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Gigabit Broadband Coverage Forecast to Be 75% by 2025


Nearly three-quarters of UK premises will be covered by a gigabit broadband service by December 2025, according to new forecasts from Thinkbroadband. That’s short of the 100% the prime minister has targeted by that date.

Boris Johnson drew headlines—and scepticism—last summer when, as part of his campaign for Conservative party leadership, he pledged to deliver full-fibre connections to all UK premises by 2025, eight years earlier than the 2033 deadline he had decried as “laughably unambitious.” However, industry figures cautioned that given the rate of FTTP rollout in the UK, the target was unrealistic.

Johnson’s government seemed to acknowledge this, watering the pledge down from “full-fibre” to “gigabit capable” broadband by 2025, leaving open the possibility of delivering some gigabit-speed (1,000Mbps) connections with Virgin Media cable, fixed wireless technology and mobile networks.

Currently, 27.52% of premises can access gigabit broadband, either through full-fibre networks from Openreach and alternative network providers or through Virgin Media’s cable network.

Now, given current build rates and infrastructure provider plans, Thinkbroadband has projected that gigabit coverage will stand at 74.9% at the end of 2025.

Much of this will be delivered by Virgin Media, which is rolling out an upgrade that boosts possible speeds on its existing cable network to 1,140Mbps. The upgrade has already reached 3.7 million households and Virgin intends to extend it to all 15 million premises on its network by the end of 2021. This, along with existing full-fibre builds, will take gigabit coverage to 60% in the next 18 months.

After that point, the rollout will be driven by FTTP providers, including Openreach, which is targeting 4.5 million full-fibre connections by March 2021 and 20 million by the “mid to late 2020s.” Some of this rollout will duplicate Virgin Media footprint and the builds of other providers, giving some households the choice of several gigabit broadband services.

Meanwhile, the government is aiming to spend £5 billion to connect the hardest-to-reach 10% to 20% of households, which commercials operators are unlikely to reach without subsidy.

Thinkbroadband estimates this £5 billion will need to cover 6 to 7.5 million premises, depending on the amount of overbuilding by providers. Even at the lower figure of six million, that leaves a subsidy of just £833 per premise, far below the amount these builds are estimated to cost. For instance, Openreach has calculated that reaching the last 10% of premises with full-fibre will cost £4,000 per location.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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