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UK Coverage of Fixed Line Superfast Broadband Hits 93% – Q2 2017

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 (11:19 am) - Score 1,314

The latest independent data for June 2017 has estimated that fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks are now available to 93% of premises across the United Kingdom (96.1% if you include all “fibre based” lines, such as sub-24Mbps services), although some parts are lagging behind.

The independent data from Thinkbroadband suggests that the current Government is still on course to achieve their overall target, which aims to put fixed line “superfast broadband” networks within reach of 95% of premises by the end of 2017 (this might slip a little into 2018) and then possibly around 97% by 2020.

We should point out that across the UK the first 70% or so of coverage has been largely achieved purely by the private sector (Openreach (BT) and Virgin Media + some smaller altnets), while the final 30% is benefiting from around £1.6bn of public investment via the Broadband Delivery UK programme. Recently a further £600m has also been earmarked to support future “full fibre” (FTTP/H) deployments (here).

Below you can see the latest data for June 2017 (Q2) 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), which could be fully introduced by 2020 (note: by then the size of the problem area will be even smaller).

NOTE: The term “fibre based” below includes fibre optic and hybrid fibre solutions, such as FTTP, FTTC (VDSL2) and Cable (DOCSIS), albeit without any definition of service speed (e.g. some FTTC lines deliver speeds well below 24Mbps). Elsewhere nearly all of the below “ultrafast” coverage will currently be coming from Virgin Media’s cable network.

Area % Fibre based % Superfast 24Mbps+ % Superfast 30Mbps+ % Ultrafast 100Mbps+ % Openreach FTTP % Under 10Mbps USO
London 96.90% 95.70% 95.50% 69.30% 1.89% 0.90%
England 96.30% 93.70% 93.20% 54.10% 1.73% 2.70%
United Kingdom 96.10% 93% 92.40% 51.50% 1.58% 3.20%
Rest Of Scotland 94.50% 91.50% 90.90% 44.90% 0.12% 4.20%
Wales 95.10% 91% 89.90% 31.10% 2.22% 5.20%
Scotland 93.70% 89.80% 89.10% 40.80% 0.11% 5.60%
Northern Ireland 97.90% 81.70% 80% 28.60% 0.43% 11.90%
Highlands and Islands (Scotland) 85.70% 72.10% 69.80% 0.08% 0.08% 20.50%

We should remind readers that each devolved region has its own policy and targets, which all feed into the central UK target. For example, Wales has proposed a new aspiration to reach “every property” with 30Mbps+ capable broadband by 2020 (here) and Scotland hope to do the same by 2021 (here). The ‘Highlands and Islands‘ and ‘Rest of Scotland‘ areas above represent the two halves of Scotland’s overall roll-out programme.

TBB’s data is of course only 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 speeds than 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 and in any case we always prefer a bit of pessimism in coverage data (it’s often closer to reality). The Government and Ofcom often report figurse that are 1-2 percentage points higher than TBB or thereabouts.

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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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23 Responses
  1. Adam says:

    BT Openreach should concentrate on switching off all ADSL2 products where FFTC is available and forcing users/isps to switch via a pricing guarantee.

    Bt Openreach could then pull out all copper to the cabinets and make use of the fibre optic cables, and earn some revenue back from its sale for scrap.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Easier said than done. Lots of problems with existing Ofcom regulation and upsetting rival ISPs / LLU providers, not to mention that some ADSL subscribers probably wouldn’t want a more expensive FTTC service (recent price proposals may remove that obstacle).

    2. Tim says:

      I’m still waiting for ADSL2, so switching it off doesn’t sound attractive to me.

    3. Steve Jones says:

      Openreach have no power to either remove copper pairs or prevent exchange based ADSL/ADSL2 services operating. In the first instance, Openreach are required to provide MPF which is, by definition, a metal pair which runs from the premises to the exchange. Further, Openreach are required to provide the facilities under which LLU operators can operate ubundled services at the exchange. Only Ofcom can remove those requirements.

      Indeed, Openreach can’t even force BT Wholesale to remove ADSL/ADSL2 services from exchanges, not just because that would breach the rules over separation, but also because it would leave a number of ISPs high-and-dry.

      Then there are all the technical standards which would have to be changed over spectrum usage and location of services which are all defined in the ANFP and approved by the NICC (a cross-industry body operating under the authority of Ofcom).

      In short, Openreach have limited control over their own network as (in general) the products that are defined, and how the network is used, are largely defined by Ofcom or Ofcom mandated bodies. Openreach can lobby, but that means consultations with dozens of companies, any of which might object.

      On a purely technical level, if “E-side” copper networks were to be removed then some provision for voice over IP would be required at the cabinet. This is being worked on, but to do it in a transparent, non-disruptive way is difficult. There are many voice-only lines out there, and every single one of those would require some form of adapter in the property to allow voice equipment to connect to the cabinet to provide voice services. That’s before we even get into issues about alarm systems and other services that use the copper pairs.

      None of this is to say that it isn’t a good idea to remove E-side copper and rationalise the number of exchanges, just that there are considerable technical, logistical, commercial and regulatory issues to be overcome, many of which will be resisted by other operators.

    4. MikeW says:

      And …

      At the moment, the E-side pair is needed to connect into the automated test tools. If you want faults fix in the D-side, the E-side needs to be there…

    5. Kits says:

      There are many that are unable to get FTTC as they are too far from cabinet, switch off ADSL and they have nothing.

    6. 125uS says:

      That would break all kinds of things Adam.

      Lots of ISPs and Telcos have kit in BT exchanges that needs a metallic path to the customer to work – ripping out the copper would break all of those and get BT in quite a lot of trouble with Ofcom. The current telephone network would also stop working, which would probably raise a few eyebrows.

      Alongside that, at the customer end, there are things like burglar alarms and private circuits that would stop working.

  2. Doctor Colossus says:

    Good to see that they are getting closer to their target, even though I am still left out.
    But hey, who cares about being in the 5%, when you can brag about being in the 4.2%?! 😀

  3. Tom Bartlett says:

    “the final 30%”

    Don’t you mean the final 27.8%? The central target isn’t 100% superfast coverage is it?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      The final 30% or “final third”, as it’s often called, is just a very general reference to the part of the UK that tends to require public subsidy in order to upgrade.

  4. Jeff says:

    Still languishing in the final 2.70% here in the Forest of Dean, still waiting for fastershire to tell us when or IF we will get any uplift on or massive 3Mbs line which they failed to upgrade. Funny how the dates have slipped again on the fastershire website.

    1. Tim says:

      The big problem with the Fastershire programme is that they won’t say whether a property may get fast broadband until it actually gets it. That makes it impossible to plan a business. I’ve been waiting over 3 years to find out whether my property will be included. If I’d been told that there were no plans then I would have been able to arrange fast broadband or leased line for myself (it wouldn’t have been cheap, but then Gigaclear charge a fortune for business broadband anyway). Even when (if?) they announce that my area will be included, it could still take a couple of years to be implemented.

  5. Dave says:

    This is great idea switch off the ADSL and that would force the final 2.75% to get satellite. Problem solved!
    You would not need a useful USO and this could all be done by 2020 and then we can concentrate all the resources and money on getting ultra-ultra fast broadband to the urban areas!

    1. RuralBroadbandSucks says:

      Satellite would of course have high latency. Have you ever tried making a VOIP call or gaming with high latency? Why not just upgrade the 2.75% (us rural folk) to fibre (i.e. the real optical stuff) to the premises, and then the urbanites can use that as a benchmark for everyone’s broadband performance expectations.

    2. MikeW says:

      In theory, upgrading the worst, rural, 3% to FTTP is the best answer for them.

      So, as you ask, why not?

      The quick answer is cost. Huge, staggering, cost. Perhaps £2bn – similar to the budget for the rest of the BDUK rollout.

      Detail: The BSG study into NGA costs came up with a cost for FTTC and 2 forms of FTTP for the UK, and broke that down into different geotypes. The most rural, costliest geotype, came out with FTTP costs of £10k per premises connected.

      That assumed only 31% takeup, so it is actually £3,200 per premises passed. To reach 800,000 premises, it would cost £2.5bn.

      Some of that £2.5bn has already been spent in getting existing levels of FTTC and fibre spines around the country, but it is fair to assume that there’s still the best portion of spending required for such a plan.

  6. NGA for all says:

    Mark, is it possible to quote a system size associated with these numbers?

    BT OR use 26.5m lines, Ofcom regularly use 28.5m lines and BDUK has referenced 30m lines to EFRA when discussing the final 5%. This 3.5m line spread is more than half of the total BDUK effort. Which system size is used to inform this analysis?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Best to ask TBB for the exact figures.

    2. NGA for all says:

      They wish to treat it as proprietary!

    3. Have I ever said the premises counts are ‘proprietary’?

      People will find we have been progressively talking about premise counts, particularly when discussing specific counties, and changes will take place August onwards that may well make those premise counts available too.

      We don’t use anyone’s ‘system size’ which one has to assume you mean households plus business premises. We count premises, and you get a total from that, rather than taking a notional ‘system size’ and working down that way.

    4. NGA for all says:

      Andrew, so for the benefit of readers what is current total?

    5. I’ll publish it when I am ready to and obviously on thinkbroadband.com You can enjoy a refresh today for East Sussex though

      As for your assertion that there is a 3.5 million line spread there are a couple of issues…

      1. Line count does not equal premises count
      2. The 26.5m OR figure does not match anything I’ve seen

    6. NGA for all says:

      Andrew, Look forward to it.
      Working system size.
      26.5m has been used by Ofcom, but they do change it. They have used this number in the cost recovery process.
      They are quite happy to record 40% as 10m premises.
      BT have also stated 66% = 16m premises.
      The £28.5m is used in the B USO consultation.

  7. Froggit says:

    This is all a big con, the only way you can have fibre internet connection is by having a fibre cable coming through the ground into your house, NOT down your telphone line, this is not fibre and lots of people are being sold this as fibre when it is NOT, we all need to stop being conned by this service.

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