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UK Fixed Superfast Broadband Coverage Finishes 2017 on 94.7%

Monday, January 8th, 2018 (2:22 am) - Score 1,479
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The most recent independent data for Q4 reveals that the United Kingdom ended 2017 with fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks having covered 94.7% of premises (94.3% if you define superfast as 30Mbps+), which suggests that the Government has hit their 95% target.

The estimate, which was produced by Thinkbroadband, wisely tends to be a bit more pessimistic than official figures (i.e. officially the Government will probably claim victory on their 95% target). The focus will now switch towards tracking the Government’s next expectation for “superfast broadband” to reach 98% by around 2020 (here), as well as the growth of “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) connectivity (e.g. FTTP/H/B, G.fast and Cable DOCSIS).

However we should point out that later Broadband Delivery UK contracts have adopted the EU and Ofcom’s higher download speed target of 30Mbps+ for “superfast” connectivity, which tends to trail around 0.3-0.6% points behind the 24Mbps+ figure (depending on location). Meanwhile those in the final 2% are expected to be catered for via the Government’s 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO).

It’s worth remembering that the first c.75% of coverage was largely achieved by commercial roll-outs from Openreach (BT) and Virgin Media (plus some altnet ISPs), while most of the final 25-30% has benefited from around £1.6bn+ of public investment via the BDUK programme. More recently another £600m has separately been earmarked to support future “full fibre” (FTTP/H) deployments (here and here).

Below you can see the latest data to the end of December 2017 (Q4) 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 USO for broadband, which could be 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 nearly all of the below “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) coverage is coming from Virgin Media’s cable network, 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 should also help.

Area % Fibre based % Superfast 24Mbps+ % Superfast 30Mbps+ % Ultrafast 100Mbps+ % Under 10Mbps USO
London 97.70% 96.8% 96.60% 71.5% 2.60%
England 97.50% 95.2% 94.90% 56.2% 3.40%
United Kingdom 97.40% 94.7% 94.30% 53.2% 3.80%
Rest Of Scotland 97% 94.3% 94% 47.5% 4.60%
Wales 97% 93.7% 93.20% 32.6% 4.50%
Scotland 96.60% 93.1% 92.70% 43.2% 5.80%
Northern Ireland 98.50% 85.4% 84.40% 30.6% 9.50%
Highlands and Islands (Scotland) 89.70% 77.9% 76.50% 0.3% 16.90%

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.

Elsewhere Northern Ireland, which has good “fibre based” coverage, remains one of the weaker entries and they’re clearly struggling to deliver speeds of 24Mbps+ to those within its reach. However 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), may help to resolve that.

As stated earlier, this data is only an estimate and 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 much slower speeds than expected). However it’s still one of the best gauges that we have for checking against official Government claims (they’re also based on an estimate).

NOTE: It’s very important to remember that Government / political targets like 95% or 98% reflect a national average, which can of course be better or worse for some specific areas (e.g. a few may achieve universal coverage, while others could be well below that level).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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32 Responses
  1. Moses Jonson

    This great news for us Brits, the more the better, this something I can thank hyper optic, virgin media and many British ISPs for pushing forward with this, it’s they’re going all out to get us connected and get Britain the highest quality of British internet networks.

  2. I think the word ‘estimate’ is the wrong word to use, modelled would be better if after a single word, and the longer version ‘model designed to reflect the reality of what people can expect from around 101,000 cabinets/nodes’ i.e. comparisons are made with speed test results for verification.

    Should also be pointed out that any Government model would carry the same word ‘estimate’ and even the official Ofcom results, which is based on the line speed data from providers can only be present where people have the services and thus there must be a model somewhere or they are reliant on the estimates from the operators.

  3. TheManStan

    Have either Gigaclear or Openreach said anything about expectations of their contracts with Carillion Telent? As this will impact future coverage growth…

    Lots of recent articles about debt for equity about Carillion… but the single article below highlights issues relating to the JV with Telent.


    • Yes they did, back in July 2017 and the same position holds. Essentially if Carillion were to fold and the government didn’t sort a bailout (seems unlikely as too many things depend upon them) then Openreach’s part of the fibre contract would be taken on by telent.

  4. Terence Goff

    I suspect for a lot of people these speeds are pie in the sky, I am by no means in a rural location and yet my ADSL line according to my ISP will only support up to 4mbs, my local cabinet is fibre enabled but as I live about a 1000yds away the estimated speeds are only between 10-15mbs. Until Open reach can supply FTTP what hope is there.

  5. Phil

    Does this figure of 94% include or exclude where an exchange (or virgin cable zone) is enabled, but a block of flats inside that area is not connected to FTTC?

    I know of one area (in London!) where this is the case and BT haven’t even said why it isn’t coming either.

    • Gadget

      Counting is usually done by either PostOffce delivery points or Ordnance Survey unique premises, so will include blocks of flats and contribute numbers according to the enabled status.

    • The counting does take into account that some premises are not able to get virgin media or some other form of fibre based broadband, large chunks of London are like this, but this balanced out by other areas where coverage is really really good.

  6. BillyBob

    No fan of BT, but they aimed for 95% and, given a small rounding adjustment, they got there.

    More concerning though is that clearly as a country we don’t need full fibre due to the vast majority of people on lower tier speeds, even when they do have full fibre. Don’t really see anyone in a residential setting needing more than a 100MB even in the next decade so strategy of sweating copper is obviously a sound one.

    • Rahul

      I hate that attitude! Because that is exactly what will cause the Fibre to lag behind.

      Even if we don’t need more than 100MB. The problem is this Copper Wiring is a handicap! Like I said in another post it’s like installing a GTX 1080 graphics card into a Pentium 4 CPU which is going to be an absolute bottleneck.

      FTTC is not the solution. I still don’t have FTTC even though last 3-4 years it says “You’re in a plan to get Superfast fibre but we haven’t started work yet.
      It’ll be built either as part of our fibre programme or through a partnership with your local authority.”

      Another property I have and it’s Exploring Solutions “We’re working with government and industry to explore ways to bring Superfast fibre to as many people as possible but don’t have a plan for your area yet.
      You might consider co-funding fibre access in your community. Knowing there’s a healthy demand in your area can also really help.”

      The 95% availability is an absolute lie and a cover-up for the UK to defend its embarrassing broadband state compared to the rest of Europe and the G20 countries who have better speeds than the UK! 95% of the homes do not even have FTTC supported and I don’t believe this statistic. I know this, I have asked several of my friends who also don’t have FTTC yet. Only 1 out of my 3 properties has FTTC here in Central London. And only 3-4% of the country has FTTP.

      FTTC is not something I am happy with because there’s always the danger of internet drop outs due to the copper wire not being able to handle high speeds unless the distance is small from cabinet exchange to home. Plus weather interference, rain, storm, lightning cause internet to drop-out. Only under super stable conditions is FTTC going to work. Otherwise for the vast majority people will still suffer with an up to 76Mbps connection and they’ll probably only receive 40-50Mbps in speedtest.

      Only FTTP will solve the proper internet speeds and reliability. Anyone from BT or the government reading this, I am not waiting another 10-15 years just to get FTTC thank you very much! And I know it is heading that direction.

    • Finding places in London with access to FTTC or anything else that can offer superfast speeds is easy….

      There are over 116,000 premises across London that cannot get a USO level service, and that rises to over 143,000 when using a superfast speed definition.

      London has been left to the realities of the commercial market with the focus being outside London and lots of commercial firms rolling out full fibre if developers want to get on board.

    • TheFacts

      @Rahul – asking several friends produces stats for the whole of the UK?

    • 125us

      Rahul – lots of people will sell you a fibre connection in London right now – Colt,Kcom,Verizon even BT. What you’ll not like is how much it costs. It’s one thing to demand fibre, it’s another thing entirely to demand that companies sell it to you at a loss.

    • Rahul

      Andrew is right actually. London has indeed been left out. Plus I am a leaseholder. It’s impractical of me to leave the flat where I live and move to another apartment and pay rent there instead just to have Fibre lol!

      @TheFacts: Yes it does give us partial clues about the statistics. I don’t doubt that there are many homes with FTTC support. But that figure of 95% is quite exaggerated (at least in London)..

      @125us: Kcom for example only focuses for Hull and Yorkshire, not London. Verizon is a US company, never heard of them supplying broadband in the UK.

      Actually Hyperoptic are very interested to install their Fibre in my building but the authority does not want to give them permission yet despite 30+ residents registering their interest.

      This is the problem with FTTP. It’s not even so much about the cost. I am happy to even co-fund it. It’s about a Building Managerial Authority to grant permission for Fibre cables to be installed through the building. I have spoken to the Manager today who told me that maybe by the end of the year they’ll look into it. But I think he’s probably lying and just wants to avoid the discussion so I back away from disturbing him in his office.

      But of-course I think persistent pressure will eventually help. After all these are humans and patience has limits. So if you can actually make them fed-up then maybe they’ll make a decision one day. Sad it has to be that way though.

      This is why FTTP support is only at 3-4% and FTTC support is much higher. Because FTTC does not require permission from building authorities as the signal is carried through the existing copper wires of the building apartments!

    • brian

      @Rahul, you may hate the attitude, but this is clearly shared by many people. People do not see the value in higher speeds. Once you have more than say 24mb, what do I care whether it is copper or a fibre wire coming in to my house. Facebook looks the same, my e-mails don’t appear any different, I don’t get a different ending to House of Cards if I’m on fibre rather than copper. The ONLY reason to want fibre, is that you want very high bandwidth. The only need for very high bandwidth in a residential setting is multiple concurrent torrents. So forgive me if I don’t care about demanding fibre everywhere.

    • Rahul

      The problem is the 24Mb that you are speaking of, is not 24 megabytes, but megabits! This is not enough. Maybe you are just a basic computer user who browses the web and views emails.

      But I am a PC Gamer and 24 megabits is not enough. Just to give you an example. 10 years ago you could find PC DVD games in Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, ASDA, GAME UK, including Blockbuster. I was less dependent on decent broadband speeds.

      Now Retail stores no longer sell PC DVD games. There are very few limited variety. Even in GAME UK you find wide section of Console games, but PC version so the same games are either sold via online or digital download services like Steam, Origin, GOG.com, etc.

      Not only that, the size of these games have increased drastically over the last couple of years! FIFA 11/12 and NBA 2K11, 12, 13 on PC were FREE DISK SPACE: 15 GB. Now as of FIFA 17 and 18 Hard Drive Space Required: 50.0 GB! This is the same for NBA 2K15, 16, 17, 18 on PC.

      This means that the estimated download to take off from my Steam download estimation is 21 hours and 47 minutes with 12Mbps. If I try to leave my game to download in the background, internet usage becomes like dial-up speeds. That’s no exaggeration, it’s completely unusable. My parents complain that they can’t browse the internet while I am downloading. So I have to try downloading those 50GB games while I am sleeping at night.

      And if you think that’s enough and not considered a punishment, then you are basically fooled.
      Because come 5-10 years down the line the bandwidth will increase. Who knows we might need to download 70-100GB for the newer PC titles in future with better and more improved graphics. This will render even 100Mbps obsolete, never-mind 24Mbps.

      At this stage, at this moment, I can upgrade my Processor, Graphics Card, RAM, SSD, etc. But I can’t upgrade my internet speed, I’m stuck with what I’ve got!

    • TheFacts

      So children playing games justifies building a national FTTP networks. Ask your parents to move.

    • Rahul

      @TheFacts: Stop jumping into conclusions just because I mentioned the word “parents”. I’m 28 years old and yes I live with my parents as it’s a leasehold apartment and moving to another apartment with Fibre is impractical! Adults play video games as well. This is not a case of just rolling out Fibre for video games, 4K video content, etc. That’s just one example I gave with the frustrations that I face.

      Another example why we need a rollout of Fibre is for higher upload speeds. I am a Graphic Designer and Illustrator. I graduated 6 years ago and over those 6 years improving portfolio works and regularly uploading design works has been a pain.

      Three years ago I worked as a Freelance Magazine Designer for Public Sector Excellence a magazine where I had to produce 60 pages via Adobe InDesign. It was a monthly official publishing project for one of the leading Business Magazines in United Arab Emirates.

      The Production Manager wanted me to upload the entire 300+MB Adobe InDesign file to him for the purpose of looking through for possible corrections as PDF file conversion wasn’t something he accepted.

      Can you imagine how much of a struggle it is to upload a 300MB-1GB file with a 1Mbps upload speed? It affects businesses, project deadlines and can potentially affect the economy as well. Graphic Designers have huge multiple project deadlines to meet. If you delay the completion of any projects, you have clients who begin to quarrel with you, a Manager who becomes angry, etc.

      My dad is an NHS Locum Doctor who specializes in Tropical Medicine and works in various Hospitals throughout the country as a Senior House Officer. Many rural parts particularly where he has worked such as in Rochdale, Grimsby and Lancashire had horrendous internet speeds in the hospital wards. He needed to retrieve patients medical history records to find out what medical treatment he needed to provide them with. The speeds were so slow that this delayed medical history records to be retrieved. And the hospital consultant wasn’t always considerate. Patients could die if any potential treatments are delayed.

      In fact there is an article on uswitch only from 2 days ago that mentions exactly those benefits. https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/news/2018/01/full_fibre_broadband_can_drive_cost_savings_in_nhs_says_cityfibre/

    • brian

      So the only 2 examples you can see for a national fibre to the home network is so you don’t have to wait 24 hours to download a game, and when you try and run a business on a residential connection it doesn’t it work very well.

      Yea that feels like it’s worth several 10s of billions pounds.

    • Rahul

      @Brian: The examples and benefits I mention are in fact many. The benefits it will bring are far greater for numerous aspects including economy of the nation as a whole. Not to mention the few billion pounds that will be productive for decades to come and it is just a one off expenditure. But anyway, it is up to you how you perceive it.

    • TheFacts

      @Rahul – OK, but hospitals should have their own dedicated NHS network so the slow speeds you mention won’t be because a hospital has just an ADSL line.

    • Rahul

      @TheFacts: Unfortunately their own dedicated NHS network is still running on primitive technology. Hence why… “NHS Digital is currently preparing to roll out the Health and Social Care Network, which will replace N3, the national broadband network for the NHS in England.”

      “This will not only drive cost savings through the removal of multiple connections into the same site, it will give the NHS the reliability, capacity and internet speeds it needs to transform services in the digital age,” he commented.”

      That copper line is bound to cause problems irrespective of which network you use. Old technology=carrying old problems. Something that is independent from the ISP provider or network.

      This is why spending the few billions of pounds will benefit the country as a whole (not something to be sarcastic about). It will bring back revenue in return. Remember we spend 10 billion pounds a year to the EU Membership. It’s not like you are building a strong PC that lasts only for a few years and it needs upgrading again.

      Fibre is something that will last for decades, it will not become outdated easily. Also these Fibre optic cables are capable of being upgraded to 100Gbps. But 1Gb is only an initial package perhaps because many motherboards and conventional hard drives do not support more than 1Gbps yet and packages would be too expensive above 1Gb for the initial stage.

      Not to mention another benefit is that this this will minimize technical issues. Under a pure fibre technology there will be fewer connection problems and the technical support departments of the given ISP networks will naturally be less overloaded with phone calls from customers complaining about internet speeds being slow or their connections dropping out. This as a whole will also save money! Fewer technical support advisers for ISP’s will need to be hired.

      Just like now with modern technology we have fewer computer problems compared to the old days of IBM DOS Windows 3.1 those days were very primitive. Dial-up was horrible disconnecting every 2 hours. Modern technology of-course eradicates most of these problems that we once had.

    • TheFacts

      @Rahul – are you telling us all hospitals have connectivity based on delivery over copper? Strange, BT was providing data links using fibre into premises 30 years ago.

      HSCN has circuits with copper delivery as an option…

  7. You can doubt of course and you can do the counting which I’ve done and thus can show you that http://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/city-of-westminster,E09000033 which when you also look at City of London is what many call London, with the other boroughs being more suburban

    BTW FTTP support availability is higher in London at 6% and even higher in Westminster at 14%

    • Joe

      Andrew, I do wonder why the government hasn’t considered forcing owners of flats etc to allow access for retrofit for FTTP etc. There are a number of other areas of law where owners are compelled to not withhold ‘reasonable requests’ I suppose another method might be to tweak the tax status on the freehold.

    • Gadget

      Joe, if you have ever seen what chaos and damage can result from running any kind of additional cabling within an existing building, not just listed ones you’d appreciate the reticence of managing agents.

    • TheFacts

      Like drilling holes and complying with fire regulations?

    • Joe

      @Gadget: I’m very familiar with it as it happens. The whole point of a ‘reasonable requests’ system is that it gives residents a threat of action but one that can be defended. There are clearly legitimate problems but in many cases thats not what is blocking the roll outs. Its simply a matter of there being no gain and not wishing to have any extra effort. I’ve seen very few cases where with a little planning/co-operation and common sense these issues can’t be solved where both sides engage sensibly.

    • The answer is that most likely legislation would take a long time to get through, and in actual world if people were to check the state of Internet access prior to signing mortgage/rent agreement then those buildings with poor access would soon find difficulty increasing occupancy.

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