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H1 2022 Take-up in the UK Superfast Broadband Programme

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022 (3:08 pm) - Score 2,304
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The Government’s £2.53bn Superfast Broadband Programme (SFBB) has so far helped to extend 24-30Mbps+ capable UK ISP networks to 5,440,086 extra premises since 2012 and the latest take-up data to March 2022 shows strong demand, with adoption in most of the original build areas now exceeding 80%.

We haven’t done one of these updates in a long time, which is largely because the SFBB project has run its course and is now being superseded by the new £5bn Project Gigabit programme. Nevertheless, we felt it might be useful to do one final update before putting this one to bed, although a handful of delayed contracts are still ongoing (e.g. Phase 2 of Connecting Devon and Somerset and part of Scotland’s R100 contract).

NOTE: It’s often best to judge take-up by looking at specific areas that completed their deployments 2 or more years ago or more, as it takes time to grow.

The following figures reflect the percentage % of premises (homes and businesses) that have chosen to take a 24Mbps+ capable service (usually via FTTC, FTTP or Fixed Wireless Access technology), albeit specifically those which have been delivered via state aid support under the Building Digital UK team’s SFBB project (i.e. % subscribed of premises passed).

The data is split between the first two phases of the programme. The most recent contracts have tended to focus on remote rural areas, which since 2018 have increasingly involved deployments of “full fibre” (FTTP) technology to reflect the Government’s changing focus toward “gigabit-capable” services (we think SFBB has delivered nearly 500k of these). Prior to that, hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2) was the dominant technology for the majority of builds.

We should add that older BDUK contracts defined “superfast” as offering download speeds of 24Mbps+, while more recent ones have increased this to 30Mbps+ (this aligns with the definition used by Ofcom and the EU).

BDUK Phases One (Finished Spring 2016)
Supported by £530m of public money via the Government (mostly extracted from a small slice of the BBC TV Licence fee), as well as significant match funding from local authorities and the EU. The public funding is then roughly matched by BT’s private investment. Overall it helped to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services to cover 90% of premises in the United Kingdom.

BDUK Phase Two (Technically on-going)
Supported by £250m of public money via the Government, as well as match funding from local authorities, Local Growth Deals and private investment from suppliers (e.g. BT, Gigaclear, Airband, Call Flow etc.). This phase extended superfast broadband services to 95% of premises in time for the end of 2017, but some newer contracts are on-going (e.g. the Welsh Government’s new programme).

Most of these contracts also include a clawback (gainshare) clause, which requires suppliers to return part of the public investment as customer adoption of the new service rises. The funding from this is being reinvested to further improve network coverage and speeds via extension contracts. Efficiency savings from earlier contracts can also be reinvested, but we don’t have any recent data on that (possibly worth c.£300m).

So far it looks as if a total of around £800m could in theory be returned via clawback from BT and a fair amount of that has already been committed. The extra funding has so far helped to raise the UK coverage of 30Mbps+ capable networks to 97%+ and it’s still helping (98%+ seems viable).

BDUK Phase One Take-up (Average %)

The following tables break the take-up data down by each BDUK local authority (project area) and devolved region (Scotland, Wales etc.), although for the proper context these percentages should ideally be considered alongside the most recent premises passed (network coverage) data, which can be seen at the bottom of this article. Overall, 80.84% of premises have adopted the new service (up from 72.81% in H2 2020).

NOTE: Some counties have divided their deployments into separate contracts. For example, Phase One in Shropshire doesn’t include the ‘Telford and Wrekin‘ area because that is part of a separate Phase Two contract inside the same county. On top of that, the contracts were all signed at different times and so are at different stages of development.

Project Area (BDUK Phase 1) Uptake % (Dec 2020) Uptake % (Mar 2022)
Bedfordshire & Milton Keynes 77.71 81.94
Berkshire 73.52 80.37
Bucks & Herts 79.49 87.59
Cambridgeshire 71.23 78.42
Cheshire 75.09 81.08
Cumbria 71.43 82.41
Derbyshire 69.69 81.12
Devon & Somerset 70.76 78.86
Dorset 70.71 81.67
Durham 69.53 80.09
East Riding (Yorkshire) 73.48 80.73
East Sussex 75.51 83.65
Essex 75.02 81.60
Greater Manchester 67.58 78.98
Hampshire 72.82 82.48
Herefordshire & Gloucestershire 71.16 79.91
Isle of Wight 70.55 81.22
Kent 74.34 82.77
Lancashire 67.73 77.91
Leicestershire 73.95 84.15
Lincolnshire 73.09 81.85
Merseyside 65.64 75.72
Newcastle 68.84 80.64
Norfolk 74.96 83.38
North Lincolnshire 70.46 78.97
North Yorkshire 71.81 81.59
Northamptonshire 76.08 83.10
Northumberland 73.9 81.69
Nottinghamshire 71.77 81.62
Oxfordshire 74.36 81.54
Rutland 76.27 81.33
Shropshire 72.63 81.88
South Gloucestershire 71.86 76.15
Staffordshire 70.34 80.26
Suffolk 73.98 81.56
Surrey 75.06 80.81
Warwickshire 76.93 82.53
West Sussex 77.33 84.77
West Yorkshire 68.64 77.94
Wiltshire 73.83 79.57
Worcestershire 76.38 84.35
     
Devolved Administrations    
Highlands and Islands 71.16 78.84
Northern Ireland 73.97 77.23
Rest of Scotland 67.41 75.79
Wales 68.01 77.87

BDUK Phase Two Take-up (Average %)

So far in this phase an overall total of 62.91% of premises have adopted the new service (up from 38.73% in H2 2020). We note that a number of Phase 2 schemes also consist of more than one contract, so you may see several figures being reported for certain areas in order to reflect each of those deals (this is sadly very confusing, but that’s just how they do it).

Both of the recent contracts in Scotland (R100) and Wales will also be covered in this table because they have received some funding from the original BDUK programme. But one oddity this time is that some areas have seen their take-up figures collapse (e.g. Lincolnshire went from 59.39% to 9.99%), which we think is likely to be an error.

Project Area (BDUK Phase 2) Uptake % (Dec 2020) Uptake % (Mar 2022)
Bedfordshire & Milton Keynes 65.38, 24.51, 24.19 81.94, 47.71, 47.4
Berkshire 35.71, 7.89, 48.95, 13.66 26.17, 7.89, 64.42, 22.95
Black Country 60.24 76.31
Buckinghamshire no data no data
Bucks & Herts 63.77 74.64
Cambridgeshire 7.23 30.75
Cheshire 66.21 77.33
Cornwall 65.21, 43.97 77.29, 60.03
Cumbria 56.77 68.63
Derbyshire 50.28 63.87
Devon & Somerset 7.15, 7.54 6.7, 4.88, 5.52, 2.68
Dorset 71.19, 37.19 79.18, 52.75
Durham 63.33, 23.95 72.99, 31.96
East Riding (Yorkshire) 67.91 77.2
East Sussex 72.83, 15.48 82.38, 37.95
Essex 67.49, 33.76, 5.31, 8.72, 34.92, 25.37, 0, 13.68, 15.44, 12.5, 8.64, 0 76.74, 39.58, 28.07, 20.95, 55.68, 47.43, 12.36, 53.61, 42.05, 27.5, 10.23
Greater Manchester no data 78.98
Hampshire 63.85 75.3
Herefordshire & Gloucestershire 46.76, 16.24, 17.45, 16.27, 9.38, 45.37, 60.68 46.76, 20.64, 32.91, 25.35, 22.12, 61, 74.51
Hertfordshire no data 30.29
Kent 76.08 87.1
Lancashire 56.69 66.9
Leicestershire 62.31, 7.73 74.42, 35.71
Lincolnshire 59.39 9.99
Norfolk 67.66, 0 78.23, 31.35
North Lincolnshire 60.39 73.51
North Yorkshire 68.9, 30.15 76.63, 49.13
Northamptonshire 67.79, 13.16, 14.4 77.77, 23.16, 29.13
Northumberland 59.9 70.2
Nottinghamshire 58.5, 15.7 70.06, 29.75
Oxfordshire no data 23.17, 9.14
Rutland no data no data
Shropshire 70.03, 7.11 79.8, 1.61
South Gloucestershire 66.18, 36.48 75.71, 54.92
South Yorkshire 63.29, 16.8 73.79, 35.57
Staffordshire 59.79 72.98
Suffolk 66 75.74
Swindon 8.68 8.68
Telford & Wrekin 74.62 83.96
Warwickshire 65.3, 25.19 75.3, 46.78
West Oxfordshire 16.55 35.21
West Sussex 70.85 79.47
West Yorkshire 57.32 68.06
Wiltshire 63.68, 11.67, 42.53 72.8, 14.66, 61.43
Worcestershire 66.49, 28.04 74.87, 57.45
     
Devolved Administrations    
Highlands and Islands no data no data
Northern Ireland 57.79 62.04
Rest of Scotland no data 22.17, 9.34, 28.21
Wales 15.99, 18.36, 13.29 35.09, 30.81, 31.62

IMPORTANT: Take-up is a dynamically scaled measurement, which means that at certain stages of the scheme it may go up or even down depending upon the pace of deployment (i.e. premises passed in any given time-scale), although over time the take-up should only rise.

Explained another way, earlier phases of the roll-out were easier and faster to deploy, so you could expect to see a bit of a yo-yo movement with the take-up % sometimes falling if lots of new areas were suddenly covered. Some contracts are also younger than others and will thus take time to catch-up. On top of that BDUK’s roll-out pace has slowed to a crawl as it reaches remote rural areas, which will give take-up a chance to climb.

A number of other factors can also impact take-up, such as the higher prices for related “fibre” services, as well as customers being locked into long contracts with their existing ISP (they can’t upgrade immediately) and a lack of general awareness (locals don’t always know that the faster service exists) or interest in the new connectivity (if you have a decent ADSL2+ speed and only basic needs then you might feel less inclined to upgrade).

The fear of switching to a different ISP may also obstruct some services. In other cases the new service may run out of capacity (i.e. demand is higher than expected), which means that people who want to upgrade are prevented from doing so until Openreach resolves the problem, although the scale of this issue is fairly small.

Now, for some context, here’s the latest progress report on related contracts for the same period (this doesn’t show any match-funding from private investment). Take note that this also appears to have included some limited output from the latest R100 programme in Scotland (under Scottish Government) and new contracts in Wales.

Funding and Premises Passed Progress (BDUK Phase 1 + 2)

  Total BDUK Contracted Funding Total Local Body Contracted Funding Current Total Contracted Premises Delivered to Date (March 2022)
Bedford & Milton Keynes £8,130,000 £7,996,055 52,120 52,673
Berkshire £5,153,017 £4,414,612 41,153 37,630
Black Country £2,988,349 £2,988,349 37,302 37,389
Buckinghamshire   £1,669,677 620 139
Bucks & Herts £10,837,000 £10,966,379 92,880 92,651
Cambridgeshire £8,250,000 £19,535,104 109,795 109,951
Cheshire £6,461,000 £20,078,490 83,521 82,263
Cornwall £5,960,000 £13,631,224 15,411 15,928
Cumbria £19,959,699 £18,134,066 120,892 122,184
Derbyshire £9,579,550 £8,999,882 102,554 103,177
Devon & Somerset £58,463,405 £48,766,010 321,056 301,033
Dorset £13,741,841 £16,035,448 81,501 79,425
Durham £13,189,267 £11,544,061 115,790 115,683
East Riding (Yorkshire) £10,507,459 £8,360,865 50,704 50,999
East Sussex £13,640,000 £13,000,000 68,401 68,257
Essex £14,254,755 £19,908,227 156,131 151,846
Greater Manchester £3,440,000 £5,622,293 41,363 40,062
Hampshire £15,262,308 £12,974,524 104,509 104,543
Herefordshire & Gloucestershire £31,090,658 £34,512,090 161,440 146,186
Hertfordshire   £852,250 407 368
Highlands & Islands £50,830,000 £75,600,000 152,700 152,819
Isle of Wight £2,490,000 £2,490,000 17,617 17,649
Kent £17,063,510 £14,874,136 142,589 143,109
Lancashire £14,670,000 £18,995,621 147,334 145,803
Leicestershire £7,968,896 £10,884,318 74,320 74,669
Lincolnshire £16,110,000 £17,910,000 143,661 138,687
Merseyside £5,460,000 £2,798,448 43,905 43,966
Newcastle £970,000 £941,158 6,760 6,697
Norfolk £24,650,000 £25,822,223 207,893 208,659
North Lincolnshire £4,181,007 £2,880,963 30,833 30,200
North Yorkshire £28,160,000 £30,184,726 183,891 180,504
Northamptonshire £9,856,669 £11,580,588 79,591 78,575
Northern Ireland £11,454,000 £218,929,646 120,939 95,958
Northumberland £10,687,867 £12,047,087 49,620 49,361
Nottinghamshire £7,850,000 £10,023,577 68,666 70,426
Oxfordshire £8,184,500 £13,514,396 79,103 79,885
Rest of Scotland £50,000,000 £99,075,000 587,362 590,432
Rutland £1,000,000 £1,670,000 7,175 9,903
Scottish Government £20,990,000 £583,917,634 23,965 6,780
Shropshire £19,288,948 £12,722,000 68,359 67,945
South Gloucestershire £3,370,000 £3,321,666 20,044 20,233
South Yorkshire £9,610,239 £13,436,778 101,168 100,573
Staffordshire £9,620,000 £7,587,242 80,725 81,394
Suffolk £26,940,000 £28,710,603 129,923 128,655
Surrey £1,310,000 £19,020,081 79,193 79,263
Swindon £928,882 £950,000 19,936 17,010
Telford & Wrekin £2,157,000 £1,843,000 8,822 8,698
Wales £69,040,000 £207,608,641 761,291 730,325
Warwickshire £14,432,236 £14,477,934 68,183 65,933
West Oxfordshire £1,600,000 £1,556,675 4,788 4,681
West Sussex £8,011,244 £7,510,000 53,758 54,229
West Yorkshire £11,019,827 £17,293,741 105,590 101,979
Wiltshire £9,270,000 £16,247,720 82,539 78,885
Worcestershire £8,387,032 £11,248,746 63,481 63,814
  £738,470,165 £1,797,663,954 5,573,274 5,440,086

The above figures only include 24Mbps+ capable premises in BDUK intervention areas.

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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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15 Responses
  1. NGA for all says:

    Getting above 97% is terrific, and with ~£600m untriggered clawback, it would be possible to get above 99%+. All we need is a white paper from BT.

    If Parliament paid attention to the numbers, then this would be requested. One more inquiry might have focused on re-using the monies owed rather than focusing on a procurement process which has been talked about since 2018 and unproven.

    Instead we have Boris’s Gigabit proposal intent on over building what has already been subsidised at the expense of constituencies like Tiverton and Honiton, which went from the 5th worst served Broadband English constituency (Jan19- 82.3%) in 2019 to joint worst with Penrith and the Borders in this June with 85.5% for >30Mbps services.

    The opportunity has been there for some time. It should be taken.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA
      “All we need is a white paper from BT”

      This is not true. You ought to be aware by now that any “untriggered clawback” funds belong to each of the local bodies that placed the contract and not to BT. Therefore decisions relating to the use of this money will be made by each of those local bodies. They may decide to use it for further investment in broadband or they may decide that the existing provision is sufficient and that they have other, more pressing demands for funding.

    2. NGA for all says:

      Not so. At least half the funds are under full control of DCMS, while ERDF related allocated for Broadband and the consequences should be spent for the purposes intended. The objective was to go as far as possible with the funds intended.

    3. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA
      “At least half the funds are under full control of DCMS…”

      Let’s agree that none of these funds belong to BT, so your comment about all that is needed is a white paper from the company is clearly incorrect.

    4. NGA for all says:

      @New_Londoner ..the untriggered capital deferral of ~£600m is currently under BT’s control and it is free to make suggestions how it could be used to finish rural upgrades. Such a proposal would be welcome I think. It makes more sense than overbuilding what has already been subsidised.

    5. NGA for all says:

      @New_Londoner The Gov does have a need to push fibre as far as possible and BT has a need to close rural exchanges.

    6. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA
      “…the untriggered capital deferral of ~£600m is currently under BT’s control…”

      Any such money is in reality the property of the local bodies and so decisions relating to the way it is used belong to them rather than to BT. As such, there is not a lump sum of £600m waiting to be invested but many smaller sums, each of which will be channelled to a separate body. Given current shortfalls in local government funding, I suspect much of this money will not be invested in further broadband deployments.

  2. NGA for all says:

    This neglects BDUK biggest and most enduring success which is the 600k+ full fibre delivered deep in rural before ‘Gigabit’. Much more fibre in-fill was possible and expected but BT failed to step forward and use the opportunity to train more of its own people. Rather than using the money available their decision in my opinion was to game the process for which many customers are still without upgrades and the BT shareprice is what it is. BT’s separation in 2017 arising from DCMS inquiry in 2016 triggered the change. Ofcom could have issued some warning shots in 2012 and they could have, but the evidence suggests that they did nothing until ordered to in 2016-17.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      This is also not true. Politicians wanted to deliver improved broadband to as many people as possible as quickly as possible within the available budget. FTTC rather than FTTP provided the means to do that, hence the decision to favour the former in the initial phases of the BDUK programme.

      People stating that FTTP is the better long-term solution ignore the pressure at the time from constituents on the mailboxes of MPs. They also ignore the enormous difference in the speed of deployment that was possible through the focus on FTTC, as well as the difference in the cost per premise.

    2. NGA for all says:

      It is easy to show how wrong this point is. Of the original £1.7bn, only ~£600m would be needed for cabinets/fibre paths.
      BT has only ~90k PCPs in its network, and BT commercial investment would do the first 50k cabinets.
      £600m/40k creates a subsidy budget of £15k each, which was all that was needed if BT turned up with £10k on average which is tiny – £400m of the £1bn BT offered in 2012.
      How would politicians know anything apart from what BT group told them?
      This was IMHO and inquiries have this to be the case, BT Group management deciding to game the costs, with hold their own capital and deny Openreach the opportunity to do the job they could have done.
      If you wish to offer this argument the PCP numbers in the network prove an alarming amount of intent. The budget and ambition always required more and always required full fibre, hence the universal offer of FoD in 2014.

    3. NGA for all says:

      BT was further separated in 2017 following its failure to invest. This followed directly from 2015-16 DCMS select committee inquiry. The now Lord Vaizey made the case at the committee that BT had at that time paid back all the clawback and the capital. August 2021 – and most of the money is still owed and outstanding (confirmed in writing by BT), and now the record is disappearing from the footnotes in BT’s accounts.

      What would politicians know when they are so mis-informed they do not even know when they are lying to a select committee?

    4. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA
      It would be so much easier if you dropped your various hints about some sort of conspiracy. Your comments about gaming the system” become irrelevant once people understand that payments were only made upon production of invoices and other cost information. Any pre-contract estimates have no bearing on what is actually paid.

      The reality is that all the public funds are likely to be recovered through clawback mechanism when the various BDUK contracts reach full term.

      As for the “ambition to go as far as possible”, your assertion is inconsistent with the contracts that were awarded. As a taxpayer I’m grateful that the days of spending the available budget, irrespective of value for money, are behind us. If you believe this is wrong then by all means take it up with the current BDUK team, but those decisions were taken a long time ago.

      You may not agree but I firmly believe that there are more important things than broadband to spend limited public funds on. Wasting billions on FTTP to the final few % of properties rather than spending it on much-needed hospitals, schools and other services is ridiculous. A combination of FTTC, LEO satellite etc should ensure universal access to a base-level service at far lower cost.

      Have a debate if necessary but “alternative facts” don’t help anyone.

    5. NGA for all says:

      @New Londoner after 10 years there is record of BT’s investment. Monies may be returned but there is no transparency.

    6. NGA for all says:

      @New-Londoner The original Wales contract had unit costs of £200 a premise passed not actuals. There is no published reconciliation to actuals in Wales or evidence of when BT’s capital played a part in scoping the rollout.

      I agree Boris’s Gigabit proposals (£5bn) to overbuild what has been recently subsidised at the expense of completing rural has no business case and should not be done.

      Government having got to >97% relatively cheaply could use the monies outstanding to complete rural, and begin accelerating the closure of exchanges. The £5bn could be spent on something else.

    7. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA
      “Monies may be returned but there is no transparency”
      “There is no published reconciliation to actuals in Wales”

      I’m pretty sure that the relevant local bodies would pursue matters if any contractual obligations to repay money have not been fulfilled. Whether there is any transparency or not is another matter and is probably covered by clauses in the contracts.

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