The majority of UK households can now sign up to ultrafast broadband connections, delivered by full-fibre, cable or G.fast technologies.
An analysis by Thinkbroadband found that national coverage of ultrafast internet stands at just over 60%. Ultrafast broadband offers download speeds exceeding 100 Mbps.
Today superfast coverage is 96.7% in England and somewhat lower in the devolved nations. Last year the government forecast that figure would hit 97% across the UK by next month.
However, some ultrafast connections deliver speeds just one-tenth of the gigabit speeds Boris Johnson has promised to bring to every household by 2025.
The majority of ultrafast connections are delivered by Virgin Media’s cable network, which reaches 57.8% of UK premises. For most of those premises, speeds top out at 362Mbps, but Virgin is currently rolling out the 1.1 Gbps-capable “Gig1” service to all those households, a process expected to take a year or two and take gigabit coverage to just under 60%.
Meanwhile, full-fibre coverage stands at around 12%, delivered by Openreach (BT) and a range of alternative network providers such as CityFibre and Hyperoptic. Openreach currently connects 2.17 million premises to FTTP, with the aim of reaching four million by next March and 15 million by 2025.
Openreach-connected households can currently sign up to full-fibre packages from BT or TalkTalk, with Sky’s full-fibre packages expected to launch within the next month. Currently, packages top out at 285Mbps, but Openreach is releasing its 500Mbps and 1Gbps-capable wholesale products in late March.
Meanwhile, alternative full-fibre providers have scheduled rollouts targeting 3.38 million premises by the end of this year and 15.96 million by 2025.
But it’s likely that much of build of these providers and Openreach will overlap, as the recent case of the London street served by three full-fibre connections (Openreach, Hyperoptic and G.Network) illustrates.
While overbuild will give customers more choice of full-fibre provider, it suggests that even with Virgin’s gigabit upgrade, ISPs alone won’t deliver the government’s goal of universal gigabit coverage. Remote and rural areas, where Openreach has estimated that build costs could exceed £4,000 per premise, could be left behind without government intervention and funding.
The remainder of these ultrafast connections are delivered by G.fast, which tops out at speed of 300Mbps. Openreach is set to reach 2.73 million premises with G.fast by next month but hasn’t published plans for builds beyond that date. The infrastructure provider appears to be moving away from the technology in order to focus on its full-fibre rollout.
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