre to the home when 5g is on the horizon.
    For many 4g access is totally acceptable. 5g will be faster (speeds and latency) with more coverage and costs will be super competitive.
    Vodafone are several times larger than BT. They could just by BT. and do what they want with it including flooding the country with fttp and then spinning of openreach for all and sundry to pillage. Wouldn’t be something their shareholders would support though as would represent a very poor return on investment effectively supporting their competitors whilst competing against their own 5g.

    Vodafone are clearly trying to force BT to spend money they don’t need to in order to out compete them when 5g arrives.

    5g is why BT purchased EE. (Who needs a fixed connection when 5g is just as good)
    5g is why Vodafone didn’t by Virgin Media (who needs a fixed connection when 5g is just as good)
    5g is why Virgin is now rushing to expand their reach. (Triple play cross selling)

    In 2020 people will be ditching fibre for 5g due to 5g being much much cheaper and likely faster (less upstream contention from top tier provider vs smaller altnet)

    • Avatar Lee

      You seem to be forgetting that almost no mobile providers offer unlimited data packages. So while you claim 5G is superior to FTTP (which it won’t be) You still have the small issue of the amount of data people will be able to use across said 5G connections.

    • Avatar Evan Crissall

      Like most of the trolls here, Lee, he hasn’t got a clue. He’s been sold on the 5G headlines, without understanding the physics and limitations of the technology.

      There’s a finite spectral capacity in all wireless solutions. That’s basic Information Theory.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory

      That capacity is governed by a formula called the Shannon-Hartley Theory.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannon%E2%80%93Hartley_theorem

      You can only modulate a certain amount of data in a bandwidth of n MHz with [RF] noise present. Hence the reason no credible and honest cellular provider will provide unlimited 3G/4G/5G data tariffs.

    • Avatar MikeW

      You can’t beat Shannon’s theory, but they are certainly trying to work around it in 5G, using techniques such as massive MIMO, beamforming, and many radio heads.

      If it works out that 5G really can fit people’s bandwidth demands into the 3D space of shared spectrum (of which there is no guarantee), it still doesn’t actually get rid of the fibre. Instead, it just shifts the need for fibre from feeding the home, to feeding the many radio heads instead.

      Myself, I don’t see 5G doing much more than supplying people’s needs when they are mobile – needs which are growing daily. I don’t see it managing to cope with the fixed demands when at home or at work. On this, though, I could be wrong.

    • Avatar Chris P

      @Evan Crissall

      Shannon-Hartley Theory in no way dictates whether a carrier can provide unlimited data tariffs. It dictates the maximum throughput over time with a base station. It does not stop a handset modem talking to multiple base stations and does not stop a base station rationing bandwidth to some subscribers over others.

      @Lee

      13 years ago 3 launched their service with an emphasis on people making video calls to each other on their 3g network. Hardly anyone wanted to make video calls, most wanted free skype calls and barely anyone was using it for meaningful data with data packages measured in MB’s of usage.
      13 years later we make free video calls over WiFi and have cheap data packages over 4g that is as fast if not quicker than VDSL/Cable packages. I’m on vm’s 70mb/5mb service and a speedtest on three’s 4g service gives me 70/20, a significant improvement in upload, whilst my three package is of a fixed usage its also lots cheaper than my VM package, i pay just £10 and never exceed my allowances. I can get 30gb per month on three for £27, virgins 50mbs service is currently £27 + installation fee.

      Using today’s mobile phone technology I can get faster cheaper BB over 4g than from the nations only cable operator.

      i can’t see 5g being worse than 4g and i can’t see carriers pricing 5g so hi people don’t buy it.

      5G planning aims at higher capacity than current 4G, allowing higher number of mobile broadband users per area unit, and allowing consumption of higher or unlimited data quantities in gigabyte per month and user. This would make it feasible for a large portion of the population to stream high-definition media many hours per day with their mobile devices, when out of reach of wifi hotspots

      have a read of the ngmn white papers that is the genesis of 5g to understand where they are aiming 5g for.
      http://www.ngmn.org/publications/all-downloads/article/5g-prospects-key-capabilities-to-unlock-digital-opportunities.html

      http://www.ngmn.org/uploads/media/160701_NGMN_BPG_Capabilities_Whitepaper_v1_1.pdf

      @Evan Crissall
      just because you lack vision to see where teh technology is heading over the next 5 to 10 years does not make me a troll.

  10. Avatar Evan Crissall

    The NGMN is a talking shop. Marketing at industry level. Targeting the technologically-illiterate end-user.

    NGMN, a team of German windbags whose publications are full of facile psychobabble. Even their wiki page is substance-free. They must have authored it themselves:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_Generation_Mobile_Networks

    ——-
    “What will 5G allow us to do compared with today? 5G will be an end-to-end system environment to enable a fully mobile and connected society. It empowers value creation enabled by sustainable business models.”
    ——-

    *rolls eyes*

    Bottom line: broadband access networks based on cellular radio will always suffer from channel capacity issues. No substitute for the copper pair; and definitely no match for optical fibre.

    Cellular could never handle the volume of IP traffic that we take for granted in a dedicated fixed-wire solution.

    And you’re holding a torch for network Three? Yet on their “unlimited” tariffs, they’ve even stopped the punters from ‘tethering’ their PCs. Why? If not to limit the volume of data we can actually transfer? How many of us are doing peer-to-peer filesharing on a smartphone?

    • Avatar Chris P

      Three permit tethering on their unlimited offers.
      NGMN is much more than s talking shop, just you choose to ignore it.
      Growth in Mobile internet consumption far outpaces other forms of access.

      Yes mobile networks are affected by contention but do are all other shared access systems including both copper and fibre fixed line circuits.

      People are not consuming all available bandwidth at all times which is why high domestic contention is generally not recognised as an issue and keeps prices low.
      If you just had half a clue …….

  11. Avatar Evan Crissall

    “Three permit tethering on their unlimited offers.”

    They do? You’ll have to let Three know about that as they’re quite clear they don’t:

    From http://support.three.co.uk/SRVS/CGI-BIN/WEBISAPI.dll/,/?New,Kb=Mobile,Ts=Mobile,T=CaseDoc,Case=Obj%283536%29

    ——-
    “Some of our..Pay Monthly plans as well as Pay As You Go plans come with all-you-can-eat data, but they don’t allow tethering.”
    ——-

    Seems clear enough. Strictly NO tethering on Three’s “Unlimited” tariffs. For fear of saturating the connection (and everyone else’s).

    Let’s ask you again. If cellular offers more bandwidth than a fixed-wire connection – then why restrict tethering?

    Sounds like you are “invested” in cellular solutions, with your judgment clouded accordingly.

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