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UK Shunned by 2017 FTTH Ultrafast Broadband Country Ranking

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 (1:27 pm) - Score 6,585

The FTTH Council Europe, which campaigns for the adoption of Gigabit (1000Mbps+) capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) broadband technology, has published its latest 2017 global ranking and once again the United Kingdom is nowhere to be seen. But good progress is being made.

Coverage estimates for the United Kingdom vary but we’ve previously estimated that Gigabit capable FTTH/P/B broadband networks were available to around 800,000 homes and businesses (premises passed) in mid-2016 (here), although the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) have put the figure at more like 1 million premises passed (c.650,000 from alternative network providers and the rest from Openreach (BT)).

At this point you’d be forgiven for wondering why the UK does not appear on the Council’s ranking and that’s partly 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 apparently we’re not quite there yet. However the Council may also be lacking a complete picture of the UK’s FTTH/P/B market.

The number of Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) and Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) subscribers in Europe increased by 23% over the first nine months of 2016, reaching nearly 44.3 million subscribers (20.5 million in the EU28, with a penetration rate of 9.4%). Coverage (homes passed) also increased by 17%, reaching more than 148 million across the whole of the EU39 area (this includes Russia etc.).

Ronan Kelly, President of the FTTH Council Europe, said:

“The latest European FTTH ranking proves what we have believed at the FTTH Council Europe for the past year: looking at countries such as France and Spain, and the overall FTTH growth rate in Europe, it is now clear that there is a stronger than ever momentum towards FTTH.

We are glad to witness such progress, including two new countries entering our FTTH ranking. We feel that Europe is now well positioned to stimulate even more FTTH rollout: the European Commission’s recent Gigabit Society Communication sets a vision where widespread, very high capacity networks underpin the services to society that will keep Europe at the forefront of economic development.”

Both Austria and Serbia have this year reached the required 1% penetration level for inclusion.

ftth broadband country ranking 2017

The good news is that FTTP/H/B coverage in the UK is still set to boom, with BT committing to add another 2 million premises passed (currently c.350,000) to their total by 2020 and Virgin Media aiming to do the same by 2019. On top of that KCOM in Hull are aiming to reach 150,000 premises by December 2017 (they’ve already completed over 100,000) and they might announce another extension later this year.

Meanwhile alternative network providers (Gigaclear, Hyperoptic, B4RN, GTC etc.) have claimed that they might be able to deliver something similar to BT and Virgin’s combined commitment (here), but there’s often a big gap between altnet forecasts and actual delivery. Still we wouldn’t be surprised to see them add a couple of million to the total by 2020.

Crucially the Government has just stepped in to help altnet ISPs via a new £400 million (state aid) Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIFF), which when supported by private investment could be worth up to £1.5bn. Over the next 4 years the DIFF hopes to help an additional 2 million premises gain access to ultrafast broadband (full details). The Chancellor has also proposed a 5 year relief from business rates in order to support this (details).

As ever the challenge for altnets will be in turning bold aspirational coverage forecasts into an economically viable reality, although a UK coverage figure of around 10-20% seems plausible in the shorter term (currently it’s a shade over 2%). However this could be dramatically changed if, for example, Ofcom were successful in encouraging BT to deliver an even greater roll-out of FTTP and the altnets manage to deliver on their bold aspirations.

Never the less at this point it looks as if the UK will continue to be dominated by cheaper hybrid-fibre broadband technologies (e.g. FTTC, DOCSIS, G.fast etc.) for many years to come, although the much longer term future still seems to be heading slowly towards pure fibre optic connectivity.

Now here’s a snapshot of the global ranking.


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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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40 Responses
  1. Adam says:

    Yes BT and virgin will do that to new places, leaving the rest of us on their shitty network to suffer.

    my 200 has not been over 50 since I had it installed, pathetic.

    The goverment should hang their head in shame, Next we will see Africa and Somalia up there well before the UK the rate they are going!

    1. Fastman says:

      your 200 from whom and what was the guaranteed throughput on that –

      amazing complaining about 200 m/bps –

    2. Lee says:

      Probably testing ln wireless?

      Many people will kill for something half as good as the 50 you get.

    3. Carter says:

      200Mb even if he had it would not be Ultrafast anyway so no idea what he is on about, probably leading up to another VM rant (that will be the bit that hits the fools nerve) and that we should all listen to him and his whines of only having a speed faster than what the majority of the country currently sub to.

    4. Scott says:

      Your lack of speed it not due to not having FTTH, most likely congestion issues which the fibre part would not solve.

    5. ian says:

      youre on virgin medîa, they are disgraceful

      the uk is a joke when it comes to internet.

      less than 1% FTTH, while south korea has 80% to home and building

    6. AndyH says:

      @ Ian

      – South Korea essential skipped xDSL services and built a nationwide fibre network around 10 years ago.
      – Around 50% of people in South Korea live in apartment complexes, making it far cheaper to deploy FTTH/B. In the UK this is around 15% and the second lowest in the EU.
      – Apartment complexes are generally extremely close to the telephone exchanges and the ‘final mile’ is normally owned by the apartment complex so they are responsible for connecting it up to a fibre network.
      – The government heavily subsidised the cost of a FTTx installation and introduced tax breaks for operators.
      – Most apartment blocks had a FTTB connection, meaning the cost of upgrading to FTTH was marginal.
      – All fibre networks were forced to open up, leading to huge competition and decreased margins for operators.

    7. Peter says:

      and just to add to @Andy’s excellent list:
      In South Korea ALL the hospitals and ALL the doctor’s surgeries are privately owned and privately run.
      I’ll bet poster @Ian would not like that for the NHS in the UK at all!

    8. Carter says:

      Oh no the truth has again gotten in the way of this idiots rant about an ISP or services totally unrelated to this story. Trying to explain the differences in infrastructure from one country to another to him will be like trying to teach a lemming rocket science. Was easy to predict mind you he kept his ADHD outburst locked inside for almost a full day, which is at least on thing that should be congratulated.

  2. MikeW says:

    Does the FTTH council include RFoG variants of FTTP in their statistics?

    The council’s definitions would seem to allow for cable-companies’ RFoG if the fibre itself enters the building, but RFoG itself is conspicuous by its absence when they start defining the technologies, topologies, access protocols etc.

  3. TheFacts says:

    Where is the UK in >24M numbers?

    1. GNewton says:

      What happened to your government-funded nationwide fibre?

    2. AndyH says:

      @ GNewton – BDUK?!

    3. GNewton says:

      @AndyH: I was referring the TheFact’s proposal of a nationwide fibre, not VDSL, where he’s out of touch with the real world. Also, he doesn’t seem to understand that this article is about FTTP, not the ASA-style fibre (VDSL).

    4. MikeW says:

      The problem, @GNewton, is that you are *always* referring to that one of-the-cuff proposal.

      It would be worth reading your counter-posts if they came in the same quantity that @TheFacts keeps posting that proposal.

      But he doesn’t keep posting, and you do. The definition of trolling.

      Quit it. Try posting something useful.

    5. FibreFred says:

      Careful Mike, if you call him a troll (which he is) you will be accused of name calling

  4. brianv says:


    Another fine mess BT has gotten us unto.

    1. AndyH says:

      Did you even bother to read the article?

    2. GNewton says:

      @brianv: BT is indeed a major reason why the UK has failed so miserably as regards fibre deployment. However, successive governments have had their share in this failure, too. This can be traced back to the Thatcher years. If anyone actually cares to read up on the Ofcom reports and reviews then you can easily see why BT needs to be reformed.

      It is worth examining the reasons why some countries like Spain or New Zealand have been so much more successful. While Spain has more apartment blocks compared to the UK, this reasoning still fails to explain the lack of fibre in the UK, there isn’t even a 15% fibre in this country for the highly concentrated urban areas. There are good reasons why Ofcom is trying to put more pressure on BT to get its act together, see e.g. https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2016/update-on-plans-to-reform-openreach

    3. TheFacts says:

      @GN – highly concentrated urban areas have VM coverage, where is the need for FTTP speeds?

    4. Lee says:


    5. Sam says:

      You still haven’t answered my questions from previous articles GNewton.

      Perhaps you could explain how the UK is so far behind Spain and New Zealand, particularly when the UK outperforms both those countries in terms of average speeds?

    6. Fastman says:

      G newton considering you have a finance background you seem to have very little commercial view or Value for Money — so you think spedn the same amount cover around 1/3 – 2/3 less would have been a good use of public money then

  5. adslmax Real says:

    BT and UK Government should hang their head in shame. Disgusted. BT should start FTTP/FTTH right now (forget g.fast because g.fast only work better if u live much closer to the fibre street cabinet, pretty pointless for everyones who will setback again on g.fast, fttc, adsl2+ for many years to come.

    I don’t think UK will get 98% of FTTP/FTTH until around 22nd century. Year 2100’s.

    1. GNewton says:

      Without a completely independent Openreach, separated from BT, you will never see widespread fibre deployment in the UK.

    2. TheFacts says:

      How would a separate Openreach achieve more FTTP. Others have had 30 years.

    3. AndyH says:

      @ GNewton – Why do you think an independent Openreach = widespread fibre?

    4. Lee says:

      You still haven’t answered where the funding will come from Mr Newton.

    5. Fastman says:

      independent openreach and subsequent fibre is a massive misnomer — its a cira 5bn business regardless — no other providers want to invest they just want cheaper products or fibre the same price or cheaper than copper — its all about market share and the margin — (its just dressed up to be some thing else (like safety)

  6. adslmax Real says:

    That’s ofcom useless to blame!

  7. Optimist says:

    I don’t understand those here who get worked up over the fact home users in Britain can’t get gigabit speeds, just because people in other countries do. I enjoy downloads og 70 megabits per second from VM cable – far faster than I actually need currently.

    Investment is needed to give a decent service to those on really slow connections – some are still reliant on dial-up apparently.

    Probably in a few years petabit speeds will become the norm, and there will be those on this website bemoaning the fact that they can’t get yottabit speeds. Sigh.

    1. AndyH says:

      We all need 1Gig FTTP connections for £9.99 a month. Next year, we will all need 10Gig FTTP connections for £4.99 a month.

    2. GNewton says:

      @Optimist: Many of my friends in the US use Verizon’s FIOS (full symmetric fibre). They pay the equivalent of £44.00 for a 100mbps (50 down/50 up) fibre line. In the UK, broadband charges are too low, this is one of the reasons for the lack of investment.

    3. Chris P says:


      Symmetric 100mbs is 100 up 100 down not 50/50. symmetric in services like that is better referred to as full duplex as data is transferred and received both ways at the same time.

    4. Optimist says:

      “Many of my friends in the US use Verizon’s FIOS (full symmetric fibre). They pay the equivalent of £44.00 for a 100mbps (50 down/50 up) fibre line. In the UK, broadband charges are too low, this is one of the reasons for the lack of investment”.

      If these speeds are such a good business proposition, why don’t entrepreneurs such as yourself put in the investment & sell the service? Could it be that so few would consider it worth the money?

      To put it another way – why should I buy an expensice racing car when I am content with a milkfloat?

    5. GNewton says:

      @Optimist: What you consider an “expensive racing car” here would be more of an average or entry-level thing in many parts of the States where my friends live. For $10 more per month you could get the FIOS 100/100 package.

      Ofcom should regulate (or rather, allow) BT to charge realistic wholesale line rental prices, at the moment they are way too low!

    6. Optimist says:


      “What you consider an “expensive racing car” here would be more of an average or entry-level thing in many parts of the States where my friends live. For $10 more per month you could get the FIOS 100/100 package.

      Ofcom should regulate (or rather, allow) BT to charge realistic wholesale line rental prices, at the moment they are way too low!”

      But I don’t need a more expensive package. Higher prices for wholesale line rental would at least encourage the development of cheaper alternatives.

      It reminds me of air trave. £billions were spent on Concorde to halve the transatlantic journey time, but the public flocked to cheap mass travel as epitomised by Freddie Laker’s Skytrain.

    7. CarlT says:

      How many people in the UK are willing to pay £44/month for 50Mb downstream?

      Most don’t expect to pay that for broadband, line rental and calls combined.

      The US is a very different market from here. They don’t have the mass of low-end competition we do, aren’t as price sensitive, and of course in the case of FIOS Verizon get to keep the network to themselves, they don’t wholesale it.

      I’m sure if BT could have kept FTTP to themselves rather than only being able to charge less than a tenner a month for the most popular service on wholesale there would be far more of it.

  8. NGA for all says:

    If FTTH council was to look at FTTP rural only, the UK is likely to be top. It provides something interesting to build upon, and more interesting to see how much more can be done.

  9. GNewton says:

    @Chris P: Thanks for the clarification.

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