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UK Fails to Enter 2018 FTTH Ultrafast Broadband Country Ranking

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 (8:30 am) - Score 7,286

The FTTH Council Europe, which campaigns for the adoption of pure fibre optic based Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P/B) style ultrafast broadband technologies, has published their latest 2018 country ranking and sadly the United Kingdom remains notable for its continued absence.

Coverage figures for the UK tend to vary but we’ve previously estimated that “full fibre” style FTTH/P/B broadband networks were already available to around 1.1 million homes and businesses (premises passed) by mid-2017 (here), which is now rising at an increasingly rapid pace.

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 (apparently we’re not quite there yet). It’s also possible that the council may be lacking a complete picture of the UK’s FTTH/P/B market.

Overall the number of Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) and Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) subscribers in Europe increased by 20.4% since September 2016, reaching 51.6 million subscribers in the EU39. Coverage (homes passed) also increased by 16% to reach more than 148 million across the same area and take-up grew to 34.8% (up from 29.9% in the previous year).


The ranking also reveals that FTTH is more popular than FTTB (55% vs 45% by September 2017) and more alternative network ISPs (AltNets) are deploying than incumbents, with a contribution of about 54% of the total. In an FTTB setup the operator usually takes their fibre optic cable to a building but the service may then be distributed internally via a very short run of either fibre, coax or other copper lines (Gigabit speeds are still possible).

Ronan Kelly, President of the FTTH Council, said:

“The findings of the Market Panorama are quite telling, we are now all looking towards the same goal of a fibre rich Gigabit society.

We obviously commend the front-runners for their impressive and continuous progress towards FTTH/B but we are also very encouraged by the new trend of operators in countries which do not typically demonstrate a strong appetite for fibre, starting to get involved more intensively in FTTH/B projects.

The structure of the market is also changing with the apparition of new types of stakeholders with innovative business models fostering infrastructure competition and making new investments.”

The good news is that FTTP/H/B coverage in the UK is now going through a significant ramping-up phase. In recent months Openreach (here), Vodafone and Cityfibre (here), Hyperoptic (here) and TalkTalk (here) have all announced significant plans to build their own “full fibre” networks to millions of premises, albeit mostly in urban areas (it’s too early to say how much these will overlap).

On top of that a variety of smaller alternative network providers, such as Gigaclear, KCOM, Community Fibre and B4RN, are also continuing to grow and some of these are more rural than urban focused. Lest we forget Virgin Media’s on-going expansion to 2 million extra premises via FTTP (note: an additional 2 million are being catered for via Hybrid Fibre Coax based DOCSIS).

The Government is helping to fuel some of this via their £400m (state aid) Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIFF), which when supported by private investment could be worth up to £1.5bn. Over the next 3-4 years the DIFF could help an additional 2 million premises to gain access to ultrafast broadband (full details). The Chancellor is also working to introduce a 5 year relief from business rates on new fibre (details).

In short, this might very well be the last year that the UK is absent from the Council’s ranking but our market will continue to be dominated by cheaper hybrid fibre solutions (e.g. FTTC VDSL / G.fast and Cable DOCSIS) for quite a few years to come. Now here’s a snapshot of the wider global ranking.


NOTE: Spain, which is playing host to the event, has so far delivered 17.5 Million homes passed by FTTH/B and 6 Million subscribers by September 2017. The country also scores high on the global ranking with a penetration rate of 33.9% and its deployment is a lot younger than some.

However countries like Spain should not be directly compared with the UK because, for example, dramatically more people live in large apartment buildings over there (cheaper to serve) and Telefonica (Spanish incumbent) didn’t have to wholesale FTTP until recently (it still doesn’t have to do so in more competitive areas).

UPDATE 9:11am

The UK might not show up on the council’s official ranking table for the EU39 but the organisation has also published some general growth statistics as part of today’s speech and if you look down at the bottom right corner, while making sure to squint your eyes in mild irritation.. At least we have growth on our side.


UPDATE 9:38am

The full slides package (PDF) has now been published, which includes a bit of extra background.

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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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66 Responses
  1. TheFacts says:

    People buy a service, not the method of delivery.

    This only matters if you are in the business of selling fibre stuff…

    Where is the UK in terms of speeds available and in use?

    1. Shen Leyton says:

      You clearly dont have the right mindset your thinking like the likes of BT who think copper and their G-fast technology is good enough sure enough the UK is pretty high up on the average internet speed available table FOR NOW! the issue is as fibre becomes common place in european countries they will soon surpass up whilst we are stuck with the likes of BT and their G-fast technology or even Virgin with Doccis fibre is the way forward and if we are this far behind i fear we are years behind are european neighbours mark my words 5 years from now the UK will start falling down the average speed table until we reach total obscurity.

    2. AndyH says:

      Why does it matter how the speed is delivered?

    3. Arguably, reliability and future upgradability are big issues for copper. Perhaps not insurmountable, but everyone on FTTC knows that a bunch of things may affect the connection over time – from the weather, electromagnetic variation through lights and atmospheric conditions, and how many other people use it.

      Optical fibre has less of an issue there, and it’s easier to see how much of an impact there will be by adding more people; it’s less likely to unpredictably degrade the quality of the connection for everyone else.

    4. TheFacts says:

      @Lp – Why is the number of people using FTTC relevant for it and not for FTTP?

  2. ashley day says:

    I just buy a service, based on the best method of delivery in my area which is fttc atm.

    1. spurple says:

      how do you explain why the vast majority of people in Virgin Cabled areas choose virgin if not speed?

    2. MikeW says:

      “Vast Majority”

      VM has about 20% of the entire market at the moment. As they only cover 50% of premises, this means they have 40% of the market that they actually serve.

      Its a good number, but not a bare majority, never mind a vast one.

    3. Gadget says:

      But with around 40% market share in their coverage and 20% overall it must start raising the question or concerns of SMP – as according to Ofcom ” According to case law a market share over 50% would lead to a presumption of dominance. In the European Commission’s decision-making practice, single dominance concerns normally arise where an undertaking has at least a 40% market share. However, there may still be concerns about dominance where an undertaking has less than 40%, according to the size of that undertaking’s market share relative to its competitors.”
      And then there is the question of the Herfindahl index which will also no doubt have a bearing of Ofcom’s approach.

  3. Nice Alt says:

    Gotta love both of those comments cleatly from the same person.
    Why are you so against FTTH?

    1. TheFacts says:

      What makes you think anyone is against FTTH?

    2. ashley day says:

      I am very much for fttp. I was trying to point out that I do buy a service based on the method of delivery. I have a choice of satellite, 4g , adsl2 and fttc. I can get more bandwidth on satellite and 4g but as I mainly use my line for gaming I chose fttc as the latency is better although it changes with DLM intervention.

    3. CarlT says:

      So you chose based on latency. 🙂

  4. AndyH says:

    The FTTH Council Europe numbers are for subscribers, not premises passed.

    Unfortunately, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone refuse to sell Openreach’s FTTP which means the UK is unlikely to appear on the FTTH Council Europe’s global ranking list (in any meaningful manner) for some time.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Tricky one for Openreach to resolve, given Ofcom’s tedious regulation and all those years spent encouraging rivals to build their own networks instead of piggy-backing 🙂 . Mind you Sky hasn’t yet given a solid commitment to an specific FTTH/P platform (plus they don’t intend to build their own) and so perhaps there’s room for a deal there (once the Fox/Disney question is settled).. who knows.

      However I’m certain BT, as the largest ISP by some margin, may have an impact.

    2. adslmax says:

      Sky, no chance of having fibre of their own. Sky only interested best deal for Premier League football with £4bn pound deal. That’s money £4bn could have gone to fibre instead.

      I am glad I am no longer subscription to Sky.

    3. GNewton says:

      @Mark Jackson:

      “However I’m certain BT, as the largest ISP by some margin, may have an impact.”

      I think this is an important point here. Just because Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone or others don’t want to be resellers of BTs fibre networks doesn’t mean FTTP is unattractive. To the contrary, BT has its own retail divisions, e.g BT Broadband, with a significant market share. This could actually be an opportunity here for BT as it will take much longer for Vodafone, TalkTalk etc to build their own fibre networks.

    4. AnotherTim says:

      I think it is important to remember that BT is already everywhere (more or less), while Vodafone, TalkTalk, etc are only ever going to cherry-pick the areas they support with FTTP (just as they already do for ADSL/FTTC). This gives BT an opportunity of a near monopoly for FTTP in other areas.

    5. wirelesspacman says:

      They will progressively start to use the Openreach FTTP infrastructure as they will have little choice once customers start to leave them for “faster” FTTP when all they sell is “slow” FTTC. I remember the same sort of thing happened with adsl and vdsl.

    6. AndyH says:

      @ wirelesspacman

      I don’t think they will at all. Demand for ultrafast speeds is still very low and it’s unlikely to dramatically change in the next few years.

      TalkTalk now sell G.Fast, but they still won’t sell FTTP. Their intention to build a rival network is contingent on minimum order commitments. I suspect they are already talking to Sky, particularly given their close work in the past.

      Vodafone are unlikely to build their own network in partnership with Cityfibre and then use Openreach’s FTTP in the same areas. That wouldn’t make commercial sense at all.

  5. jeep says:

    Personally think demand for ftth would be higher if offered I for one would certainly jump ship back to BT from SKY if they offered ftth etc as I live approx 250m from my fttc/pcb cab & get 29down/7up fed by pole, they just put a new pcb cab in this week pity they couldn’t have added a g/fast cab aswell.

    1. occasionally factual says:

      I live in an FTTP area (and it has been since 2010 initially as part of the Openreach trials then commercially)
      And there are still lots of properties on the <3Mbps ADSL offering the area gets. (The majority)
      People who come to this site are in the minority (by a long way) and the rest of the population aren't too bothered if what they have meets their needs and budget.

  6. Steve says:

    Anyone got a view of the consumer propensity to pay for speeds above 50Mbs?

    1. A_Builder says:

      I was out with the dad’s from the daughters school last week and the universal view was the broadband wasn’t really good enough for modern requirements. I was quite surprised how strongly the view was expressed.

      I think the ISP’s reluctance to sell fast stuff and have symmetric services is more to do with the required investment in backhaul than anything else. If you have really fast connections then you have massive spikes in the traffic at peak times. To a certain extent this is therefore really bandwidth throttling albeit throttling that is in the headline speed of the package.

      So I think saying that the ISP’s don’t want to sell it proves that nobody wants to buy it is a non sequtor.

      As a lot of people have said on the forum recently the download bandwidth can often be hedged by caching popular movies etc within the ISP’s own network.

    2. FibreFred says:

      “I was out with the dad’s from the daughters school last week and the universal view was the broadband wasn’t really good enough for modern requirements.”

      Your/There broadband? Or all broadband in the UK?

    3. AndyH says:

      “I think the ISP’s reluctance to sell fast stuff and have symmetric services is more to do with the required investment in backhaul than anything else. ”

      Why do Gigaclear and Hyperoptic sell 1Gig services? Why does Openreach provide a 100/220 FTTP service?

      The number of customers that will buy the fastest speed products is very very limited. Once you get to that spectrum of the market, more people will want to pay for leased circuits because there isn’t a huge cost difference and the added SLAs/SLGs can be critical, especially for businesses.

      The investment in backhaul argument really doesn’t add up at all. For the small number of customers that want high speed, symmetrical services, a far greater number of people will take the standard speed products. Is your backhaul cost more expensive for the majority or the ultra minority?

      “So I think saying that the ISP’s don’t want to sell it proves that nobody wants to buy it is a non sequtor.”

      There is no proof here at all. If there’s a demand for something, even if it’s a niche market, someone will sell it. The margins are far greater for higher end speed products.

    4. AndyH says:

      That should read 1000/220 FTTP service.

    5. CarlT says:

      Yes. Apart from, apparently, everyone A_Builder comes into contact with it’s pretty small.

  7. chris conder says:

    reminds me of that old Ford quote. If you ask people what they want they will say ‘faster horses’ and that is what this country is stuck with. They are still rolling out obsolete FTTC and gFarce as fast as they can, whipping the donkey. That is why we aren’t on the world stage and fast becoming a third world digital nation. Gee up.

    1. AndyH says:

      I guess you didn’t read the article and comments before going off on one of your rants.

    2. CarlT says:

      By most metrics we’re a long way from being a third world digital nation. About the only metric the UK performs poorly in is this one.

    3. MikeW says:

      … and it’s a metric that only matters when there is no alternative.

      It is, after all, a self-serving metric created by vendors with a vested interest.

  8. Tyneside says:

    Openreach still laying copper to new builds on my estate that was yesterday when someone asked Kelly communications if they were laying fibre. Those lucky new residents can look forward to 5Mb/s with no FTTC. This is Newcastle on an estate of around 300 properties not rural Northumberland.

    1. FibreFred says:

      The choice of fibre/copper is down to the developer. They are laying what is requested.

    2. Gadget says:

      Maybe because that is what the developer ordered!

    3. AndyH says:

      99% of new build sites with 30+ homes contracted since April 2017 have got/are getting FTTP.

    4. CarlT says:

      Who’s the builder and when did the buliding start?

  9. Tyneside says:

    Persimmon, the development started around 2014, do they not just place an order for a phoneline and let openreach decide what is best? I understand the early ones will have copper but in 2018? The cabinet is nearly 1km from the estate surrounded by fields. As the crow flies the nearest house is about 1.2km from exchange but line length is probably min 2.9km given the cabinet is further away.

  10. FibreFred says:

    “do they not just place an order for a phoneline and let openreach decide what is best?”

    Nope, they get presented with options for Copper and Fibre. The developer decides which to go for.

    1. TheFacts says:

      Surely they just put duct in, same for copper or fibre?

    2. Fastman says:

      not quite if that development started in 2014 it will have been copper only – Tyneside what development is this !!!!!

    3. Fastman says:

      there is not provide any copper on FTTP sites

    4. Fastman says:

      if I was an FTTP site and it was registered post Feb 2016 and had a 9 months first occupancy Date there it would have been FTTP by default and no copper would have been provided on that site — if neither of the above (ie before 2016 and less than 9 months leadtime) it would have been copper — which would either have been connected to he nearest copper cab (enabled or not) or a new copper cab created (if the there was over 100 plots registered at the time)

  11. chris conder says:

    I rest my case AndyH, you’re the one who always seems to go off on rants, astroturfers tend to do that I find. I just say what we all know. We’re whipping a dead donkey in the uk.

    1. TheFacts says:

      And we still wait for you to come up with your proposal, even after all these years.

    2. Carl Thomas says:

      I’m not sure why you feel it necessary to call pretty much everyone who disagrees with you an astroturfer.

      Some people just don’t agree with your point of view on things. Doesn’t mean they work for BT or whomever else.

    3. Fastman says:

      what a surprise B4RN was a good fit for the community it met based on the extensive expertise of the person who created it but there’s a million miles between that bespoke scheme and a Uk wide network

    4. TheFacts says:

      As we know that expert was not Chris, but Barry Forde with masses of qualifications and experience.

    5. TheFacts says:

      In all these years Chris has not come up with one proposal for the UK.

    6. GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: “In all these years Chris has not come up with one proposal for the UK.”

      Neither have you. Nor have many of the other posters. Unless you want to include your notion of a nationwide government funded fibre rollout which is quite out of touch with the real world.

      You know only too well that the broadband situation is quite complex in the UK, and there are no easy solutions, thanks to the whole framework set up by the government, Ofcom, BT’s lack of vision, the BDUK farce, VOA fibre tax, bureaucratic red-tape, etc.

    7. TheFacts says:

      @GN – not my ‘notion’ as you have been told many times.

    8. Fastman says:

      G newton exactly so comments such as “I just say what we all know. We’re whipping a dead donkey in the uk”. — are massively simplistic !!!!!! in what you have correctly notioned is a highly complex scenario

    9. GNewton says:

      @Fastman: As I said, there is no easy solution because of the mess created by the government and BT.

      TheFacts said this Jan 31 2015: “The government should have found enough money to fund a full FTTP rollout across the UK.”

      I think we can see that this has always been an unrealistic demand and won’t happen.

      Chris has a valid point here when highlighting the fact that the focus on copper-based solutions is not the right choice for a long term approach. This country will never be a leading digital economy in this current framework.

  12. Gadget says:

    @GNewton – and if the statement had been made that FTTP is the right long-term solution but because of the costs there is no money to do it, so we have had to cut our cloth to fit our budget I don’t think anyone would have violently disagreed – however I believe the comment as posted showed more of Chris’ personal bias and enmity than it did polite reasoning.

  13. Graham Long says:

    No one here seems to have mentioned the incompetence of the Advertising Standards Agency who still don’t understand the difference between fibre and copper and the implications that has for future growth in broadband speeds which consumers will demand. In other countries showing a copper wire in an advert and labeling it “fibre” was banned years ago such as the ban on such ads in France in 2015, but not in the UK where copper broadband providers can lie to consumers with impunity. See https://issuu.com/gglong/docs/virgin_copper_is_fibre . Only the UK government and the likes of BT, Sky, Virgin etc like the consumer to be lied to because it helps convince the unwitting consumer they are getting something (and payinig for it) that the current infrastructure cannot deliver. Read the cable.co.uk survey: https://www.cable.co.uk/news/two-thirds-misled-by-fibre-broadband-advertising-experts-compare-situation-to-horsemeat-scandal-700001439/

    1. GNewton says:

      I have to agree with you, ASA has contributed to the UK broadband mess with its false “fibre” definition. However, the FTTH Council Europe with its latest country ranking hasn’t been mislead, that’s why UK has again missed an entry in its list.

    2. TheFacts says:

      So the theory is that if the word fibre was not used we would have significantly more FTTP in the UK?

    3. FibreFred says:

      Laughable. So… there’s no demand for FTTP as people already think they have fibre?

      Oh dear

    1. FibreFred says:

      Written by Fibre Systems. I cannot imagine any bias there eh?

      Why don’t you ask the public, the actual consumers. I’m sure you will find all they care about is: Price, speed, reliability. And probably in that order.

      The delivery method, its largely irrelevant if they are happy with the above.

  14. Graham Long says:

    FibreFred clearly has not read what 1,000 consumers said. https://www.cable.co.uk/media-centre/release/cable-investigation-reveals-two-thirds-misled-by-fibre-broadband-advertising-experts-compare-situation-to-horse-meat-scandal The ASA only used data from 99 people to conclude that it does not influence consumers if ISP’s call copper, fibre.
    The ASA’s incompetent ruling also means you can advertise a mobile phone as a “fibre phone”! See: https://www.fibre-systems.com/news/analysis-opinion/whats-name-fibre-ads-ruling-could-harm-investment

    1. FibreFred says:

      “Thursday 21 April 2016: Research by Cable.co.uk has revealed that two thirds of fibre broadband customers on BT’s Openreach network – which services around 80% of the UK’s total broadband customer base – are unaware their so-called ‘fibre’ service arrives at their home through a standard copper telephone line.”

      Fine, but to what effect?

      I totally agree with the result of the survey. But… what? Has it impacted their, broadband? Are they unhappy now that is isn’t fibre and they’ve cancelled the service awaiting FTTP?

      How is this stopping investment in FTTP?

  15. Graham Long says:

    UGH? If you think you already have fibre, you are not going to convert to fibre. BT don’t care either way but altnet companies offering full fibre in BT copper areas stand not to get enough consumers to convert to them and if they don’t get enough conversions they don’t get enough revenue and their future is questionable. The altnets are simply asking for a level playing field – the ASA should require suppliers to specify how the service enters the property just as the french ASA do. I’m amazed you don’t get that.

    1. TheFacts says:

      Do people care how it gets to the house? Surely the speed is the reason to change or upgrade? Altnets should market their 1G service. Apart from people not needing 1G…

    2. FibreFred says:

      I get it, I just don’t think it makes any different to the consumer in terms of what they choose to buy.

      They are buying speed. Alnets want to stand out, advertise the speed. If people don’t need that speed, they won’t buy it.

      The ASA has been challenged twice, don’t think it will change.

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