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H2 2020 Take-up of the UK Superfast Broadband Rollout Project

Sunday, March 14th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 5,568
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The Government’s £2.52bn Superfast Broadband Programme (SFBB) has so far helped to extend 24-30Mbps+ capable UK ISP networks to 5,327,128 extra premises since 2012 (up by 33.9K in H2 2020 vs 62.7K in H1 2020) – about 440,000 (our estimate) of these are FTTP – and take-up data to December 2020 shows strong demand.

The following figures reflect the percentage % of premises (homes and businesses) that have chosen to take a 24Mbps+ capable service (usually via FTTC, FTTP or Fixed Wireless Access technology), albeit specifically those which have been delivered via state aid support under the Building Digital UK project (i.e. % subscribed of premises passed).

NOTE: It’s often best to judge take-up by looking at specific areas that completed their deployments 1-2 years ago or more as it takes time to grow.

The data is split between the first two phases of the programme. The most recent contracts have tended to focus on remote rural areas, which since 2018 have increasingly involved deployments of “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband technology to reflect the Government’s changing focus toward “gigabit-capable” services. Prior to that hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2) was the most common technology.

We should add that older BDUK contracts defined “superfast” as offering download speeds of 24Mbps+, while recent ones have increased this to 30Mbps+ (this aligns with the definition used by Ofcom and the EU).

BDUK Phases One (Finished Spring 2016)
Supported by £530m of public money via the Government (mostly extracted from a small slice of the BBC TV Licence fee), as well as significant match funding from local authorities and the EU. The public funding is then roughly matched by BT’s private investment. Overall it helped to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services to cover 90% of premises in the United Kingdom.

BDUK Phase Two (Technically on-going)
Supported by £250m of public money via the Government, as well as match funding from local authorities, Local Growth Deals and private investment from suppliers (e.g. BT, Gigaclear, Airband, Call Flow etc.). This phase extended superfast broadband services to 95% of premises in time for the end of 2017, but some newer contracts are on-going (e.g. the Welsh Government’s new programme).

Most of these contracts also include a clawback (gainshare) clause, which requires the suppliers to return part of the public investment as customer adoption of the new service rises. The funding from this is being reinvested to further improve network coverage and speeds via extension contracts. Efficiency savings from earlier contracts can also be reinvested, but sadly we don’t have any recent data on that (we think it could be worth c.£300m).

So far it looks as if a total of around £788m could in theory be returned via clawback from BT (here) and a fair amount of that has already been returned. The extra funding has so far helped to raise the UK coverage of 24Mbps+ capable networks to 97%+ (96.6% for 30Mbps+) and it’s still helping. In November 2020, the Government predicted that existing projects (pre-Gigabit Programme) might push superfast cover to 98% (here).

bduk impact march 2019

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) mentioned above is a reference to the Government’s new legally-binding pledge to ensure that those in the final c.2% of premises, which may not benefit from BDUK’s effort, can still request a download speed of at least 10Mbps (details here). Sadly, Ofcom’s move to accept 4G as a solution for most of this gap feels like a bit of damp squib due to the technology’s variable nature and some areas are still too expensive to tackle (here).

BDUK Phase One Take-up (Average %)

The following tables break the take-up data down by each BDUK local authority (project area) and devolved region (Scotland, Wales etc.), although for the proper context these percentages should ideally be considered alongside the most recent premises passed (network coverage) data, which can be seen at the bottom of this article. Overall 72.81% of premises have adopted the new service (up from 69.24% in H1 2020).

NOTE: Some counties have divided their deployments into separate contracts. For example, Phase One in Shropshire doesn’t include the ‘Telford and Wrekin‘ area because that is part of a separate Phase Two contract inside the same county. On top of that the contracts were all signed at different times and so are at different stages of development.

Project Area (BDUK Phase 1) Uptake % (Dec 2020)
Bedfordshire & Milton Keynes 77.71
Berkshire 73.52
Bucks & Herts 79.49
Cambridgeshire 71.23
Cheshire 75.09
Cumbria 71.43
Derbyshire 69.69
Devon & Somerset 70.76
Dorset 70.71
Durham 69.53
East Riding (Yorkshire) 73.48
East Sussex 75.51
Essex 75.02
Greater Manchester 67.58
Hampshire 72.82
Herefordshire & Gloucestershire 71.16
Isle of Wight 70.55
Kent 74.34
Lancashire 67.73
Leicestershire 73.95
Lincolnshire 73.09
Merseyside 65.64
Newcastle 68.84
Norfolk 74.96
North Lincolnshire 70.46
North Yorkshire 71.81
Northamptonshire 76.08
Northumberland 73.9
Nottinghamshire 71.77
Oxfordshire 74.36
Rutland 76.27
Shropshire 72.63
South Gloucestershire 71.86
Staffordshire 70.34
Suffolk 73.98
Surrey 75.06
Warwickshire 76.93
West Sussex 77.33
West Yorkshire 68.64
Wiltshire 73.83
Worcestershire 76.38
   
Devolved Administrations  
Highlands and Islands 71.16
Northern Ireland 73.97
Rest of Scotland 67.41
Wales 68.01

BDUK Phase Two Take-up (Average %)

So far in this phase an overall total of 38.73% of premises have adopted the new service (down from 48.54% in H1 2020 – partly due to the addition of R100 etc.). We note that a number of Phase 2 schemes also consist of more than one contract and so you may see several figures being reported for certain areas in order to reflect each of those deals (this is sadly very confusing, but that’s just how they do it).

Both of the recent contracts in Scotland and Wales will also be covered in this table because they have received some funding from the original BDUK programme.

Project Area (BDUK Phase 2) Uptake % (Jun 2020) Uptake % (Dec 2020)
Bedfordshire & Milton Keynes 61.87, 9.7, 8.85 65.38, 24.51, 24.19
Berkshire 31.49, 9.03, 40.38, 7.89 35.71, 7.89, 48.95, 13.66
Black Country 57.46 60.24
Buckinghamshire 0 0
Bucks & Herts 58.42 63.77
Cambridgeshire 3.29 7.23
Cheshire 63.85 66.21
Cornwall 60.61, 33.28 65.21, 43.97
Cumbria 54.46 56.77
Derbyshire 45.91 50.28
Devon & Somerset 8.31, 11.49 7.15, 7.54
Dorset 67.81, 23.3 71.19, 37.19
Durham 59.44 63.33, 23.95
East Riding (Yorkshire) 65.76 67.91
East Sussex 67.83, 8.47 72.83, 15.48
Essex 63.55, 26.61, 5.82, 21.78, 1.9, 13.37, 0, 3.91, 2.28, 0, 0, 0 67.49, 33.76, 5.31, 8.72, 34.92, 25.37, 0, 13.68, 15.44, 12.5, 8.64, 0
Greater Manchester no data no data
Hampshire 58.55 63.85
Herefordshire & Gloucestershire 37.42, 12.04, 12.38, 8.53, 6.14, 26.14, 41.84 46.76, 16.24, 17.45, 16.27, 9.38, 45.37, 60.68
Hertfordshire no data no data
Kent 73.56 76.08
Lancashire 53.12 56.69
Leicestershire 58.21 62.31, 7.73
Lincolnshire 55.7 59.39
Norfolk 61.65 67.66, 0
North Lincolnshire 58.17 60.39
North Yorkshire 56.36, 24.27 68.9, 30.15
Northamptonshire 58.96, 11.84, 10.8 67.79, 13.16, 14.4
Northumberland 50.77 59.9
Nottinghamshire 50.42, 49.95 58.5, 15.7
Oxfordshire no data no data
Rutland no data no data
Shropshire 65.64, 6.52 70.03, 7.11
South Gloucestershire 63, 25.31 66.18, 36.48
South Yorkshire 59.33, 7.66 63.29, 16.8
Staffordshire 56.19 59.79
Suffolk 62.47 66
Swindon 8.68 8.68
Telford & Wrekin 71.86 74.62
Warwickshire 62.78, 14.58 65.3, 25.19
West Oxfordshire 14.1 16.55
West Sussex 65.96 70.85
West Yorkshire 53.68 57.32
Wiltshire 59.91, 9.78, 34.03 63.68, 11.67, 42.53
Worcestershire 61.8, 19.17 66.49, 28.04
     
Devolved Administrations    
Highlands and Islands no data no data
Northern Ireland 50.77 57.79
Rest of Scotland no data no data
Wales 2.73, 2.58, 2.59 15.99, 18.36, 13.29

IMPORTANT: Take-up is a dynamically scaled measurement, which means that at certain stages of the scheme it may go up or even down depending upon the pace of deployment (i.e. premises passed in any given time-scale), although over time the take-up should only rise.

Explained another way, earlier phases of the roll-out were easier and faster to deploy, so you could expect to see a bit of a yo-yo movement with the take-up % sometimes falling if lots of new areas were suddenly covered. Some contracts are also younger than others and will thus take time to catch-up. On top of that BDUK’s roll-out pace has slowed to a crawl as it reaches remote rural areas, which will give take-up a chance to climb.

A number of other factors can also impact take-up, such as the higher prices for related “fibre” services, as well as customers being locked into long contracts with their existing ISP (they can’t upgrade immediately) and a lack of general awareness (locals don’t always know that the faster service exists) or interest in the new connectivity (if you have a decent ADSL2+ speed and only basic needs then you might feel less inclined to upgrade).

The fear of switching to a different ISP may also obstruct some services. In other cases the new service may run out of capacity (i.e. demand is higher than expected), which means that people who want to upgrade are prevented from doing so until Openreach resolves the problem, although the scale of this issue is fairly small.

Now, for some context, here’s the latest progress report on related contracts for the same period (this doesn’t show any match-funding from private investment). Take note that this also appears to have included some output from the latest R100 programme in Scotland (under Scottish Government) and new contracts in Wales.

Funding and Premises Passed Progress (BDUK Phase 1 + 2)

  Total BDUK Contracted Funding Total Local Body Contracted Funding Current Total Contracted Premises Delivered to Date (Dec 2020)
Bedford & Milton Keynes £12,280,000 £9,443,694 52,526 52,600
Berkshire £5,173,250 £4,603,250 41,187 35,511
Black Country £2,988,349 £2,988,349 37,302 37,389
Buckinghamshire £0 £1,767,716 755 0
Bucks & Herts £8,684,767 £11,415,000 92,880 91,535
Cambridgeshire £6,232,000 £21,895,592 112,148 107,358
Cheshire £6,461,000 £18,214,055 86,151 82,210
Cornwall £5,960,000 £13,631,224 14,988 15,725
Cumbria £35,511,855 £18,134,246 121,780 122,184
Derbyshire £12,631,020 £9,580,000 103,046 102,725
Devon & Somerset £42,911,069 £48,766,010 364,252 300,046
Dorset £13,404,088 £16,051,546 81,532 78,851
Durham £7,632,295 £12,166,000 115,790 113,525
East Riding (Yorkshire) £16,601,164 £8,393,079 50,876 49,768
East Sussex £9,460,000 £13,000,000 68,379 65,732
Essex £10,784,755 £19,296,658 156,377 142,098
Greater Manchester £6,512,307 £5,923,000 41,363 40,062
Hampshire £27,370,000 £14,180,000 110,498 102,762
Herefordshire & Gloucestershire £15,410,658 £34,525,881 161,440 141,358
Hertfordshire £0 £879,471 546 0
Highlands & Islands £50,830,000 £75,600,000 152,700 152,819
Isle of Wight £11,463,509 £2,490,000 17,617 17,649
Kent £16,430,000 £14,998,391 144,131 140,040
Lancashire £7,258,895 £22,540,000 147,334 145,803
Leicestershire £18,860,000 £10,884,318 75,149 73,775
Lincolnshire £7,260,000 £17,910,000 143,661 136,086
Merseyside £970,000 £2,798,448 43,905 43,966
Newcastle £15,440,000 £941,158 6,760 6,697
Norfolk £11,813,007 £26,153,767 213,716 204,709
North Lincolnshire £19,418,000 £2,880,963 30,833 29,344
North Yorkshire £14,946,490 £30,184,726 191,113 174,494
Northamptonshire £12,918,046 £13,009,000 80,019 77,370
Northern Ireland £11,454,000 £186,954,000 143,140 67,173
Northumberland £7,500,000 £12,047,087 49,620 49,361
Nottinghamshire £7,410,000 £10,288,644 69,316 68,708
Oxfordshire £4,944,500 £20,045,470 79,103 79,067
Rest of Scotland £50,000,000 £107,575,000 587,362 590,432
Rutland £9,474,257 £1,670,000 7,175 9,903
Scottish Government £20,990,000 £571,139,073 123,907 56
Shropshire £10,704,690 £12,722,000 68,923 67,462
South Gloucestershire £7,320,000 £3,521,123 20,044 20,233
South Yorkshire £9,610,239 £13,598,577 103,290 98,742
Staffordshire £9,620,000 £7,587,242 80,725 81,245
Suffolk £26,940,000 £28,304,629 131,832 126,819
Surrey £1,310,000 £19,020,081 79,193 79,263
Swindon £928,882 £950,000 19,958 17,010
Telford & Wrekin £2,157,000 £1,843,000 8,653 8,698
Wales £69,040,000 £210,589,237 754,921 716,013
Warwickshire £17,376,786 £14,509,344 69,131 64,011
West Oxfordshire £1,600,000 £1,556,675 4,788 4,155
West Sussex £5,695,000 £7,510,000 53,758 54,229
West Yorkshire £13,651,243 £18,024,540 100,368 99,154
Wiltshire £8,739,827 £16,496,000 82,048 77,614
Worcestershire £8,387,032 £11,403,641 63,830 63,589
  £738,469,980 £1,782,600,905 5,761,839 5,327,128

The above figures only include 24Mbps+ capable premises in BDUK intervention areas.

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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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11 Responses
  1. DL says:

    It’s amazing just how wrong the BT/OR estimates of uptake were. Was it 20%,30%?

    In my county (Oxfordshire) you regularly see taxpayer funded FTTC cabs in cities and towns like Oxford and Henley-on-Thames. Uptake is 76% in Oxfordshire.

    Yes, clawback will reclaim some of this money, but remember this every time an OR employee states in the comments here that an area is ‘not commercially viable’ and that people should start a community funded project. BT isn’t a charity.

    I’m very glad that the altnets are lighting a fire under BT and that Gavin Patterson is gone. Some of us have no choice of broadband provider due to our rural location.

    1. James says:

      You’re lucky to have your own county, for some reason Somerset is reported as an enclave of Devon! Maybe so CDS can massage their figures somehow.

    2. NGA for all says:

      The BT Group gambit on the rural upgrades has been a huge miscalculation at the expense of Openreach and a much delayed upgrades in rural.

      Although Mark keeps reporting that the Capital Deferral is paid or utilised, there is no information in the public domain to suggest this is true. NAO in October pointed to £900m in a revised definition of clawback.

      It is coming good after 8 Parliamentary inquiries but we still have no proper reconciliation of who paid what and when. With 434k premises outstanding and under contract on completion this will takes coverage beyond 98%. With monies outstanding another ~500k English properties and some ~30k Welsh properties can be contracted using the monies owed.

      Let’s hope the Boris election promise does not get in the way of completing these works. The private sector can invest in overbuilding FTTC as OR has already done in Salisbury including overbuilding some 14 subsidised cabinets that BT Group thought needed gap funding.

    3. Fastman says:

      DL

      what you are forgetting is most of those cabs would have been expensive to cover, not be many premises and pay back would have been over 15+ years and the only income you get is line rental every month, , so if it was your business please invest X money you might break even in 15 – 20 years and you might get some good take up or poor take – , we dont know

      the take up you refer is based over contract wide non on individual structures (so some will have done better than expected meaning some will not and some might never break even

      altnet also has the benefit of actually getting all the rental as well so get all of the revenue as well – which is not the same as a commerical wholesale model

    4. Fastman says:

      NGA

      Sailisbury as you will know was a trial of fibre only exchange using FTTP (you can imagine why salisbury was chosen) and it was nothing to do with some FTTC cabs being enabled as part of BDUK some 5 or 6 years previous

      this is trying create conspiracy theory again . Remember that any BDUK cabs would have been match funded by Openreach (another thing you tend to forget) andf those cabinet would have also been included into the Gainshare

    5. NGA for all says:

      Fastman .. conspiracy? – read the footnotes in your own accounts and the latest NAO report. There is no evidence of when the gap funding was deployed. ‘Operational clawback’ has been invented to now describe the BT Capital. OR separation and 8 Parliamentary inquiries and still no admission of the sub-optimality. ex BT Group executives running these upgrades are now raising money to complete with BT.

    6. DL says:

      Fastman, I think that you’ve made my point quite well. OR isn’t a cluster of micro companies that needs to justify each cab in its own right. It’s a national company that serves the whole company and is getting subsidy from the government on a national level.

      Just because some rural cabs serve fewer properties doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. You don’t make the opposite case: e.g. “city cabs are so lucrative that line rental should lower there”. The picture should be national (or in this case county-wide). The densely populated areas cross-subsidise the sparsely populated areas.

      Rural areas use less electricity than cities, but we don’t expect to pay lower elex prices.

    7. DL says:

      Sorry, that should have been “serves the whole country” (not company)

    8. DL says:

      Also, I reiterate my initial point: BT/OR fundamentally and severely didn’t understand the market demand. Compare their estimate of demand (30-ish%) vs actual demand 76%. A real sign of a company with (in many areas) no competitors.

  2. Paul M says:

    Why doesn’t the scheme specify the upload speed? This really matters, if you’re running a business you’re sharing documents, or producing marketing videos, not streaming netflix!

    How do I get one of these grants to get better for mine and my son’s business?
    I live in semi rural Cambridgeshire, with a long phone line. FTTPod is available buy would cost 6k at least extra in the first year.

    The 5megabits/sec uplink we have is a real problem at times.

  3. Jim says:

    All this money spent on getting fiber broadband for the majority and I still cannot get fiber in rural Lincolnshire.

    I can see the fiber cabinet from my house which was installed in 2018 and just left to sit there. If it wasn’t for 4g we wouldn’t be online as the ADSL was So bad I had to cancel it.

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