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2021 H1 – UK Gigabit Broadband Coverage Reaches 42 Percent

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021 (9:39 am) - Score 3,888
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The latest independent study of UK broadband coverage for H1 2021 has estimated that “full fibre” (FTTP) ISP networks have now increased their reach to 24.33% of premises (up from 19.2% in H2 2020), while 41.72% are within reach of “gigabit” speeds (up from 37.4%) and 66.9% can get 100Mbps+ (up from 64.3%).

The focus these days has switched from “superfast” (30Mbps+) to “gigabit” (1000Mbps+ or 1Gbps+) class networks. Until recently nearly all of this new gigabit coverage was coming from Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based networks via operators like Openreach (BT), Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Cityfibre, CommunityFibre, G.Network, TrueSpeed and many others (Summary of Full Fibre Builds).

However, Virgin Media’s (VMO2) decision to deploy DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which is rapidly spreading across both their new FTTP and existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) networks (here), has changed the dynamic. The aforementioned upgrade is due to complete by the end of 2021, when it will cover nearly 16 million premises, or c.55-60% of the UK.

In short, we’re currently still seeing a surge in gigabit coverage from that combination of DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades and FTTP rollouts. At present most of this is thanks to commercial investment, often with a little support from the Government’s various voucher schemes and business rates holidays, but we also expect the new £5bn Project Gigabit (F20) programme to start having a very small impact from later next year.

Meanwhile, those still stuck in sub-10Mbps areas will, for the time being, be left with little option but to try and harness the Government’s flawed 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO). Most people taking the USO are being promised speeds of above 10Mbps (often via 4G rather than fibre), but some of those are already finding that they live in areas where not even the USO can cover the colossal upgrade costs (here and here).

Below you can see the latest modelling from Thinkbroadband to 7th July 2021 (H1 – 2021) and as usual we’ve stripped out some of the more confusing aspects in order to make it easier to read. We should point out that the ‘Under 10Mbps‘ figure doesn’t reflect 4G mobile coverage, which does play a part in the official USO.

NOTE: The figures in brackets (%) represent the previous H2 – 2020 result (Jan 2021).

Fixed Broadband Network Availability H1 – 2021

Area 30Mbps+ 100Mbps+ Full Fibre
Gigabit % Under 10Mbps
England 97.4% (97.1%) 68.7% (66.4%) 23.18% (18.09%) 40.59% (36.28%) 0.9% (1%)
UK 96.8% (96.6%) 66.9% (64.3%) 24.33% (19.19%) 41.72% (37.41%)
1.3% (1.4%)
Wales 95.5% (95.1%) 45.8% (42.5%) 22.69% (18.56%) 30.06% (26.29%) 2.3% (2.5%)
Scotland 94.7% (94.5%) 59.5% (56%) 22% (16.99%) 48.3% (44.29%) 3.0% (3.1%)
N.Ireland 90% (89.5%) 75.1% (68.9%) 69.02% (60.27%) 74.89% (68.65%) 6.5% (6.7%)

NOTE 1: Nearly all of the “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) coverage is coming from Virgin Media’s cable network, although Openreach, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Cityfibre and others all have big “full fibre” (FTTP) expansion plans. The 330Mbps capable G.fast roll-out to 2.8 million UK premises has had a small impact too.

NOTE 2: It’s very important to remember that Government / political coverage targets, like 95%, reflect a national average, which can of course be better or worse for some regions (e.g. a few may achieve universal coverage, while others could be well below that).

Take note that each devolved region (Scotland, Wales etc.) has its own policy and targets, which all feed into the central UK figure. Interestingly, while Northern Ireland may be struggling to deliver superfast speeds, their full fibre coverage is way ahead of other regions, and we suspect they’ll be one of the first to achieve near universal coverage of gigabit-capable broadband.

As stated earlier, this data is an estimate and should be taken with a pinch of salt, not least because it won’t always reflect the real-world. But it’s still one of the best and most up-to-date gauges that we have for checking against official claims (official figures tend to be a tiny bit higher than TBB’s due to differences in data modelling etc.).

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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
20 Responses
  1. Winston Smith says:

    We’ve not seen a surge in HFC DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades this year, VM’s last announcement was seven months ago. Everything since then has been FTTP.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      They are still upgrading, but have stopped making public announcements. VMO2 still expect to complete the upgrade by the end of 2021, so we’ll see what happens.

    2. Random Precision says:

      Openreach FTTP has just gone live in my part of North Tyneside, cancelled Virgin they asked for a reason, I told them that the north east is back of the queue as usual for their Gig1 service. Glad to be getting shot of them.

    3. adam says:

      Yes completely agree Virgin haven’t announced anything at all this year, not even their official website has been updated. They’ve got 5 months left to enable over half of their network.

  2. Aled says:

    Getting 0.4% of Wales onto 30+ meg is not to be sniffed at.

    95.1 to 95.5% in 6 months is a decent improvement, well, compared to the old typical 1-3meg often seen!

    1. John Whitehead says:

      1 meg plus minus 1meg available according to by. Super fast arrived in Blaenau Ffestiniog , Snowdonia over 7yrars ago. We are 300m out. On main road with 2 takeaway Chinese. Indian, chippy and kebab shop all within 3k. Super fast and USO a joke

  3. Sam says:

    Still years off getting it here though…

  4. NGA for all says:

    The addition of new premises (52k this month) each month suggests little or no progress on the <30Mbps and <2Mbps. Only a 1,570 reduction in the <2mbps in a month. Pretty poor given the monies contracted and work outstanding.

    1. Rocky12345 says:

      My property is sub 30mbps, but the local exchange has already been FTTC enabled. My street was just to far to be able to achieve 30mbps, but every other address in the ‘village’ can.

      In order to upgrade my line to achieve 30mbps, would mean FTTP being required, but then they presumably would have to update the exchange for everyone. I guess 20 or so properties out of a 1,000 means it isn’t a priority.

      I would be interest to know out of those who are below 30mbps, how many have been upgraded to FTTC, but are still to far from the exchange/cabinet?

      Additionally, how do the determine if a property can receive 30mbp+? The data from BT wholesale gives false information as the upper speed limit is based on the top 20% of similar lines. If they use this then the % without 30mbps is probably a lot higher.

    2. A piece of wet string would be faster says:

      @Rocky12345
      Over twenty of us are < 30Mbs, 8 <24Mbs, 1.5km from dslam, which is overloaded.
      BDUK screwup by the CC.
      FOI from DCMS showed the number below superfast, search WhatDoTheyKnow.

    3. NoName says:

      Same here, 1.5km from exchange and still well below 30Mbps yet slightly above 10Mbps. Openreach built a new cabinet 100m away too during superfast rollout and connected all other adjacent properties to it. Now they aren’t interested in one property that still falls below superfast threshold as long majority of houses are covered.

    4. NGA for all says:

      The clawback and the monies exist to extend the fibre in these cases. This is the problem with gigabit-capable consultations, they are not prioritising those so far excluded, even though the clawback is there to do the work.

    5. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA
      You are assuming that each of the local authorities wishes to prioritise further broadband deployment rather than using the money for other purposes. Given the greatly expanded FTTP deployment plan from Openreach, it would seem pretty sensible for many local authorities to focus their limited budgets elsewhere at the moment.

  5. MC says:

    Been told by Openreach our area of Plymouth due to upgraded to FTTP ultrafast in next month or so. Cant wait. We are still on BT Adsl as I still see that as a better option than dealing with Virgin again.

  6. MC says:

    Cityfibre have also been in my street ahead of installation and go live for their services early 2022. We will go from no choice to everything in a few months.

    1. Random Precision says:

      Open reach just gone live and CityFibre due here before the end of the year, I already had Virgin, 5 year’s ago all we had was fttc and it wasn’t the best. Gone from famine to feast in the space of 5 years, not complaining mind

  7. occasionally factual says:

    A 95% national target given a total of 30m premises suggests that 1,500,000 premises will not get gigabit speeds within a reasonable time frame.
    That’s a lot of premises.

  8. Dave "Englishman" in the Valleys says:

    Here in The Valleys of South Wales, we’re in LOT 3, with places close by like Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare getting it, it looks like the so called Rural push is going to be a long way off! My exchange is Ferndale, and on OR’s map and list is showing nothing.
    It took me 2 years to get OR to realise we had an issue with our FTTC, and I did ask a engineer what the prospects were of FTTP here, and they just either shrugged their shoulders or said 2+years, in my eyes not good considering our Village exchange was added June 2020….

    4G Broadband is terrible, especially at peak times where speeds achieved are 1 to 4Mbps down and less than 1Mbps or less upload, RF definitely isn’t the answer to getting GigE speeds in my eyes and satellite is expensive…. 30Mbps or less is our only option at the moment and I’m not holding out for us to be switched to FTTP by 2022 more 2026??

  9. Just a thought says:

    Is the 42% actually 10.5 million houses of the 25M houses in the UK, or is that 5.25 million houses covered twice by overbuild…….

    1. New_Londoner says:

      @Just a thought
      The 42% coverage for the UK is made up of 12,861,407 premises out of a total of 30,476,692 – all figures courtesy of the Think Broadband data. Andrew is pretty diligent in discounting overbuild and of course looks at all premises, business and residential, not just houses.

      You can see the detail, including regional data, on the TBB site.

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