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Half of All UK Premises Now Have Access to Gigabit Broadband

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 (8:15 am) - Score 3,624
Internet Download High Speed Concept Illustration. 1 Gbps in Focus. Global Broadband Networks Speed 3D.

The latest data update from Thinkbroadband has estimated that 50.23% of properties in the United Kingdom now have access to take a fixed gigabit-capable (1000Mbps+) broadband ISP connection, which is up from 41.72% in July 2021 and largely reflects the impact from Virgin Media’s (VMO2) recent DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades.

At present, 26.24% of properties can access a gigabit speed service via Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, but most of the recent growth in gigabit coverage has actually come from Virgin Media’s ongoing upgrade of their existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) lines with DOCSIS 3.1 technology. The latter recently hit 10 million premises (here) and such upgrades are due to complete by the end of this year (14.3 million premises).

As usual, it’s not as simple as adding the figures for HFC and FTTP together because a lot of the early build for these technologies is still occurring in urban areas, where there is a lot of overbuild between rival networks. Openreach (BT) are of course the largest FTTP operator, but there are also around a hundred alternative network (AltNet) providers doing their own independent full fibre builds too (Summary of Full Fibre Builds).

Assuming VMO2’s upgrade programme completes as planned, and we have no reason to suspect that it won’t (another big switch-on is due soon), then the UK seems set to end 2021 with gigabit broadband coverage reaching around 60% of UK premises.

Nadine Dorries, UK Digital Secretary, said:

“We’ve passed the halfway point in our national mission to level up the UK with lightning-fast gigabit broadband.

Millions of people can now access the fastest, most reliable internet connections, allowing them full advantage of new technologies over the next forty years.

Thanks to the work of industry and our record £5 billion investment, we are making phenomenal progress in the Prime Minister’s infrastructure revolution.”

As remarked above, all of this commercial investment will help the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme to achieve its goal, 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 and then 100% as soon as possible).

NOTE: The first proper contracts under Project Gigabit, funded by an initial release of £1.2bn, aren’t due to be awarded until around mid-2022 and that means the build is unlikely to begin until late 2022 or early 2023 (engineering prep takes time).

The catch in all this is that VMO2’s gigabit upgrade bounce is about to end, which means that growing progress beyond the first 60% will be significantly slower, although commercial projects alone are still expected to help lift the national coverage up to around 80% of premises (Openreach alone also expects to achieve this by December 2026 – 25 million premises passed with FTTP).

After that, most of the work that remains in the final 20% of premises will need some state aid assistance because the cost of deployment in rural and semi-rural areas will otherwise become disproportionately expensive. One previous report from Point Topic forecast that the UK would achieve 98% coverage of gigabit connectivity by 2030 (here), which seems like a reasonable prediction.

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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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39 Responses
  1. Gary says:

    Good of Nadine to link the government 5bn investment promise into the current progress considering no contracts have been awarded under it yet.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Nothing new for politicians, sadly, they’ve often tried to claim credit for work the industry has done.

      In fairness though, a lot of the changes that the Government and Ofcom have made over the past 6 years have helped to create today’s much more competitive market, at the infrastructure level.

    2. Frank Butcher says:

      Yup, this government love announcing big figures that never actually get spent, then claim credit for private investment they had nothing to do with.

      ISTR that out of this £5bn there are only plans to spend around £1bn over the next 5 years or so. Hardly an infrastructure revolution is it?

      Pathetic.

    3. Damien says:

      @frank

      “Yup, this government love announcing big figures that never actually get spent,”

      And playing down the mass amounts they have actually spent, usually on Africa and space programs

  2. jet14 says:

    Sadly the British are too slow in doing anything too much bureaucracy for nothing, if you want the job done then do it properly and invest now or fall behind like they have due to inefficiency and funds grabbing.

    Look at the Chinese they can start and complete large projects in half the time.

    Good Luck chaps, when we get to gigabit everyone else will be on 10Gbs.

    1. What-a-fool says:

      Think about what you’re saying…

      Communist dictatorship where there’s virtually no freedom and then… broadband rollout completed in half the time.

      Get a grip on yourself.

    2. Mike says:

      “Communist dictatorship where there’s virtually no freedom”

      Like the UK?

    3. Winston Smith says:

      Re China, you might want to google ‘Evergrande’. Everything is far from rosy construction-wise.

    4. Billy Nomates says:

      duh. there are no “Wayleaves” in China. The CCP comes along and says we’re doing this. Got a problem ? No .. didn’t think so.

      Use your brain.

    5. Mark Jackson says:

      Yes, I don’t think comparisons with China help here :).

    6. Damien says:

      I am going to apply for a handout to lay FTTP – I mean I don’t have anything that can do it – but then again neither did the guy who got Millions for a vaccine he had no chance of developing – so it seems all you need to do is say the right things and prove nothing.

      Happy days!

    7. Damien says:

      Actually the guy who had no Ferries but got paid millions to provide transport is a better comparison 🙂

    8. A_Builder says:

      At least with GPON there is the option of XGSGPON etc so 10Gb is not just a dream.

  3. Ben says:

    > most of the recent growth in gigabit coverage has actually come from Virgin Media

    > most reliable internet connections

    hahahaha

    1. Mark says:

      You’ve got a promising career ahead of you as a comedian…

  4. adslmax says:

    That’s including my brother now got BT FTTP 1000/110 (jealous of his FTTP)and also no DLM as well.

    1. Damien says:

      My dad had that too – not sure jealous is the word I would use – they messed it up it was intermittent for 6 months

    2. Santi says:

      My parents have had 1GB symmetric for over a year now, in Mácher, Lanzarote, population 800. 100% private investment thanks to Telefónica. Meanwhile iI’m in zone 2 (London) stuck with 80/20 with a promised upgrade date of “sometime before April 2025”. Other central areas haven’t even been planned for yet

  5. GNewton says:

    This is a bit of a misleading figure here because it doesn’t appear to take the upload speeds into consideration. If they did it would exclude Virgin Media and Openreach FTTP. Only few alternative fibre providers are actually capable of offering genuine gigabit symmetric broadband capabilities.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Sadly, not too uncommon, plenty of other governments around the world have also tended to focus their targets on the download side, while merely assuming that uploads will improve (if not match) as those networks are deployed.

      Virgin Media does have the capability to further improve uploads under DOCSIS 3.1, albeit not a simple fix, but it’s presently unclear whether or when they’ll do that or by how much.

      Openreach can deliver faster upload speeds on their FTTP lines to businesses (220Mbps), but symmetric speeds would require a much bigger change. The optical lines can handle it, but the bits of kit on either end and capacity is another matter.

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      The trouble is Mark, Virgin is in no rush to upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 because its only competitor is in no rush to install FTTP everywhere.

    3. A_Builder says:

      “The trouble is Mark, Virgin is in no rush to upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 because its only competitor is in no rush to install FTTP everywhere.”

      Ummmmmm

      How fast are OR building FTTP again – no rush? I can’t really conceive how they would/could be building faster IRL.

      What will drive VM’s FTTP plans is when OR are offering 1000/220 and VM are only able to over 50 or so upstream. I suspect that VM won’t bother with 3.1 upstream and will go straight to FTTP. No point in re-engineering a network you intend to pull out shortly.

    4. FibreFred says:

      300 down 50 up here.

      No issues at all with upload, that said I didn’t have any issue with 15 up either.

      Most people don’t need huge upload not sure why you keep peddling this nonsense

  6. Billy Nomates says:

    Due to VMO2 and the alt-nets no doubt. Not OR.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      To be fair, OR have built 5.2 million premises and are the largest FTTP player and builder.

    2. Matt says:

      Are there any stats on how many of those 5.2m is overbuild?

  7. RaptorX says:

    This does snaff all for me. For the last decade none of the fibre providers have had any plans to upgrade my area and it’s still like that today. I’m still stuck on poxy ADSL due to this and I’ll bet it’s gonna be another decade. I’m so annoyed about this like you wouldn’t believe. Don’t advise me to start campaigning, ether.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Could superglue yourself to the M25, that always makes such a difference! 😉

    2. Damien says:

      Agreed. No chance of anything here bar 40mbps FTTC so I had to set up my own connection. On the 9th of every month my Bank account literally screams as it bleeds.. 🙁

      But I do get my own connection and same speed both ways – so there’s a little bonus

    3. RaptorX says:

      @Buggerlugz Don’t you get me started on those idiots! 😛

  8. Buggerlugz says:

    Must have got those figures out of their proverbial backsides. Then again all the politics we see nowadays seems to be them rewriting anything and everything to suit their own agendas.

    1. Andrew Ferguson says:

      Got concerns over the figures, if the availability data is wrong at https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/postcode-search I welcome a correction, be it removal of a service or addition of one.

  9. AnotherTim says:

    “We’ve passed the halfway point in our national mission to level up the UK with lightning-fast gigabit broadband.”
    Six or so years ago the ADSL available to me was ~20% of the speed available in nearby towns. Now it is ~1%. That isn’t my definition of “levelling up”.

  10. Billy says:

    Do the government really think that “lightning-fast gigabit broadband”, is going to be good enough for the next forty years? The past forty years has seen the increase from 300 baud to Gigabit, and the rate of data consumption is rising at more than 25% per year, my abacus doesn’t have enough beads to work it all out, but things rarely last forty years in practice.

    1. A_Builder says:

      FTTP has a defined upgrade pathway.

      GPON is widely used in the world and XGSGPON is an off-the-shelf product.

      Faster variants are either available or in development.

      Given how widely used GPON is I don’t see R&D advancement stopping any time soon.

      Upgrading the PON’s in 10 year time will be a pretty trivial exercise when compared to laying all of the fibre drops and backhaul.

    2. Aled says:

      The market will drive new data consumption trends.

      I for one am looking forward to interactive 16k UHD holographic smut projectors.

  11. Josh Welby says:

    I for one am looking forward to interactive 16k UHD holographic smut projectors.

    Me too

  12. Jason56d says:

    Had a BT representative knock on my door just before 5pm yesterday, he was offering to sign people up to their FTTP in my area. ‘That’s interesting ’ I said, ‘but it’s not available here yet. Build is between April 2021 and April 2024?’ I knew this as only checked 2 days ago when Virgin emailed me to say my contract was up and wanted to see if anything had changed locally.

    He claimed it was live as he had already signed up 2 of my neighbours? I told him to check again. He had a little dabble on his iPad and they ‘oh, you are correct, you can only get up to 40mb super fast here’

    So are they signing people up for future installs with no specific date I asked? He said he didn’t know and would have to speak to his team leader who had sent them out?

    I know they have to drum up interest and business, but I’d be pretty annoyed if I’d signed up and potentially have to wait until 2024 for an install. Hopefully it won’t be that long, but I’m going to wait until it’s live before committing to anything. Plus I’d like to see what other ISP’s are doing as would like better upload speeds.

  13. ed says:

    Not in Leicester. 80mps is all you can get and In rural areas less than 5mps. The Government can talk they want. The private companies will never do it. Because if they die shareholders would have to give there bonuses.

    What is Strange is Hull has its own broadband and they get over 900mps

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