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FTTH Council – Full Fibre Broadband to Cover 29.6 Million UK Homes by 2029

Wednesday, Mar 20th, 2024 (3:15 pm) - Score 1,280
fibre optic connection to house

The FTTH Council Europe has today published their 2024 ranking of 39 European countries (EU39) with the strongest take-up and growth of gigabit-capable “full fibre” (FTTP/B) broadband ISP networks, which sees the UK rise several places in the ranking and a prediction that we’ll hit 29.6 million homes passed by 2029 (up from 17.1m today).

Firstly, it’s vital to highlight that, compared with most of the other countries in this annual market panorama, the UK is still playing a long game of catch up (others started deploying full fibre at scale many years earlier). The UK only began to appear (right at the bottom) of the council’s ranking five years ago, but we’ve been making rapid progress since then (Summary of Full Fibre Builds) and are currently one of the fastest builders.

NOTE: The UK recently exceeded the 60% full fibre coverage mark (here), but the council’s report gives us a lower figure of 57% because it’s based on slightly older data (Sept 2023).

In terms of the annual change. Back in 2021 the council reported that the UK had an FTTP growth rate (homes passed) of 1.7 million premises per year, which increased to 3.4m in 2022, then 4.2m in 2023 and this year we hit 4.7m (+38%). This means the UK is currently the fastest growing country (by volume / homes) in the council’s latest EU39 ranking table, and the second fastest by %.

Most of the UK’s full fibre coverage achieved so far stems from commercial builds in urban areas and this is expected to help push us up to around 80% by the end of 2025 (e.g. Openreach’s build alone should hit 25 million premises by December 2026, and they’re just one of many players). Meanwhile, the Government’s state aid funded £5bn Project Gigabit aims to help tackle the final 20% of hardest to reach (e.g. rural) premises by 2030.

ftth-european-country-homes-passed-ranking-2024-uk

The latest data also shows that the UK now has a market penetration rate of 17.1% (up from 11.1% last year), a coverage figure of 57% or 17.1 million homes passed (up from 42% and 12.4m) and a take-up rate of 29.9% (up from 27% last year). By comparison, the EU39 countries have an average market penetration rate of 34.7%, with coverage of an impressive 69.9% and a take-up rate of 49.6%.

FTTH-Council-Coverage-Rate-UK-and-Europe-Map-2024

FTTH-Council-Penetration-Rate-UK-and-Europe-Map-2024

FTTH-Council-Take-Up-Rate-UK-and-Europe-Map-2024

On the subject of take-up – markets where FTTP/B is already at a mature level of deployment will naturally have significantly higher take-up, while those where the technology is still in the early process of rapid deployment (like the UK) often appear further behind (i.e. the pace of build is so fast that it suppresses the take-up figure, when expressed as a percentage).

Overall, the total number of homes passed with FTTP/B broadband networks in the 39 European countries surveyed reached 244 million (up from 219m last year). The top of the annual growth rates in terms of homes passed is headed by the United Kingdom (+4.7m), Germany (4.4.), and France (+2.5). The top 5 of the annual % growth rates in terms of homes passed are headed by Belgium (+43%), the United Kingdom (+38%), Germany (+37%), Serbia (+30%), and Croatia (+28%).

NOTE: The report also found that UK FTTP coverage drops to just 43% when only looking at rural areas (up from 35% last year). This compares with an average of 48% across the EU27+UK.

The 5 fastest growing markets in terms of new subscribers were France (+3.4m), the United Kingdom (+1.8m), Turkey (+1m), Spain (+985K), and Italy (+919K). The overall FTTH/B coverage rate in the EU39 is now 69.9%, which is up by 6.5 percentage points vs 2022. But we should add that Russia and Belarus were, once again, excluded from this year’s study.

Future Predictions

In terms of future progress, the council’s report notes that the UK, Germany and Italy still have a long way to go in terms of build, but the UK is forecast to reach 20.4 million homes passed by the end of 2024 (up 19% in the year) and then 29.6 million by the end of 2029 (up by 45% between 2024 and 2029).

However, country-to-county comparisons never tell the whole story. For example, some countries have funded the deployment of fibre almost entirely from public money, while offering very little in the way of competition (e.g. weak consumer choice). Meanwhile, other countries have a significantly higher proportion of people living in large blocks of flats (e.g. Spain, Portugal), which are much cheaper to serve those with a greater proportion of individual housing (e.g. UK).

ftth-european-country-coverage-forecast-2029-uk

Finally, it’s worth noting that a fair number of alternative networks in the UK – under pressure from rising build costs, competition and high interest rates – were forced to slow their build progress and cut some jobs during the latter half of 2023, which won’t yet be having much of an impact on this year’s tables. But we wouldn’t be surprised next year’s study showed a slowing or stagnation of coverage growth.

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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
8 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Mark says:

    To be fair, the UK invested heavily in providing super fast speeds over copper to the majority of households as well as having millions of homes having access to ultrafast speeds from VMO2.
    This has served the majority of households well, even to this day where households who have a 60Mbs/15Mbs upload connection are perfectly content with and serves their current usage.
    I bet the majority of FTTH across the UK and Europe are not utilisation anywhere near the capacity.
    I’m also not convinced that everyone is having a gigabit connection at home is going to have any meaningful impact on the economy for a long time to come, unlike when we first started getting ADSL which was truly transformative at the time.
    With the majority of the UK having decent super fast speeds over copper, I dont really see how other European countries have some sort of meaningful advantage over the UK because they have more fibre, as league tables try to show.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Maybe not so much right now but in the future it will. It is already mooted that TV by satellite and Terrestrial will come to an end and will be delivered by broadband, 3 or 4 TVs playing UHD content would push any FTTC connection. In the end of course copper services will be withdrawn anyway.

    2. Avatar photo Mark says:

      I dont disagree `big Dave, but whenever you see any article about the UK lagging behind Europe in terms of fibre roll out it’s all way along the lines that somehow we are missing out and other countries are ahead. But the reality is fixed broadband as well as wireless 5G etc., roll out as the market needs it in this country.
      Sure there are the minority who haven’t had acces to decent broadband, but for the majority they aren’t doing anything which their current connection cant handle today. So, we should really get hung up on how quickly everyone will get full fibre in this country.

    3. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      It might have helped if they had started by targeting those that were most poorly served by existing infrastructure (0.5Mb Adsl) and worked backwards rather than targeting easy builds. They would have probably got better take up too.

    4. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      there are 2 reasons why Openreach is pushing full fibre out, one is that their copper system is starting to fail and it starting to cost a fair bit of money to keep going, the other is they have to compete with other networks. They would keep us on FTTc for much longer if they could.

      you are right, FTTC as long as the user is close enough to the cabinet is fine for most people, even at the lower end.

    5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      The other bonus is that they will make a lot of money by extracting the old copper and selling it into the scrap copper market, also freeing up valuable duct space at the same time.

    6. Avatar photo George says:

      As big Dave says the UK approach has left a very inequitable coverage in many rural areas. Just those areas that need it most because of the rapid loss of services over the last 20 years. The same is true of 4G/5G role out. This has resulted in the opposite of levelling up.

  2. Avatar photo Tom says:

    Romania and Bulgaria leading the way.

Comments are closed

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