» ISP News, Key Developments » 
Sponsored Links

Global Shortage of Fibre Optic Cables Hits UK Broadband Firms UPDATE

Thursday, Jul 28th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 4,512

Network builders and broadband ISPs in the UK have confirmed that they’re also being affected by a shortage in optical fibre cables, which has caused significant delays to lead times on deliveries and pushed up prices of such cables by as much as 70% since March 2021. But contrary to some reports, the cable cost is not the main issue.

The latest round of concern was kicked off after the Cru Group reported that the “average” price of such cables had nearly doubled, from a low of $3.70 per fibre kilometre in March 2021 to $6.30 now. Granted, that’s a huge jump, but it still represents a small slice of the overall network build cost. You might notice it if you’re rolling out to hundreds of thousands, or even millions of premises, but it’s not the end of the world.

NOTE: The fibre shortage isn’t just due to higher demand, but also the outages of things like Helium plants in Russia. The latter is used to help manufacture fibre optic cables. Other key components are also in short supply.

Cru’s data suggests that total global cable consumption increased by 8.1% in the first half of 2022 compared with last year, which helps to illustrate the problem. Naturally some countries, such as the UK, are currently slap bang in the middle of major national rollouts of gigabit speed Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) networks, which are notoriously slow and expensive projects.

Some of the reports we’ve seen on this topic have taken the alarmist approach by claiming that the high cost of fibre could stunt global deployments of new networks, but this is incorrect. The cost of such cables is still a fairly minor part of the overall consideration, particularly when compared with the huge cost of civil engineering (street works). A far bigger concern is likely to be the longer lead times for delivery of the cable itself.

Nevertheless, now is not an ideal time for a shortage of such a key commodity to be hitting networks, particularly as it comes while many broadband and digital infrastructure providers are still suffering from the global shortage of semiconductor chips. Admittedly, the latter has started to ease, but only for some sectors. We still see ISPs complaining of delays in securing the necessary routers etc.

Big operators, which order in significant bulk, may be able to mitigate the fibre supply issue. As the MD of fibre supplier STL recently told the FT: “Logically, you want to give your best terms and delivery times to your largest customers … We give first preference to BT [Openreach] and Virgin Media.”

A Spokesperson for Virgin Media (VMO2) told ISPreview.co.uk:

“While we’re not immune from global supply chain price fluctuations, we have strong relationships with our delivery partners and continue to secure the fibre optic cables we need. We remain on track to hit our targets – including expanding via Project Lightning to more than 500k premises this year and upgrading our network to full fibre services.”

However, the same is not always the case for smaller network providers, which are often playing second fiddle to the big boys. As one of several sources in the UK telecoms sector told ISPreview.co.uk, “We are having massive supply chain issues, like everyone else. We ordered 20km of SM fibre with a 9 week lead time, it’s been 15 weeks. Even major manufacturers are randomly reallocating stock to higher bidders“.

The thoughts were echoed by another operator: “The bit that I am seeing biting many people is not the pence-per-metre of the fibre, but the massive increase in lead times, with the resulting issues and costs around manpower allocation, commitments to customers, et al.” A third source added: “Fibre becoming twice as expensive per km sure is a fairly big deal but is going to be nowt compared to the civils costs, manpower, etc.

The real challenge here is thus not only the delays to delivery, but the uncertainty about how long those delays will actually be and when the situation might get better. Businesses, much like stock markets, like certainty and the further away you get from that the more difficult it becomes to deliver on your promises. If the situation persists, then it may even start to impact larger players, but that would take time.

Pictured Top – Some of Exascale‘s lovely blue fibre drums.

UPDATE 29th July 2022

We understand that Openreach are not currently experiencing any issues with sourcing fibre and, as above, they’re largely insulated against such issues or any interruption to stock supply due to their size and diversified supply chain. But the operator is known to be very conscious of the current potential risks and constantly working with partners to monitor and manage that.

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
Search ISP News
Search ISP Listings
Search ISP Reviews
14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    Oh dear, open reach may have top put some of it’s plans on hold, what a shame.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      At present, I highly doubt it will have had a huge impact, given that key suppliers are – as above – prioritising the big players over smaller ones.

    2. Avatar photo Alex says:

      Did you actually read the piece?

    3. Avatar photo FTTX says:

      The article mentions ‘Even major manufacturers are randomly reallocating stock to higher bidders’.

      This is a global issue. We should keep in mind the UK Fibre Cable pricing is quite low in comparison to other large markets, also our big players are also not always the biggest.
      If product is to be attracted toward the UK there will likely be some realignment.

    4. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @alex, yep, I read it, but if there is s shortage then it will at some point affect Out of reach. Not here I doubt, I presume if they are doing around there, they have got all the fibre they require.

      The strike will slow it down around here,

    5. Avatar photo An Engineer says:

      The strike will have minimal impact.

      Why do you seem happy about the FTTP build being delayed? Have you gone from that you don’t want it to that no-one else should have the option either?

    6. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @An Engineer

      You got it, I don’t want it, so no one else can have it 🙂

      Nah, not really, it is if we don’t get it here, I don’t get emails and nagging from Plusnet.
      I am hoping here that most people will go for Zzoomm.

  2. Avatar photo awelshman says:

    bt used to own a copper cable factory at one time ,don’t know if they still do and if they made fibre

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      BT practically owned nothing now

    2. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      ‘Unfortunately, the Thatcher government decided that it wanted the American cable companies providing the same service to increase competition. So the decision was made to close down the local loop roll out and in 1991 that roll out was stopped. The two factories that BT had built to build fibre related components were sold to Fujitsu and HP, the assets were stripped and the expertise was shipped out to South East Asia.’


    3. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @The Facts: Back again here with spreading old half truths?

      This old Thatcher story is just a lame excuse, nobody has prevented BT from doing fibre for nearly 2 decades now, yet almost 2/3 of the UK has no fibre!

  3. Avatar photo Jerry says:

    Openreach can keep installing copper and tell everyone it’s fibre like they always have done

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      You mean like the posters they put on their cabinets saying Fibre is here, when in fact it was hybrid fibre 🙂

  4. Avatar photo Stotty says:

    What happens if these smaller firms go bust?

Comments are closed

Cheapest Ultrafast ISPs
  • Gigaclear £17.00
    Speed: 200Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Zzoomm £19.95
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • YouFibre £19.99
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Community Fibre £20.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • BeFibre £21.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £25 Love2Shop Card
Large Availability | View All
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £17.99
    Speed 33Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo code: HYPERDEAL
  • UtilityWarehouse £21.60
    Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited (FUP)
    Gift: None
  • Shell Energy £21.99
    Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • NOW £24.00
    Speed 63Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £24.00
    Speed 73 - 82Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. FTTP (5240)
  2. BT (3436)
  3. Politics (2436)
  4. Openreach (2242)
  5. Business (2186)
  6. Building Digital UK (2184)
  7. FTTC (2024)
  8. Mobile Broadband (1899)
  9. Statistics (1734)
  10. 4G (1604)
  11. Virgin Media (1535)
  12. Ofcom Regulation (1414)
  13. FTTH (1377)
  14. Wireless Internet (1361)
  15. Fibre Optic (1359)
  16. 5G (1180)
  17. Vodafone (1086)
  18. EE (1073)
  19. TalkTalk (909)
  20. Sky Broadband (876)
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact