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Ofcom Predicts UK to Hit 50% Full Fibre Coverage in March 2023

Friday, Feb 17th, 2023 (2:57 pm) - Score 3,776
fibre_optic_cable_wave-gigapixel-very_compressed-height-1000px

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has today used its latest data to predict that the country will finally achieve 50% coverage of full fibre (FTTP/B) broadband ISP networks in March 2023, which is actually slightly down from the prior prediction of 55% that they issued in December 2022.

The forecast itself isn’t particularly surprising because Ofcom’s latest public data to September 2022 (here) had already reported that full fibre networks covered 42% of the UK (12.4 million premises). This is up from 28% (8.2 million premises) one year earlier and just 10% in 2019 (3 million premises). Suffice to say that getting to 50% or more in March looks entirely reasonable.

As usual it’s necessary to point out that the figure for “gigabit-capable broadband” coverage is currently much higher – at 70% (20.8 million premises) in September 2022 – because that covers both full fibre and Virgin Media’s Hybrid Fibre Coax (cable) networks. Both of which can deliver gigabit download speeds, and there’s a lot of overbuild between these two in urban areas.

A big chunk of all this FTTP build progress reflects Openreach’s £15bn rollout programme, which has already done 9.6m premises and they’re aiming for 25m by Dec 2026. But Ofcom notes that smaller Alternative Network (AltNet) providers (e.g. CityFibre, Hyperoptic, CommunityFibre etc.) are also expected to reach 11.5m homes by the end of 2023, although there will be a lot of overbuild between these players.

NOTE: See our Summary of UK Full Fibre Builds. Investment in AltNets is strong, and Ofcom expects it to reach £17bn by 2025.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Group Director, said:

“Full-fibre broadband is better broadband. It’s more reliable, and many times faster than the average ‘superfast’ connections people have largely used in recent years.

Just five years ago, only 6% of homes could get full fibre. But thanks to competition and investment from network builders, that had reached 42% by September last year.

Based on our current data, Ofcom now expects the 50% threshold to be passed in March, and to reach more than 80% within the next two years. There’s still a lot of work to do to bring faster connections to all parts of the country, but progress in recent years has been rapid.”

On top of all that, Ofcom further expects the UK to reach “more than 80%” coverage of full fibre broadband within the next two years, although their most recent planned network developments forecast – as published in December 2022 – actually put the figure for March 2025 at 84% (rising to 92% for gigabit-capable fixed line networks). Suffice to say that we’re not sure if the latest 80% figure is just Ofcom playing it safe, or they’ve revised down their expectation a fair bit from only two months ago.

Ofcom-CN2022-Planned-Broadband-Coverage-to-2025

However, whatever the outcome, it looks as if the Government’s £5bn state aid funded Project Gigabit ambition, which aims to make gigabit speeds available to at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025 and “nationwide” coverage by 2030 (here), is likely to meet and exceed its first target. But getting to “nationwide” coverage of gigabit-capable networks by 2030 will be harder, although a range of 97-99% does seem plausible.

The big unknown will be how many of those smaller full fibre AltNets (there are over a hundred of them today) are going to still be around come 2030, after the now seemingly inevitable wave of consolidation has had its way. We still expect plenty of diversity to exist in the market, just a lot less than today. As usual, there will be winners and losers in this race.

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Mark-Jackson
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 .
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Comments
14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Pablo says:

    It boggles my mind as to how we are paying ofcom to order companies to collect this data when it can be easily obtained privately

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Having more than one source of data collection is a good thing and helps accuracy, while reducing the risk of commercial interests being allowed to skew the results. In any case, the cost to Ofcom of putting it all together is the same (relatively minimal), since in either case they’d need access to the source data to do their own analysis work.

    2. Avatar photo Pablo says:

      Not disagreeing with the first statement but the argument is that the taxpayer should not be footing the bill for this.

      Ofcom needs pay several people plus whatever software they need plus whatever database they use just to process the data, then they need to hire people to enforce and bully ISPs, it is not minimal in anyway. It takes several departments to produce this data which is already done privately with no cost to our already very stretched pockets

    3. Avatar photo Jonny says:

      They *are* meant to be the regulator, I’d be more upset if they weren’t tracking this all for themselves

    4. Avatar photo John says:

      Maybe the better question is: should ofcom even exist at all? they are certainly not protecting people from getting price gouged

    5. Avatar photo Abdullah says:

      Ofcom have forced Mark Steyn from GB news to resign because he dared to ask questions about the Pfizer narrative.

      They are on the side of authoritarianism, not us peasants

    6. Avatar photo Bib says:

      @Abdullah Ofcom received 411 complaints. I would be more upset if they did not investigate Covid vaccine scepticism that he aired. And GBN asked him to pay any fine that MAY have been issued, that’s why he resigned. But why let facts get in the way.

  2. Avatar photo Gareth says:

    Guess who’s in the wrong 50%

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      the next quesion is were you the 97% for > 24 mbps or you not in that either

  3. Avatar photo yeehaa says:

    For anybody with insight into N. Ireland. Any reasons why the FTTP coverage stalls at 96% for 2024 and 2025? Is the remaining 4% premises in areas deemed to be hard to reach?

  4. Avatar photo Dale says:

    Still too slow, waiting around my area for good broadband for ages. Takes then years to do half the job. I understand it’s a big thing but also incredibly frustrating when you are on the other end and it seems like you have a decade long wait for good broadband.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      The problem with the system we have is that the companies will only lay out fibre to places they are pretty sure of getting a quick return on their investment. While i don’t agree with the government and our taxes propping up companies, I do think we should have a company owned by us and the government laying and running the fibre and then providers can that. Something like Openreach does now, but government owned.
      Then fibre can be put in to places where it is not going to make a quick return and people who want it can have it.

    2. Avatar photo Wilson says:

      ^ congratulations you just described BT and how its government monopoly led the UK into not deploying fibre

      “Real socialism has never been tried” is what leftists say ignoring all the times it has been tried, even when literally the company they are talking about was publicly owned before

  5. Avatar photo IPv6 When says:

    Yet Plusnet, Vodafone, and other “superfast broadband” providers STILL don’t have IPv6 for all of their domestic ADSL customers.

Comments are closed

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