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UK Fixed Superfast Broadband Coverage Improves to 92.5% (Q1 2017)

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 (3:13 pm) - Score 1,229
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The latest independently calculated coverage data has estimated that fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks are now available to order at 92.5% of homes and businesses across the United Kingdom. Plus “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) services are available to 51.2%.

At present the central Government’s £1.7bn Broadband Delivery UK programme aims to put fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks within reach of 95% of premises by the end of 2017 (BT has previously suggested that this might slip a little into 2018) and then 97% by 2020. Openreach (BT) holds most of the related contracts but a few AltNets are also involved in the later stages (Gigaclear, Call Flow etc.).

The independent data from Thinkbroadband appears to suggest that the Government is more or less holding to course, although the related targets for Wales and Scotland are a bit different (see below). On top of that it’s worth pointing out that roughly the first 70% of so-called “superfast” network coverage was delivered via private investment (e.g. Virgin Media and BT / Openreach + some alternative networks), while it’s those in the final 30% that have benefited from public funding support.

Scotland

* Current Goal: The Digital Scotland project with Openreach (BT) has already made its FTTC/P based superfast broadband network available to 89% of premises in Scotland and they’re now working towards the next goal of around 95% “high speed fibre broadband” coverage by December 2017 the end of March 2018. However the rural Highland and Islands region alone only expects to hit 86% by the end of 2017..

* Future Goal (tentative): A plan is being developed to deliver 100% “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) coverage by 2021 (here).

Wales

Current Goal: The Superfast Cymru project with Openreach (BT) aims to make “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services available to around 95% of Wales, although the proportion that can actually access “superfast” line speeds of 30Mbps+ is only around 90%. A further 100,000 premises are also set to be added on top of this by the end of 2017, although no clearly defined coverage % has been given for this.

Future Goal (tentative): A plan is being developed to deliver “fast reliable broadband” (we’re told this means 30Mbps+) to “every property” in Wales by 2020 (here).

Just to clarify. A lot of earlier BDUK related contracts defined “superfast” performance as delivering download speeds of greater than 24Mbps+, although many later ones preferred to use the slightly faster 30Mbps+ definition (in the grander scheme of things there’s not much coverage difference between the two). The EU also sets a 30Mbps definition, which is usually required for the most recent contracts.

Meanwhile the term “fibre broadband” or “fibre based” tends to be a much more ambiguous, although more often than not it’s used to reference the overall / raw footprint of FTTC/P networks and that may include some areas which receive sub-24Mbps speeds. This is certainly what it means below (i.e. overall fibre/NGA broadband coverage – irrespective of service speeds).

Below you can see the data for March 2017 (Q1) and we’ve stripped out some of the more confusing aspects in order to make it easier to understand. We’ve also left in the 10Mbps figures as this will be a useful gauge for understanding the scale of the proposed Universal Service Obligation (USO), although that won’t be enforced until 2020 and by then the size of the problem area will be even smaller.

Area % Fibre based % Superfast 24Mbps+ % Superfast 30Mbps+ % Ultrafast 100Mbps+ % Openreach FTTP % Under proposed 10 Mbps USO
London 96.7% 95.5% 95.23 69.1% 1.87% 0.9%
England 96% 93.3% 92.8% 54.1% 1.56% 2.8%
United Kingdom 95.6% 92.5% 91.9% 51.2% 1.43% 3.4%
Rest of Scotland 93.6% 90.7% 90.1% 44.3% 0.10% 4.4%
Wales 94.5% 90.4% 89.3% 30.7% 1.77% 5.6%
Scotland (Overall) 92.7% 88.9% 88.1% 40.2% 0.10% 5.9%
Northern Ireland 97.6% 81.4% 79.7% 28.3% 0.28% 12.1%
Scotland – Highlands and Islands 83.5% 70.1% 67.9% 0.07% 0.07% 21.9%

NOTE: The ‘Rest of Scotland’ and ‘Highlands & Islands’ regions reflect the two halves of the Digital Scotland contract, but if you find that confusing then just look at the overall total instead. As usual the most rugged, rural and generally sparse areas tend to be a bit further behind due to the obvious challenges of upgrading such locations.

A couple of extra points need to be made about this. Firstly, nearly all of that “ultrafast” coverage will be coming from Virgin Media’s cable network in urban areas. At present Openreach’s best FTTC speed is an often difficult to attain ‘up to’ 80Mbps and so it falls outside of the “ultrafast” definition, while FTTP availability (this usually delivers well above 100Mbps+) is still at a very low level.

Secondly, TBB’s data is an estimate and while imperfect it’s still one of the best gauges that we have for checking against official Government data. However, estimates should be taken with a pinch of salt, not least because they don’t always reflect the real-world reality. This is particularly true where issues like faulty lines, poor home wiring, slow WiFi and other problems can result in a much slower broadband connection that expected.

The TBB data is often also a tiny bit more pessimistic than the official progress reports from local authorities and BDUK, although the difference is fairly negligible. The Government often reports a figure that is one percentage point higher than TBB or thereabouts.

Leave a Comment
19 Responses
  1. Avatar h42422

    Any idea who is going to fund the rearrangement of urban EO lines in England?

    BDUK and devolved administrations are busy tackling the issue but no one seems to be doing much in non-BDUK areas. These are the ones that will not meet USO requirement in 2020, and if they plan to solve the issue by 2020, something should be done within a year to decide who will fund this and how, and start projects.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Isn’t the “USO requirement” that you can start asking for a USO speed in 2020? Not that it has to be finished by then?

    • It would be a pretty rubbish USO if you could request the service but then no operator could deliver it. From 2020 if a request is made then the service must be delivered, although even under the current USO there can still be delays with the installation side.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I think the difference in thinking is that @h42422 seems to be assuming that the plans need to be made now, and all the equipment put in place by 2020 (rolled out by “projects”), ready for an order to be handled in 10 days.

      Whereas I think the process right now is about plans for plans, and that the “USO-delivery company” has to figure out some degree of feasibility study between now and 2020. But that no equipment gets delivered until the demand is there. Action comes after the order is placed.

      Just like today’s USO for voice, delays and ECCs will get in the way of a speedy delivery.

      However, judging from the consultation, “no operator to deliver it” could be a common failing. Especially if Ofcom decide not to take up BT’s offer, or if government decide that, in the name of competition, the “USO delivery company” cannot be BT.

  2. Avatar Lee

    Woop! I’m in the 2.8%

    Hurtling along at 2.4mbps!

    • Avatar craski

      These small percentages do a great job of putting a positive spin on millions of people still stuck in the slow lane.

  3. Avatar Fastman

    you and you community could the netowk rearrangement for your community especially if there a lot of in a estate and not close to the exchange — its been done before by a number of communities

    • Avatar h42422

      This is a viable alternative for those with communities. If you don’t have a community, it is currently complicated. This is a problem in central London where easily 70% of residents are tenants. They would not be willing to pay anything for a project that delivers in 18 months. Non-resident landlords are not too interested in paying for upgrades that do not benefit them in any way. At least I would not pay a penny for my buy to let property unless my tenant would be willing to compensate.

      I would be happy to pay £500-£1000 today for someone to solve the EO line rearrangement issue for us. But as our “community” is about four, there is no way to grow it and the price tag for a community project tends to be around £30k, there is a massive funding gap no one is currently interested in filling.

      Successful community projects tend to be either BDUK funded rural projects in villages with strong communities already present, or large gated developments in urban areas where management company or residents’ association already forms the community. Those who live in houses may find this route difficult.

      H

  4. Avatar DTMark

    Does anyone actually believe this data, or, should I say, highly optimistic set of estimates?

    And, having spent time there just recently, the Highlands needs a lot of work.

    It isn’t going to be “solved” by fixed line. But it could be solved by wireless technologies. Has that even been “started” yet; has it moved on from the “give money to BT” project into some form of “superfast broadband” project?

    Why isn’t it blanketed with wireless coverage and superfast speeds yet, using tried and tested tech?

    • Avatar MikeW

      Presumably because no-one wants to blanket cover an area with FWA where BT are just about to install fibre-ish.

      Or perhaps they don’t want to install capacity for 25% of premises, when they will ultimately only need enough equipment for 5%?

      Or perhaps it is still too expensive to be done, even with FWA, without a subsidy … and the Scottish BDUK project tendering is a linear process, not parallel?

      Here’s one in RoS: http://www.marykirk.com/

    • Avatar craski

      It is quite funny that Community Broadband Scotland take so much credit for making Marykirk.com what it is today. From what I saw of the project it was set up and ticking over nicely well before CBS got involved.

    • Avatar gerarda

      And as we have seen on a number of occasions covering an area with alternative technology can be a signal for BT to prioritise that area within the BDUK contract

    • Avatar AndyH

      @ Gerarda – BT doesn’t magically come up with BDUK contracts, it’s up to local authorities to tender for the provision of superfast broadband. What we have repeatedly seen is smaller operators not complying with the OMR during the tendering process which leads to overbuild.

    • Avatar gerarda

      @AndyH – the significant word in my post was “prioritise”

    • Avatar Rory McCune

      As a resident of the Highlands and Islands, I’ve been following the (lack) of progress in various broadband deployments closely.

      AFAIK there are no Wireless projects from BT in the area, they’re working on FTTC still (getting there, but several areas that were meant to be done by Dec 2016 are still months from service).

      There are several community projects in the area, where it’s clear that BT have no plans to provide coverage, and they’re usually wireless based. The tricky part is you have to wait to be classified as out of scope for the BT rollout, before you can start the (long) process of looking at community broadband money.

      on the 3/4G front there was the debacle of the “Mobile Infrastructure Project” that was meant to fill a load of Not spots but failed in the vast majority of cases.

      This year there is the promise that EE’s ESN will cover 97% of the UK landmass with 4G signal, which would need to cover a fair amount of new ground in H&I.

      The big problem for small businesses in the area is there are no good fast broadband options, which is getting to be more and more of an issue for rural businesses who need decent Internet access to operate.

    • Avatar AndyH

      @ gerarda – All the BDUK contracts have timescales written into them for completion. Please tell us the examples where BT has ‘prioritised’ BDUK areas that have existing NGA coverage.

    • Avatar MikeW

      @AndyH
      We’ve seen on numerous occasions that @gerarda can be artful in his wordcraft when putting BT down.

      In this case, he only commits to “a number of occasions” and “alternative technology”.

      There’s no indication that it was a significant number of occasions or size, nor the capability of the alternative technology, nor the legitimacy of what was going on.

      Even the use of “prioritise” is something of a non-sequitur. What else is a BDUK project other than a sequence of prioritisations? The mere choice of any area is “a prioritisation”.

      But, in what he has said, he’s right. BT have indeed appeared to act in his chosen way on a number of occasions. But they appear to have not acted this way on far more occasions.

      Hey ho.

  5. Avatar gerarda

    @MikeW

    I learned my wordcraft from BT press releases

  6. Avatar Martin Egan

    Constantly i notice the Republic of Ireland is ‘sawn off’ from any rendering of presentation regarding interwebbyness. My late father used to be very annoyed with this way back on 1960s BBC weather broadcasts. I am now similarly annoyed that the logo ISP Review now uses follows the same values. At the minimum i now expect the basic outline of Eire to be enunciated upon a constructed map in perhaps an unfortunately, increasingly interconnected tripple wubulation world.

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