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Summary of Full Fibre Build Progress Across UK Broadband ISPs UPDATE2

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 18,187

A couple of years ago we published a ‘Summary of FTTP Rollout Plans‘ and since then many more alternative network (altnet) ISPs have entered the UK market. As such we felt as it might be useful to produce a more comprehensive update on current progress and providers for 2020 and beyond (we’ll try to keep this up-to-date).

The reason for all this focus on optical fibre networks is because they can carry a ridiculous amount of data down even a single thread of fibre (multi-Gigabit and possibly even Terabits in the distant future), which should mean that there’s plenty of capacity available for when we need it. Suffice to say that fibre optic cables are about as close to future proof as you can get today.

At the time of our last update the Government was busy incentivising providers to achieve 10 million premises passed with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP / FTTH) style “full fibre” networks by the end of 2022, then 15 million by 2025 (here) and they held an aspiration to “deliver a nationwide full-fibre to the premises network” by 2033.

Since then we’ve had a change of Prime Minister and Boris Johnson has adopted a somewhat more complicated approach, which seeks to bring “gigabit-capable” broadband to every home by the end of 2025, although this target is more technology neutral and can thus be delivered via a mix of FTTP, Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC Cable DOCSIS) and Fixed Wireless (e.g. 5G) networks.

As part of that plan the Government has also committed £5bn to help those in the hardest to reach 20% of UK premises (mostly rural) gain access to 1Gbps speeds (here), although it will take a couple of years to establish the framework and legislation before work can begin. On top of that they’re supporting a £1bn industry-led plan to grow geographic 4G mobile coverage to 95% by the end of 2025 (here), which may also boost rural 5G.

However, due to all of the above, nobody is quite sure how long it will now take to achieve universal coverage of “full fibre” or even if that will ever be delivered, although internally the Government still seem to be very much focused upon fostering FTTP as the preferred technology. Meanwhile the feverish pace of “full fibre” build is continuing to ramp-up.

A Quick Full Fibre Market Overview

At the start of January 2020 some 11% of UK homes and businesses had access to a “full fibre” network (here), which is up from 5.47% a year ago and represents coverage of c.3 million premises passed (in April 2020 it hit 13%). The majority of that (2 million+) has been delivered by Openreach (BT) as part of their aim to cover 4 million premises by March 2021, then 15 million by around 2025 and possibly the majority of the UK thereafter.

On top of that Virgin Media are now mostly extending their cable network with FTTP rather than Hybrid Fibre Coax. Virgin’s original plan was to cover 4 million premises total (2 million via FTTP), but they haven’t given a precise figure for current full fibre progress. After Virgin we have Hyperoptic, which has well over 400,000 urban premises covered (FTTB / FTTP) and they aim to reach 2 million by 2021 and then 5 million by 2024.

The next biggest builder is Cityfibre, which by January 2020 had covered about 200,000 premises (not yet factoring their recent acquisition of FibreNation) as part of their plan to reach a “minimum” of 1 million homes by around 2021, with the “potential to extend” this to up to 8 million (across around 100 UK towns and cities) by 2025 or later (here and here).

Finally, the mostly London focused Community Fibre has completed 100,000 premises passed (predominantly social housing) and aims to cover more than 500,000 by the end of 2022 (rival G.Network are following close behind). Furthermore they hold an ambition to reach 1 million UK premises with 10Gbps capable broadband by 2025.

In addition to the above, there are also a mass of smaller full fibre altnet builders and some of those expect to achieve similar levels of coverage to those listed above. We’ve summarised each, including as much as we could find about their plans and progress, below (starting on page 2).

NOTE: Some ISPs have a flaky definition of “premises passed“. Ideally providers should only be including premises that are actually ready for service (able to take orders), but some ISPs include properties where the physical build is complete but you can’t yet order the service (this is important because non-live premises may take weeks or even months to become active).

Summary of Full Fibre Network Builders (Updated: May 2020)

The following list is in a simplified alphabetical order by operator name, rather than an order by scale. Remember that it’s not uncommon for newer entrants, especially smaller players, to produce over-optimistic build forecasts and thus some of the forward plans below may not come to pass.

Flick over to page 2 to see the full list..

Leave a Comment
11 Responses
  1. Avatar Philip Cheeseman

    Thank you for generating the stats. I wish there was someway of encouraging an altnet into your area. I’ve tried to sign up as interested to all the local ones but we are either too urban, too far away or not Southampton… We’re ripe for expansion into with over 15000 people in the small collection of towns I live in and zero fibre (some gfast). Keep feeling I will just need to wait for openreach or virginmedia…

    • Avatar Ben

      We are in a similar position. I live in Haywards Heath, a relatively wealthy commuter town. No g.fast or FTTP, not even Virgin Media. Interestingly a neighbouring village (Lindfield) has Openreach FTTP, so perhaps we’re on their radar? Hmm…

    • Avatar Ryan

      I am the same town of 35,000 people – no virgin, no altnet no G.fast so max of 76.

      I live 3000m from the box so max of 25-30.

      If an altnet came in with FTTP or even Virgin they would totally clear up, from a business sense I think the smaller towns with no alternative would be the best places to get customers rather than go into a big city which already has Virgin/FTTP/G fast but what do I know.

      Bring on 5G and that is the only chance we have of faster internet.

  2. Avatar joe

    Some effort Mark 🙂

  3. Avatar A_Builder

    @MJ

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

    Some of the lack of emitted information is surprising.

    Posting “we don’t know what you are doing” is also very important for investors and potential investors to understand that Comms are important in a Comms business!!

    Great work

  4. Avatar N

    I’m somewhat torn on all this news about full fibre, on the one hand I’m happy that we’re advancing, however I’m annoyed at the focus on prioritizing urban areas bringing gigabit connections and boosting their already quick speeds when there are still many homes that don’t even have access to FTTC, at my old house which I moved from not to long ago still uses old copper cables, the absolute fastest speed available there is 3mbps, in 2020 that isn’t acceptable, people who live rural are being left behind, and I fear that they will always be left behind as it’s not seen as profitable to extend reach to those places, this pandemic has proven that internet is a utility not a luxury, yet rural residents pay through the nose for a lackluster service.

    • Avatar Dave

      I feel your pain, for years we were at the bottom of the pile, we originally had TPON which took at least 2 or more years before we could even get ADSL (copper overlay), then the next almost decade we spent stuck on ADSL surrounded by Virgin, FTTP, FTTC (even half the estate was FTTC, but nothing for us), then summer last year Cityfibre announced their plans for our town and they were starting in our area, then in late Feb this year I spotted Openreach doing things at the entrance to our estate, 3rd April and I have FTTP live and im just waiting for cityfibre to make available to order (all streetworks have been done). So there is hope we have gone from bottom 2% in country straight to the top.

  5. Avatar chris conder

    Nice one Mark, good to see so many altnets going where the big boys fear to tread. It is much needed competition which will deliver a digital britain.

  6. Avatar Mungo

    I live in Dewsbury and apparently West Yorkshire is meant to be rolling out full fibre. My estate was built in 2018 but still has ADSL line only. I’ve been enquiring and trying to chase up and sign up for full fibre since moving here but still nothing. More annoyingly there’s a Virgin Media open stall in the middle of the town centre always trying to peddle their services to you, but only the east side of Dewsbury has cable / fibre already, and the west side is still stuck with copper wired ADSL! I gave them my postcode 2 years ago and still nothing. Clowns.

  7. Avatar Enric P

    Many thanks Mark,

    A very interesting and concise article with key figures.

  8. Avatar t0m5k1

    I just pissed at the whole shambles.
    4 Cabinets in Basingstoke ready for FTTP yet I get a constant stream of spam through my email box and front door.

    All they ever do is make sure the shitty centers are connected and move on then leave the surrounding areas for commercial funding or they schedule a small expansion 10 on.

    Pathetic Tory money backed infrastructure upgrades.
    Get them out of office ASAP

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