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UK Coverage of Superfast Broadband Creeps to Nearly 94% – Q3 2017

Sunday, October 8th, 2017 (7:58 am) - Score 1,812
united kingdom grey green coloured

The latest independent data to September 2017 has estimated that “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) capable fixed line networks now cover 93.9% of premises in the United Kingdom (96.6% if you include all “fibre based” lines of any speed inc. sub-24Mbps), with Wales and Scotland both touching completion.

The data, which has been gathered by Thinkbroadband, suggests that the current Government should roughly achieve their existing coverage target (note: Q2 2017 reported 93%), which aims to put fixed line “superfast broadband” networks within reach of 95% of premises by the end of 2017 (before possibly rising to around 98% by 2020).

Currently UK coverage tends to grow by around 0.2-0.3 percentage points per month, which means that it will probably end up sitting just shy of 95% by the end of December 2017. However TBB’s statistics wisely tend to be a bit more pessimistic than official figures (i.e. officially the Gov will be close enough to claim victory) and getting that close to such a significant target on a major project would still be a very good achievement.

At this point it’s worth remembering that the first c.70-75% of coverage was largely achieved by commercial deployments via Openreach (BT) and Virgin Media (plus some smaller altnets), while most of the final 25-30% is benefiting from around £1.6bn+ of public investment via the Broadband Delivery UK programme. Separately a further c.£600m has also been earmarked to support future “full fibre” (FTTP/H) deployments (here), although that is a separate development.

Below you can see the latest data to the end of September 2017 (Q3) and as usual 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 figure as this will be a useful gauge for understanding the ever shrinking scale of the proposed Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which could be fully introduced by 2020 (details).

NOTE: The term “fibre based” below includes fibre optic and hybrid fibre solutions, such as FTTP, FTTC / VDSL2 / G.fast and Cable (DOCSIS), albeit without any definition of speed (e.g. some FTTC lines deliver speeds below 24Mbps). Elsewhere most of the below “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) coverage is coming from Virgin Media’s cable network (50.8% UK coverage), although Openreach, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Cityfibre, TrueSpeed and others all have big “full fibre” (FTTP/H) expansion ambitions for related services (here, here, here, here and here) and the rapid 330Mbps G.fast roll-out to 10 million premises by 2020 will also help.

Area % Fibre based % Superfast 24Mbps+ % Superfast 30Mbps+ % Ultrafast 100Mbps+ Full Fibre (FTTP/H) % Under 10Mbps USO
United Kingdom 96.6 93.9 93.6 53.04 2.83 2.8
England 97 94.6 94.2 55.93 3.14 2.3
London 97.4 96.4 96.3 71.3 5.22 0.7
Scotland 95.1 91.6 91.1 42.95 0.51 5
Rest of Scotland 95.8 93.1 92.8 47.46 0.52 3.8
Wales 96.1 92.6 91.9 32.74 3.21 4.4
Northern Ireland 98.4 84 82.9 31.36 0.57 10.6
Highlands and Islands (Scotland) 88.3 76.3 74.8 0.12 0.12 17.7

Take note 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+ 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.

Obviously one of the weaker entries appears to be Northern Ireland, which has good “fibre based” coverage but they’re clearly struggling to deliver speeds of 24Mbps+ to those within reach. However it’s likely that the recent deal between the DUP and UK Government, which gifted £150 million to help N.I “provide ultra-fast broadband” to its population (here), should improve things (assuming the current political deadlock is broken).

Meanwhile Scotland appears to have more or less achieved their goal of 95% “high speed fibre broadband” coverage (the current deployment is due to end by March 2018), although the reach of “superfast broadband” is still trailing a little way behind. Likewise Wales also appear to have pretty much hit their first 96% “fibre broadband” target, albeit with “superfast” speeds trailing again.

As stated earlier, this data is only an estimate and thus should be taken with a pinch of salt, not least because it won’t always reflect the real-world (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). However it’s still one of the best gauges that we have for checking against official Government claims.

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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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18 Responses
  1. Avatar Bob

    Awesome to know I’m in the last 6% that still can’t get FTTC.

  2. Avatar Phil

    We are lucky if our intermittent connection reaches 0.4 mbs
    With no plans to improve our connection.

  3. Avatar Tony

    Never read so much rubbish. Our broadband varies between 8 & 1mbps.and is always varying. Bt have been on various occasions but never improved it

    • Avatar AndyH

      And the article is rubbish because you have a poor performing connection (1 out of some 29 million premises in the UK)?

    • Avatar RuralBroadbandSucks

      @AndyH Tony is probably just that annoyed because these telecoms companies are as honest as snakeoil salesmen with the polititions/government lapping it up. I too must be in the ‘last 6%’. They did replace about a 1/2 mile of the cables here recently (about 1.5 miles from the cabinet), which has meant my low speed broadband (up to 4mbit multiple lines aggregrated using pfsense) is more stable, but it makes me wonder why replace the cables now if there was an agreement for £150 million to be released; this is in Northern Ireland by the way.
      I went to my regions MPs , councillors, and department of economy, and they have told me (also in email form), that they are at the hands of BT/Openreach who are in charge of the infrastructure and there is nothing they can do.
      The worst thing is seeing the sticker on the cabinet servicing my home saying “Superfast Fibre broadband is here”, more snakeoil anyone?

  4. Avatar Davek

    I can only get 1 Mbps with not prospect of improvement.
    Now got to wait another 4 years for the USO and then be told ‘piss off’ and get satellite!

  5. Avatar Graham Long

    The danger of unqualified statistics: 94% may sound good but the Office of National Statistics say’s that 80% of the UK population live in urban areas and 20% in rural areas. The last 6% are almost all (but not exclusively) in rural areas where FTTC does nothing for properties more than 1.6Km from the cabinet. The result is that in rural areas the last 6% who will be the last people to get useable broadband, represents approx 30% OF THE RURAL POPULATION! – NOT 6%!

    • Afternoon Graham

      I am sure Mark was aware that thinkbroadband does also do rural vs urban data splits, most recent 11th Sept https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7821-how-is-the-rural-versus-urban-broadband-divide-looking

      The data is showing that BT appears well aware of the line length issue hence the rural areas having a higher % of full fibre and that the gainshare is being used to add infill cabinets to help those with long lines.

      The political target is 95% of the UK, not 95% of the rural parts of the UK.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GL – If we are not to have 100% coverage where would you allocate the 6% to?

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: This shouldn’t be problem for you who came up with the idea to let the government pay for 100% countrywide fibre 🙂 6% is nothing compared to that, you shouldn’t have any objections to let the public purse pay for that, should you?

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Graham Long
      Presumably you have checked the data in the article linked to by Andrew and have seen that access to Superfast broadband for the 23% of premises in rural areas (“GB Rural”) is in fact 83.8%. In other words 16.4% of rural premises can’t access superfast speeds, just over half of the 30% suggested in your post.

      Even “GB Deep Rural” (only 10.8% of premises, a subset of GB Rural) does better than your 30% figure, with 27.9% currently unable to access superfast speeds. Even then, only 18.2% can’t achieve 10Mbps or faster.

      It’s important all politicians, even parish councillors, stick to the facts, we’ve too much fake news as it is!

  6. Avatar BillyBob

    So aren’t we supposed to be getting to 95% by end of December? At current rate of 0.2% per month I make it somewhere in February/March we’ll be at 95%.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Sounds about right.

      While the government had a target of 95% by 2017, it doesn’t mean that local authorities got their act together in time to make it happen – and a fair percentage of contracts end afterwards. The 2nd phase in Devon and Somerset hasn’t started yet, and they’re not the only project with work outstanding. Some counties haven’t even started tendering for the 95% projects.

      A change to EU rules also got in the way of some of the later projects.

      It is, in fact, something of a miracle that they’ve come this close to 95% to be honest.

  7. Avatar Moses Herve Jonson II

    I’m lucky, I live in London (born and bred) I got access to superfast internet by VM (through FTTN directly to my flat in central London) I have no complaints, I’m just enjoying the speed that it delivers 24/7

  8. Avatar Rahul

    I believe this statistic is very much over-inflated. 94% of the UK do not have access to speeds faster than 24 Mbps. And the 96.6% Fibre Optic is also fake. 93% do not have access to 30 Mbps. The only stat that is accurate is the 2.83% FTTP access and if it wasn’t for Hyperoptic/Gigaclear this statistic would’ve probably been down to around 0%-0.5%.

    For the people out here blaming rural areas for not having decent speeds. Let me tell you something I live near the City of London Liverpool Street offices within 10 minutes walk off my E1 area. Look at my speedtest… http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/6701466774
    I am receiving only 9.29 Mbps while my fastest ever recorded speed was 16.60 Mbps http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/6582118389 and the rating is still a Grade C-!

    We have 3 leaseholders properties in 3 different postal code areas. Only 1 flat has access to superfast up to 76 Mbps and that is FTTC and who knows if we even get that. That flat we only rent out.

    The truth is, it is the rural areas that have the bigger privilege and opportunity to having fibre-optic. Why? Because there is less roadblocks, pavements, asphalt and more green and soil meaning it is easier for engineers to dig the soil and install fibre-optic cables.

    This isn’t the case where I live in the City of London. For us living in the City of London our only hope is Hyperoptic and still I feel we’ll need to wait another 15-20 years before we finally have fibre-optic broadband speeds with full FTTP. Copper wiring is a failure and is not designed for internet access. It is designed for old primitive telephone calling service from 140 years ago technology. It is not compatible for modern internet technology but BT Openreach are trying to suck out maximum profits using this outdated technology! This is criminal for a 21st century Britain. While other countries in rest of Europe such as Bulgaria, Spain, Sweden, Romania, etc have 60%-80% of Full Fibre to the Premises supported while we here in the UK are sitting at 2.83%. Utterly embarrassing!

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      If you are that concerned, what is stopping you from investing to get FTTP to your properties now? Too many people moan about their connection but are looking to someone else to do something about it for them. If you’ve three properties in the City of London then you can afford to solve this problem for yourself!

  9. Avatar Rahul

    @New_Londoner I wished that was possible! This isn’t as simple as you think it is. I live in a building which is under authorization of building ownership that requires permission that my building manager needs to grant. I would have no power of my own to simply invest because I need building permission that needs to be granted for them to install fibre optic cables and dig the streets to run across the building and inside my flat.

    If this was simply as simple as taking an initiative and spending cash then the problem would’ve been sorted long ago.

    But as you may know Hyperoptic for example need all these steps to be ticked for each building before the service is installed even while they have 100 million pounds granted by BNP Paribas, etc.

    Building to be assessed
    Building to be surveyed
    Building permission needed
    Fibre to be ordered
    Installation of network to be started

    I for example took an initiative for my building to speak to 28 residents who all registered their interest for Hyperoptic. It has been over a year since all 28+ residents of the building have registered their interest but no green boxes have been checked because the Building Manager hasn’t granted permission to Hyperoptic to survey the building and install the service.

    This what you’re suggesting would only work if I had a private home/house that is 100% under my own ownership. This is very difficult in the City. There are very few houses in the City of London that you can privately own. Most are buildings and dwelling flats.

    This is why I think it would take at least 15-20 years or more until you will have proper full Fibre to The Premises supported. Each building has a manager and that authority is difficult to convince unless they too have a pecuniary interest!

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