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2021 H2 Sees UK Coverage of Gigabit Broadband Hit 65.3 Percent

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 2,136
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The latest independent biannual summary of UK broadband coverage for H2 2021 has estimated that “full fibre” (FTTP) ISP networks have now increased their reach to 30.23% of premises (up from 24.33% in H1 2021), while 65.27% are within reach of “gigabit” speeds (up from 41.72%) and 67.63% can get 100Mbps+ (up from 66.9%).

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

However, Virgin Media’s (VMO2) upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which spread across both their new FTTP and existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) network (here), has changed the dynamic. The aforementioned upgrade completed at the end of last year and now covers nearly 16 million premises, which explains why gigabit coverage has improved so rapidly since 2019. But this also means that future progress will now be slower.

In short, we’re currently still seeing a surge in gigabit coverage from that combination of DOCSIS 3.1 and FTTP. 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 small impact from later this 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), try a satellite solution (Starlink is good, if you can afford it) or wait for an upgrade. People taking the USO are being promised speeds of over 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 the start of January 2022 (H2 – 2021). We should point out that the ‘Under 10Mbps‘ figure doesn’t reflect 4G mobile coverage, which plays a part in the official USO but isn’t included in TBB’s mapping work; it’s incredibly difficult to do an accurate model for mobile coverage. We’ve also stopped including the figures for 100Mbps+ coverage below as, with the completion of VM’s upgrade, it’s now too similar to gigabit services.

NOTE: The figures in brackets (%) represent the previous H1 – 2021 result (July 2021).

Fixed Broadband Network Availability H2 – 2021

Area 30Mbps+ Full Fibre Gigabit % Under 10Mbps
England 97.39% (97.4%) 29.13% (23.18%) 66.56% (40.59%) 0.82% (0.9%)
UK 96.89% (96.8%) 30.23% (24.33%) 65.27% (41.72%)
1.21% (1.3%)
Wales 95.86% (95.5%) 27.69% (22.69%) 46.40% (30.06%) 2.16% (2.3%)
Scotland 94.76% (94.7%) 27.77% (22%) 59.39% (48.3%) 2.92% (3.0%)
N.Ireland 90.82% (90%) 75.58% (69.02%) 78.83% (74.89%) 5.90% (6.5%)

NOTE 1: Nearly all of the gigabit coverage is coming from Virgin Media’s existing HFC cable network, although Openreach, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Cityfibre and others all have big “full fibre” (FTTP) expansion plans. But there’s a lot of overbuild between HFC and FTTP, so future progress post-2021 will be slower now that VM have completed their gigabit upgrade.

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 and the USO, their full fibre coverage is MILES 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
9 Responses
  1. Johnsonreed says:

    100mbps download with 8mbps upload. I call poor broadband service. Feels like incomplete package. Thanks to BT for this nonsense.

    1. anonymous says:

      That’d be a Virgin Media product, BT’s 100 is 30 up.

      Best to thank the limitations of cable for that one. No business case to do heavy upgrade on the cable network, a full fibre overbuild is underway for many reasons besides upload that’ll take 5-7 years and deliver symmetrical across the footprint.

      Whether BT were symmetrical or not cable would have the same limitations and there would remain no business case – see the USA, specifically Comcast and Spectrum.

    2. Optimist says:

      To those who constantly demand that ISPs provide a symmetrical service: this could be achieved easily by reducing the download speed to match the upload speed! Be careful about wahat you wish for.

    3. GNewton says:

      Well, Comcast has certainly seen the business case for symmetric fibre.
      According to https://www.verdict.co.uk/comcast-3gbps-fiber-upgrade/ :

      “Comcast is upgrading its fiber-based Xfinity Gigabit Pro service, raising the symmetrical service speed from 2 Gbps to 3 Gbps. The upgrade began rolling out at the end of September in the Northeast and Central regions and has since been extended to the Western US.”

      And the same is true for Spectrum, according to https://enterprise.spectrum.com/l/articles/fiber-speed.html :

      “At Spectrum Enterprise, superior fiber speed and reliability are ensured through dedicated Internet access. Symmetrical connectivity provides fiber speed for uploads that is as fast as downloads, and scalable from 25 Mbps to 10 Gbps to accommodate evolving business requirements.”

      Many new altnets are building symmetric fibre from the very beginning!

      It’s mainly BT and VM who are still years behind current developments!

  2. Ian says:

    How about the dis-included sub 5 Mbps crew!

  3. Danny says:

    I luckily live in Wakefield (until recently unluckily as we were being left behind) but virgin chose my city for their new upgrade test which should give us symmetrical speeds finally.

  4. Jimbo says:

    Sitting here in rural bumblefuck nowhere and our 6mbps connection recently got cut in half. 3 of us trying to live on 3mbps is excruciating. Especially as we don’t get phone signal either. but gosh, is it not even that pretty outside.

    1. Grimreaper says:

      Be thankful. Friends who live on a farm along the A4212 just outside of Bala get 0.3mbps. Not even a 2G signal for over a mile. From this hot rockin’ connection they have to run their business, and their kid was expected to home school during the pandemic. No chance of fibre in this lifetime, and probably about 30 years before 5G arrives in the nearest town. In comparison you are living the dream!

  5. Dylan says:

    Still waiting for any kind of fibre expansion in my area. Maybe within the next 3 years, when the rest of the country is probably going to be above 1 Gb?

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