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Ofcom – Full Fibre Broadband Grows to Cover 14% of the UK

Thursday, September 10th, 2020 (10:03 am) - Score 1,674
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Ofcom has today released their Summer 2020 update for UK broadband and mobile networks, which reveals that “full fibre” (FTTP) coverage has grown to 14% or 4.2 million premises (up from 12% in Jan 2020) and 2% (590,000 premises) are still unable to get speeds of 10Mbps+. Geographic 4G coverage is now 67% (unchanged).

The latest interim report is based on coverage and service availability information received from both ISPs and mobile network operators as of May 2020, which is thus four months more recent than the January 2020 data in their previous update.

NOTE: The Government’s original definition of “superfast broadband” is 24Mbps+, which is close to 97% coverage.

Overall “ultrafast broadband” availability (defined by the regulator as 300Mbps+) has increased from 55% to 57% of UK premises since the last update, while “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) coverage remains unchanged on 95% (although it’s stated that 100,000 extra premises gained access to 30Mbps+ since the last report). On top of that it’s noted how 4.2 million (14%) premises can now order a gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) service, which is up from 3.5m (12%) at the last update.

At present most of the growth in ultrafast connectivity comes from the expansion of Virgin Media’s hybrid coax (cable) and full fibre network, although Openreach has also been deploying both G.fast (now shelved) and FTTP technology. Similarly, lots of alternative network (altnet) ISPs are also helping to deploy FTTP at an increasingly rapid pace (Summary of Full Fibre Builds), with Cityfibre and Hyperoptic being two of the biggest movers.

We should add that Virgin Media’s upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 technology has also made their network capable of gigabit (1000Mbps+) speeds and future 5G fixed wireless networks may also be able to achieve the same in some areas, provided enough spectrum and capacity exists to support them. All of this should help toward the Government’s ambition for making gigabit speeds available to every home by the end of 2025 (here).

The improvements in fixed line coverage also means that the number of premises which cannot get a “decent broadband” (10Mbps+) service is virtually unchanged on 2% or 590,0000 (down slightly from 608,000 at the last update). A download speed of at least 10Mbps and an upload of 1Mbps represents the specification for the UK Government’s imminent broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), which began in March 2020.

Take note that if we include 4G and fixed wireless networks into the mix for USO delivery then the gap drops to around 180,000 premises (Ofcom doesn’t give a precise figure in this update). Speaking of which, 4G mobile networks have seen outdoor coverage by all operators combined (EE, Three UK, O2 and Vodafone) hold steady at 97%, while geographic coverage from all operators is also unchanged on 67% since the spring update (the new Shared Rural Network agreement will eventually start to change that).

Summer 2020 Coverage Data by Region

The following table summarises the latest mobile and fixed broadband coverage figures for Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland individually and you can get more detail by downloading the full Summer 2020 Update (PDF).

ofcom_summer_2020_uk_broadband_and_mobile_coverage

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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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13 Responses
  1. Avatar Mark Lewis says:

    In terms of the Superfast broadband, I am in the bottom 5%, I wish there was more focus on getting FTTP to these users rather than giving those with Superfast even faster broadband. I am just above the USO threshold but my handback guarantee is below the USO threshold.

    I wouldn’t mind but I am in a 1 mile dead spot, Virgin are about half a mile up the road either direction. No plans for any FTTP offering. Our cabinet was one of the last to get FTTC.

    1. Avatar EndlessWaves says:

      100,000 sub-superfast properties gained better speeds in four months. When there are a million and a half to go the current rate would take five years.

      It does need more investment since it’ll naturally slow down as it converges with the sub-10Mbps figure which are the difficult to install properties.

      But for properties likes yours and mine (20Mbps FTTC installed last year) we should move out of that bracket in the next few years.

      The danger is that the government and Ofcom are now talking about solutions that barely clear the target speed like 4G and FWA so it could be exactly the same situation five years after that when 30-40Mbps is not enough. You’d have thought they’d have learned their lesson by now.

    2. Avatar Fermanagh Rural says:

      @EndlessWaves: Not all sub-10Mbps are the difficult to install properties. BT/Openreach are just hoping to bog their arm in on the Project Stratum money pot.
      I am poles all the way to the 2 nearest villages.
      BT/Openreach have spent the last 2 years periodically replacing the full length of cable to the FTTC cabinet, with new copper cable and cutting the trees (which they previously told me they are not responsible for maintaining).
      My speed has not changed in the slightest (2 lines at 4.5Mbit) and if anything, seems to drop more frequently than they used to. Each time they disconnect me, and then I have to call BT support from my mobile as they either forget to reconnect me, or reconnect me up to other peoples lines. This has happened most times they do the work (at least 5x so far), leaving me unable do use my broadband and phone for 2 to 7 days each time.
      I keep the 4G just for this, but it is really bad, and painful when working from home.

    3. Avatar joe says:

      @EndlessWaves

      No. 4/5G and FWA have plenty of headroom and the backhaul work is often the hard bit. Things will be much easier when future upgrades are needed.

    4. Avatar MR PAUL A MIDDLETON says:

      Directly opposite my work is a new housing estate which had fttc with cabinets next to the estate. OpenReach just upgraded to fttp. No need add they all are domestic properties and had excellent speeds, but as it is a tightly built estate with terrace housing and some flats it means OpenReach can add a decent amount of fttp with very little effort.
      Whilst our company and houses on the other side of the road are fttc but are as far away as you can get from a cabinet giving us 20mb on a good day.

  2. Avatar Adam Jarvis says:

    Does the figure for ‘access to Superfast/Ultrafast’ take into account FTTC cabinets that have reached capacity, which has reached more than 10% of cabinets in certain areas?

    1. Avatar Andrew Ferguson says:

      No

      Given cabinets can flex in/out of capacity every week, some are stuck in waiting list for a long time though.

      Also the reporting frame Ofcom use of 1 report every quarter, and then 3 to 4 months behind current situation would do little to help inform.

      Also for a cabinet to be at capacity means a chunk of people do have the service, and that would need to be factored in ideally.

  3. Avatar Alec Broughton says:

    would love to see a block on NEW projects to all suppliers until the 2% is addressed. that’ll light a fire under a bunch of suppliers

    1. Avatar Andrew Ferguson says:

      Liberty Global would probably just then focus on other countries like Ireland for investment until someone else dealt with the 2% and similar for all a lot of the other big investors.

    2. Avatar CarlT says:

      A bunch of smaller ones will go bankrupt. CityFibre will be placed in peril. Virgin Media / Liberty Global will build elsewhere in the group. Openreach, with no competition in urban areas as there’s no build, have no motivation to do anything beyond wait for subsidies from the taxpayer.

      That would be an incredibly stupid idea. While I appreciate your frustration for your situation I don’t really get how bringing everyone else down rather than yourself up would be beneficial.

      A small section of the UK is insanely expensive to serve and requires extensive taxpayer support. Short of nationalising Openreach your plan is totally unworkable, and nationalising Openreach doesn’t appeal – the country has far better things to spend the borrowing our kids and grandkids will be paying back on than prioritising faster broadband for 2% of the population.

  4. Avatar Azad Miah says:

    I have not got ultra fast broadband or fibre at my address. But my surrounding area has. This is very disappointing living in the heart of London. Please can you look into this for me. My postcode is E1 2NH.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @Azid
      As you live in an apartment block, you should speak to your landlord or managing agent as they will need to agree to any fibre provision within the building.

  5. Avatar Netty says:

    Are ratios the answer? For each 200 properties connected by a net/altNet) in an urban or city sprawl, 1 property must be connected (within 6 months) in a hard to reach rural area. Those without facilities or coverage in rural area would be required to pay into a funding pool for an organisations specialising in rural only installation.

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