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Ofcom Spring 2021 – Full Fibre Covers 21% of UK and Gigabit 37%

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 (10:56 am) - Score 2,808
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Ofcom’s latest Spring 2021 update for UK broadband and mobile networks has revealed that “full fibre” (FTTP) coverage has grown to 21% (up from 18% in Sep 2020) and 37% or 10.8 million homes are within reach of a gigabit-capable (1000Mbps) network (up from 27%). But sadly 4G coverage has not improved and there’s no mention of 5G.

Once again, this interim report is based on coverage and service availability information received from both ISPs and mobile network operators as of January 2021, which is thus four months more recent than the September 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 Ofcom as 300Mbps+) has increased from 59% to 61% of UK premises since the last update, while “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) remains unchanged on 96%. On top of that it’s noted how 6 million (21%) premises can now order a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) service, which is up from 5.1 million (18%) at the last update.

At present most of the growth in ultrafast and gigabit connectivity comes from the expansion and DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade of Virgin Media’s Hybrid Fibre Coax (cable) network, although both they and Openreach are also deploying lots of gigabit-capable FTTP. Similarly, lots of alternative networks (e.g. Cityfibre, Hyperoptic, G.Network etc.) are helping to deploy FTTP at an increasingly rapid pace (Summary of Full Fibre Builds).

All of this work will no doubt help to support the UK Government’s new £5bn Project Gigabit programme, which aims to further improve the picture for gigabit speed connectivity by using state aid to target connectivity improvements toward the final 20% of hardest to reach premises (i.e. helping to extend gigabit coverage to at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025).

The improvements in fixed line coverage also mean that the number of premises which cannot get a “decent broadband” (10Mbps+) service should have done down, but Ofcom has just changed the way they measure broadband availability at sites with multiple properties (e.g. blocks of flats and shopping centres) and this has had an impact.

In short, the number of properties (both residential and commercial) that cannot receive a 10Mbps+ broadband service from a fixed line now stands at 650,000 (just over 2%). At this point we’d normally also get an additional figure for how this is impacted when fixed wireless and 4G coverage is included (last time it was 189,000 premises), but Ofcom have yet to complete the work for that.

Just to remind readers, a download speed of at least 10Mbps and an upload of 1Mbps represents the core specification for the UK Government’s new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), which began in March 2020.

Speaking of wireless services, 4G mobile networks have seen outdoor coverage by all operators combined (EE, Three UK, O2 and Vodafone) hold steady at 98%, while geographic coverage from all operators is also unchanged on 69%. The new £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) agreement will eventually start to change that, but it’s a slow burn. Sadly, the big disappointment today is that Ofcom still aren’t tracking 5G coverage.

Spring 2021 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 Spring 2021 Update (PDF).

ofcom_spring_2021_uk_broadband_and_mobile_coverage

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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.
Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. New_Londoner says:

    Let’s hope that we don’t get yet another endless series of posts along the lines of “nothing in Telford”, “what about Leicestershire”, “super farce”, ‘backwards country”, “monies owed” etc.

    1. adslmax says:

      As usally – Telford get NOTHING again!

    2. Value for Money says:

      The numbers are getting better and there is no reason not to finish the job in rural England..given the monies within the process. The £2bn accumulated losses in BT Sport (FT) will need to have been recovered by not investing elsewhere. The outstanding enquiries by Ofcom (B-USO quotes) and NI audit might keep the pressure on. The Gigabit consultations are not prioritising the outstanding rural work and there is still no public record of the status of BT’s capital (operational clawback) and the profit share (‘traditional’ clawback). We could also do with an update on the efficiency savings – another form of clawback.

      It is getting in much better shape, another 430k premises under contract and awaiting delivery. BDUK should finish the job and contract another 200k in England before IMHO the ‘gigabit-capable’ proposals run into trouble clashing with the Area 3 settlement.

      That APPG inquiry can have another poke at the clawback balances owed!

    3. Value for Money says:

      @new_londoner The 570k premises full fibre delivered in rural UK is huge achievement, as is the 430k under contract and yet to be delivered. The scale and nature of that makes it even more important those so far excluded are not forgotten where the funds are available to complete the work.

      BT Group effectively withdrew from FTTP in 2013 while bidding for football rights. This has been a long and painful journey for customers and shareholders.

    4. GNewton says:

      @Value for Money: “BT Group effectively withdrew from FTTP in 2013 while bidding for football rights. This has been a long and painful journey for customers and shareholders.”

      I totally agree. But there were other failures, too, such as wrong government policies, wrong frameworks, fibre not being treated as a utility, wasteful duplication of fibre infrastructures in certain places while on the other hand most places still havn’t access to fibre broadband, etc.

    5. Mark says:

      It’s still a valid question. Don’t know about your area, but here in the Cotswolds there’s lots of areas where there’s poor coverage from all networks, main reason is AONB and objectors, whats the solution going to be? Council had already rejected some 5G masts, will it have to compulsory purchase of land to build on, or just leave the areas who object to it?

    6. Karl Cronin says:

      We have had FTTP FIBER OPTIC CABLES FITTED BACK IN JULY 2018.
      Shame that it’s not finished.
      As this is on the old poles the copper line’s are past due date. So we cannot get anything done or finished off at all.
      100% joke to be one house that is only get £1500 grant for a promise of one day soon back in 2019…

    7. P murphy says:

      What a load of rubbish those figures are false where I live in hartlepool can’t get 3meg its only new builds or virgin get high speeds

    8. Value for Money says:

      @gNewton Government policy was driven by the budget available, using the budget (~£1.7bn) to get fibre beyond the local exchanges and into the access network.

      The overuse of cabinets particularly FTTC Cure (re-arranged copper), the use of FTTC in Business parks, the switch from rural to urban, the overbuild of Virginmedia were all products of how the work was conducted and reported.

      The 8 Select Committee enquiries have played some part in unpicking what BT folk called the Gambit and that unpicking still needs to be completed, given their is no public record after more than 8 years of what BT has contributed and when. IMHO this has cost Openreach dear, especially as former BT relationship directors are now engaged against Openreach using the information still denied Parliament to further their own interests.

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