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Forecast Predicts 488 Percent UK Growth of Full Fibre by 2026

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021 (10:30 am) - Score 816
Optical Fibre Network Connector Lit

The FTTH Council Europe has today published their latest forecast for the growth of “full fibre” (FTTP/H/B) based broadband ISP networks across Europe, which predicts that the United Kingdom will see a staggering growth of +488% over the next five years to achieve 25 million homes passed by 2026 (up from 7m by the end of 2021).

The new market forecast covers 39 countries. Overall, the latest data predicts that there will be around 197 million homes passed (coverage) for FTTP/B in 2026 across the EU27 and UK combined, which compares with 118 million this year. Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy are all expected to experience the “most remarkable growth.”

Similarly, the number of full fibre subscribers are predicted to reach 135 million in 2026 for the EU27 and UK combined, rising to 197 million for all 39 countries (EU39). The estimates also show that in 2026, the FTTP/B take-up rate for EU27+UK will be slightly higher (68.7%) than for EU39 (65.3%), both experiencing a steady evolution over the years.

None of this should come as much of a surprise to our readers. Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in competition between a mass of new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) providers in the UK, many of which are now starting to build at speed (e.g. CityFibre, G.Network, Gigaclear, CommunityFibre and many more) – see our Summary of UK Full Fibre Builds.

Furthermore, both the BT Group (here) and Virgin Media (here) now have major network expansion and upgrade plans, all of which helps to explain the progress forecast below. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it will still take the UK several years to catch-up with other countries, most of which have been deploying full fibre at scale for many years longer than the UK.

Forecast for Full Fibre Homes Passed

FTTH-Council-Europe-Forecast-for-2026-Homes-Passed

Forecast for Full Fibre Subscribers

FTTH-Council-Europe-Forecast-for-2026-Subscribers

At this point it’s worth contrasting these forecasts with what we know about the UK market. The latest official report from Ofcom (here), which is based on data from May 2021, noted that 6.9 million premises (24%) can now take a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) service. This is fairly close to the council’s 7 million forecast for 2021 (above).

However, the council’s forecast for 2026, which predicts 25 million homes passed, could potentially end up being an underestimate. Openreach (BT) alone recently announced that they’d invest £15bn to cover 25 million premises with FTTP by December 2026 and that’s before we consider the mass of rival networks.

INCA’s alternative network forecast (here) predicted that full fibre broadband networks, excluding Openreach and Virgin Media, could cover 29.9 million premises by the end of 2025. We expect a fair bit of overbuild between all of these players, particularly those that deploy in urban areas.

Furthermore, some of those AltNet players may not achieve their ambitions, much as Hyperoptic recently showed (here). Suffice to say that the overall coverage prediction for the UK is still subject to significant uncertainty, even though the overall direction of travel is still extremely positive.

At present most of this effort reflects commercial deployments, although the Government’s new state aid funded £5bn Project Gigabit programme should soon help to extend that effort into the final 20% of hardest to reach (predominantly rural) premises. Speaking of rural areas, the UK does a slightly better job when the council’s forecast is split to look at full fibre coverage in rural areas. A big chunk of that is thanks to the Building Digital UK programme, as well as deployments from players like Openreach, B4RN and Gigaclear etc.

FTTH-Council-Europe-Rural-Coverage-2020

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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
12 Responses
  1. Funnybot says:

    There appears to be something wrong with the LC connector in the image. It seems to be glowing at the end for some reason.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Don’t take media illustrations too literally :).

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    And I predict a 488% chance my street won’t by one of the 17 million UK homes getting FTTP by 2026.

    Talk about singing from their own hymn sheet! What planet are the FTTH Council Europe on? Certainly not earth!

  3. Winston Smith says:

    Erm, a 488% increase from 7 million homes would be 7 + 7 x 4.88 = 41.16 million.

    1. JmJohnson says:

      I’m fairly sure that growth includes overbuild.
      So there will be multiple areas where 3+ FTTP providers exist and still some with 0.

    2. Winston Smith says:

      Actually I think the 488% growth is from the 4.24 million homes passed at the end of 2020.

    3. Winston Smith says:

      @Mark, where does the 488% figure over 5 years come from? I can only get it over 6 years using the UK 2020/2021 65% growth figure.

  4. chris conder says:

    Shame the Building Digital UK project has been scuppered by OR. It was doing so well. And it got us on the maps…

    1. The Facts says:

      Please explain. OR are building fast.

  5. jet14 says:

    Uk are too slow and incapable to say the least, eating profits and not looking for long term investment and infrastuctue. Look at the chinese and south korea with gigabit speeds from years earlier.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Too much money for the Eaton set to be made with “Consultants” for HS2 to bother with actual real infrastructure projects which would be beneficial.

  6. Judy Krieg says:

    These numbers are misleading at best – g.network has dug up the streets in my neighbourhood but will not connect buildings unless they have at least 5 contracts (i.e. accounts) to connect. There are only 5 units in my building, as is typical in my neighbourhood. So while they may claim to technically have “connected” my building, they won’t be adding accounts, providing service or generating income from my building or neighbourhood anytime soon. I would be very curious to see the revenue and growth predictions from g.network. They clearly haven’t done their research and will not be providing service to much of the areas they are paying to “connect.”

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