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Gigabit Capable Full Fibre UK Broadband Cover Passes 10%

Monday, November 11th, 2019 (8:22 am) - Score 3,099

The latest independently modelled data has estimated that “full fibre” (FTTP) style broadband ISP networks – usually capable of “gigabit” (1000Mbps+) speeds – can now reach 10.01% of premises across the United Kingdom, which is up sharply from 5.47% at the very end of last year and from 8.13% at the end of June 2019.

The data from Thinkbroadband tends to be more cautious than other reports and therefore only factors premises where live coverage has been confirmed, rather than also including builds that might have completed but where the service itself has not yet been confirmed as live. We think this probably puts full fibre coverage at roughly around 3 million UK premises.

In terms of which operators have had the most impact upon this figure, obviously Openreach (BT) is known to have covered 1.81 million with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) by the end of September 2019 and are by far the biggest market player (aiming to reach 4 million by March 2021 and then possibly 15 million by around 2025).

After that Virgin Media has completed a large chunk (we don’t know exactly how many premises they’ve built using FTTP but they’re in the hundreds of thousands), while Hyperoptic has completed more than 400,000 (500,000+ if you were to include those that aren’t fully live yet) and Cityfibre is still in their early ramp-up phase but they’ve done c.106,000 (mostly during 2019).

Community Fibre will has also hit 100,000 by the end of this year and a bunch of smaller providers are already in the high tens of thousands (e.g. Gigaclear). Most operators are currently still ramping-up their deployments and as such the overall build pace will continue to rise over the next year.

UK Fixed Broadband Network Availability November 2019

% Superfast 24Mbps+ % Ultrafast 100Mbps+ % Full Fibre FTTP/H % Under 10Mbps USO
96.38% 58.68% 10.01%

Nearly all of the “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) coverage above is currently still coming from Virgin Media’s cable network, although full fibre and some G.fast deployments have helped to nudge this upward a bit in certain areas. At present the bulk of new FTTP builds are still commercially driven and mostly taking place in dense urban areas, where we can expect a lot of overbuild between networks (i.e. good for consumers and competition but not so good for improving the overall coverage of full fibre).

The first 40-50% of premises tends to be the easiest and cheapest because they’re mostly dense urban locations, which is what commercial players will naturally target first and we can expect these to be done relatively quickly.

Meanwhile the Government has pledged £5bn to help the most challenging (often rural) final 20% of premises, although it’s likely to be a couple of years before the political and procurement processes have completed before building can start on that (here). The latter is also subject to some uncertainty due to the imminent General Election and we don’t yet have any solid details on the Government’s framework for spending that £5bn.

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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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9 Responses
  1. NE555 says:

    “Openreach (BT) is known to have covered 1.81 million with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) by the end of June 2019”

    Correction: according to BT’s quarterly results it was 1.81 million at end of Sep 2019. The figure at end of June 2019 was 1.514 million.

    “the overall build pace will continue to rise over the next year”

    Perhaps, but there’s also a risk that the rate of increase of coverage could fall, due to overbuilding in the more commercially attractive areas.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Corrected, thanks. Glanced at the calendar Q2 by accident.

  2. A_Builder says:

    Fantastic that more and more people and businesses can benefit from a really good connection.

  3. AnotherTim says:

    That USO figure isn’t reducing much – I guess it won’t change until some time after USO actually comes into effect.
    I’ll be interested to see what happens in my area – I’m sure it will be 4G (which still won’t be superfast).

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Depends how you look at it but the figure is still coming down by quite a bit every quarter (by the time the USO starts it’ll be lower still), although we are talking about some very rural deployments (now mostly using FTTP) so they don’t go at a lightning pace:


  4. Meadmodj says:

    Do these figures reflect that the number of new build completions is about 40k per month which increases the number of overall premises? (presuming hopefully most new houses now get FTTP). For me the interesting figure would be the increased availability of FTTP on existing premises and the actual take-up rates of the higher services.

    There is a lot going on in the figures above. There needs to be a significant ramp up in planned resource and the market (BT, VM and Altnets) still need more confidence regarding their longer term liabilities. An extended fibre tax holiday may help but it doesn’t take the issue away if future take-up is low or customers migrate between provider.

    1. Andrew Ferguson says:


      https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/8565-pace-of-openreach-full-fibre-roll-out-may-be-increasing shows you the split for Openreach between build types

      Notice how it explored the take-up profiles in the different types too.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      Excellent thanks

  5. tonyp says:

    Just shows what CAN be done if there is a will! As a recent recipient of fttp I was happy I didn’t get fttc. A plus factor (if you can call that) is that I have been able to retain the ADSL service on the accompanying POTS line!

    Apart from the USO element, there does seem to be a real impetus to get gigabit capable services even into quite small communities – perhaps not into remote farms yet. However with Hi-Tech farming methods, it will need improved connectivity to, for example, monitor milk yields, sophisticated bacteriological testing, Vet services, grain harvesting, moisture levels, farmgate market pricing, and so on.

    Who is paying for all this investement? In the short term, HMG and comms companies must be footing the bill (and comm companies bottom line may well be affected in the short term – hope there isn’t shareholder flight) but in the end, it will be recouped by consumer, commercial or domestic, through market pricing. Hopefully increases will not be too steep.

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