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2018 H2 – UK Superfast Broadband Coverage Slowly Edges to 96%

Monday, January 7th, 2019 (11:47 am) - Score 1,542
uk map of england wales scotland and northern ireland

A new independent model has estimated that the coverage of fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) ISP networks across the United Kingdom has grown to 95.8% at the end of 2018 (up from 95.3% in H1 2018), while “full fibre” (FTTP/H) networks now reach 5.47% of premises (up from 3.82% in H1).

Officially the first 76% of “superfast” network coverage was largely achieved by purely commercial roll-outs from Openreach (BT) and Virgin Media (plus some alternative network ISPs), while much of the final 25-30% has benefited from £1.6bn+ of public funding via the Broadband Delivery UK programme (matched by contributions from private operators) and other schemes.

The state aid fuelled BDUK programme currently predicts that a future combination of public funding reinvestment (i.e. clawback / gainshare from high take-up and efficiency savings in earlier BDUK deployments) and new contracts could push UK coverage of superfast speeds to “at least” 98% by around 2020 (here). As usual you have to order one of these new connections in order to benefit (not an automatic upgrade).

The expectation is that this will leave up to around 2% of premises to suffer slower sub-24Mbps connections and those are expected to be catered for via the Government’s 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO), which is currently still in the final design phase with Ofcom (details).

Separately the Government has also committed several hundred million £ to support future “full fibre” (FTTP/H) and related “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) broadband deployments (here), with roughly £200m of that being specifically aimed at helping to foster the roll-out of new alternative networks (altnets) for poorly served rural areas.

Today a growing number of FTTP/H providers are making significant roll-out plans (details) and as such we expect to see a rapid increase in coverage over the next decade. Below you can see the latest modelling from Thinkbroadband to the start of January 2019 (2018 H2) and as usual we’ve stripped out some of the more confusing aspects in order to make it easier to read and focus on the core figures.

Naturally we’re now seeing coverage growth slow significantly as the focus shifts toward the most challenging rural areas, which will make it a slow crawl to reach 98% over the next year or more.

NOTE: The figure in brackets (%) below represents the previous 2018 H1 result.

Fixed Broadband Network Availability 2018 H2

Area % Superfast 24Mbps+ % Ultrafast 100Mbps+ % Full Fibre FTTP/H % Under 10Mbps USO
London 97.1% (97%) 73.9% (72.3%) 9.00% (7.18%) 2.4% (2.50%)
England 96.3% (95.8%) 58.9% (56.9%) 5.62% (4.14%) 2.7% (3.1%)
UK 95.8% (95.3%) 56.1% (54%) 5.47% (3.82%) 3% (3.5%)
Wales 95% (94.60%) 36% (33.4%) 6.12% (4.81%) 3.6% (3.90%)
Scotland 93.7% (93.4%) 46% (44%) 2.8% (1.07%) 5% (5.40%)
Northern Ireland 88.5% (87.6%) 39.3% (34.8%) 8.67% (1.61%) 7.6% (8.40%)

NOTE 1: Nearly all of the “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 (details). The 330Mbps capable G.fast roll-out to 5.7 million UK premises by the end of 2020 will also help.

NOTE 2: Recent BDUK contracts have adopted the EU and Ofcom’s higher download speed target of 30Mbps+ for “superfast” connectivity, which on average tends to trail around 0.2-0.4% points behind the 24Mbps+ figures above (we don’t list this due to the limited difference).

NOTE 3: 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 regions (e.g. a few may achieve universal coverage, while others could be well below that).

Take note that each devolved region has its own policy and targets, which all feed into the central UK target. For example, Wales aspires to reach nearly “every property” with 30Mbps+ broadband (here) and Scotland hopes to do something similar by 2021 (here), although nobody is certain when that will truly be achieved.

Elsewhere Northern Ireland remains one of the weaker entries and they’re clearly struggling to deliver superfast speeds. A 2017 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 but they’ve been slow to sort out the details.

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, network congestion, full street cabinets and other problems can result in slower speeds or worse availability than expected. But it’s still one of the best gauges that we have for checking against official claims (official figures tend to be around 0.5% to 1% higher than TBB’s data).

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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 Techman

    What about properties in the under 24 but above 10 category? Nothing?

  2. You can work that out yourself without too much difficulty; it’s not a particularly big gap. We’re only focused on the core figures above that link to known core definitions and policies.

    Most of those in the 24Mbps to 10Mbps gap should also benefit from the USO or future BDUK upgrades etc.

    • Avatar Techman

      Thanks Mark, sorry I just meant what will likely happen with them, rather than why they are not reported. It’s not a big percentage but still equally it is frustrating to be in that group as it seems like almost a forgotten group that is almost certainly at the back of any queue.

    • Avatar Joe

      “it is frustrating to be in that group as it seems like almost a forgotten group that is almost certainly at the back of any queue.”

      ALmost certainly true. The focus will be on USO/fttp/Gfast for the short term at least. the 10-24 block will get done just not quickly..

    • Avatar John

      Forest of Dean (Gigaclear and Fasterfailure) still no news over the pathetic attempt to upgrade here. We are not even getting 3 mb and dates pushed back all the time – OR really not interested at all, Fastershire not pulling their respective fingers out……I for one would love to have 10mb. Not having a go at you!

      USO – we can ask but it will cost far too much for an individual to install in the FoD, there, as far as I am aware, no legal requirement to provide.

    • Avatar Joe

      Its capped @ 3400 or so. The last estimate I saw was that ofcom thought 60k properties in the uk won’t get USO on cost cap.

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      @Joe – the last estimate was 110k of the 150k properties not covered by 4G would be above the £3400 cost threshold

    • Avatar Joe

      Jim what date was that from

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      December 2018, based on availability planning in Aug 2018

      Is there a different reference?

    • Avatar Joe

      Sounds recent; I can’t remember which ofcom doc I saw the number in – last year sometime – I read too many to remember.

      110k is higher than perhaps I expected. Be interesting to see their assumptions on that one given the general tech costs drops and 4G rollouts.

  3. Avatar TheMatt

    Only in the UK is 24mbits considered “superfast”

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheMatt: I wonder what the coverage figure would be for the upload speed? Probably the vast majority won’t have “superfast” speed for the upload direction.

    • Avatar OOF

      Take a look at the FCC under the Trump administration…
      Under Obama’s FCC 25mbps was defined as the broadband standard and the large companies did not like it. The current FCC under Ajit Pai wants it at a laughable 10mbps and to include 3g/4g there. So if you live somewhere where there is a supposed achievable 10mbps 3G speed and no/slow broadband then the gov says it’s good enough and inflates their numbers.

  4. Avatar Stephen

    As someone still in the 4% in rural Aberdeenshire, it was so disappointing to hear before Christmas that Openreach have now put our FTTP rollout completion date back from May 19 to early 2020. Naturally they didn’t give a reason but an Engineer told a local that they think there is ducting missing in a place these should be some. Surely 2 years into a rollout they would have done a survey of the entire route? Especially when they put up a load of new telegraph pole last April. And also when the same stretch is right next to an all in one fibre cabinet that went live a year ago. There is no fibre above ground so surely there must be ducting in place. Are the ducts too small to accommodate fibre for both FTTC + FTTP does anyone know?

    • Avatar Joe

      Ducts can get full but if you are that rural I doubt yours are!

      The engineer might be right but don’t assume it they often have very little idea whats going on. You need someone higher up the pole or the planners.

      Any roadworks planned they often give a clue whats going on..

    • Avatar Stephen

      I keep a close eye on the roadworks as like you say, it is a good indicator of what is going on. There is nothing planned for my street/route to the exchange, However there is a lot of FTTP rollout going on in the surrounding areas, some of which is now live.

      Also, I wonder if Openreach Engineers are being drawn away from the shire to be used in the city. Cityfibre/Vodafone began building their own FTTP network around October. Since then, I have noticed many PCP cabinets around the city have recently been suddenly fitted with G-FAST extensions, even though Aberdeen didn’t appear to be in the G-FAST upgrades for the near future.

    • Avatar Joe

      Works teams tend to move from area to area (which is why if you get missed it can lead to long delays before they are back) Cab/pod installers won’t be the same ppl laying fibre

      Have you tried walking the routes. They often leave works notes on poles etc which can tell you what they have done.

  5. Avatar Rahul

    The 97% figure for London for example is the overall availability. But Superfast FTTC is only available to 55%-59% of City of London area. Also I’m not sure if the percentage figure is somewhat exaggerated. A cabinet may show live but it might not have the capacity to provide the service to all the customers in that area making the coverage figure look artificially higher than it seems! Only 1 out of our 3 properties in Central London has FTTC.

    For example we have a friend who lives in Petticoat Square Tower. The cabinet is Fibre Enabled but absolutely the entire building has no access to Superfast broadband due to capacity issue despite the fact that their line is not Exchange Only Line.

    But they have one fortune permission granted for Hyperoptic but the installation has been delayed for them last 2 years with no progress. Meanwhile I also live around the area in another building and like others, I also follow roadworks from time to time but there has been no sign of any cabinet upgrades for my EO Line last 10 years on a plan for Superfast.

    Since there is no hope of having Fibre any time soon. Yesterday I decided to switch to Plusnet on a new 12 month contract from Sky for ADSL up to 17Mbps with £75 cashback with line rental in advance.

    If like me anyone else who hasn’t yet got Superfast coverage, no point worrying about switching over to a new provider for ADSL in the meantime. Until there is Superfast or FTTP/H availability it will be a long process. It’s almost impossible to see my building getting wayleave agreement granted and installation completion in the next 1 year.

    At least I am lucky to get 14-18 Mbps on ADSL from the various speed test results.

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