UK Full Fibre Coverage at 5% of Country

1.4 million UK properties, 5% of total premises, can now access full-fibre broadband, according to data collected by telecoms regulator Ofcom in May of this year.

The figure represents an uptick from the 1.2 million who could access the fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) technology in January and the 800,000 for whom it was available in June 2017. But significant progress will need to be made to deliver the government’s target of bringing full-fibre internet to 15 million premises by 2025 and achieving universal full-fibre coverage by 2033.

Access to the broadband technology, which uses fibre optic cables for the full length of the journey from telephone exchange to consumer router and outpaces the slower, more prevalent fibre-to the cabinet (FTTC), has been buoyed by renewed commitment and investment from Openreach, owner of most of the UK’s telephone wires, cabinets, and exchanges. In July Openreach claimed to be connecting 8,000 properties a week in nine cities to its full-fibre network.

Meanwhile, specialised full-fibre ISP Hyperoptic has raised £250m to roll out their 1 Gbps-capable connections to 2 million households by the end of 2022. Hyperoptic currently delivers FTTP gigabit internet to 500,000 premises.

“Full-fibre networks can deliver faster speeds, are more reliable and provide a more consistent performance, with speeds closer to those advertised,” Ofcom said in its October update to the Connected Nations report.

“We are continuing to work with government and industry to drive further investment in full-fibre – including introducing new rules to make it cheaper and easier for companies to lay full-fibre networks. We therefore expect the availability of full-fibre to continue to rise.”

While FTTP and its dazzling speeds has a long journey to achieve universal coverage in the UK, progress is being made on the spread of slower FTTC and cable connections. 93% of premises are now able to access superfast broadband, with speeds over 30 Mbps, up from 91% in June 2017. The portion that can access ultrafast internet, with speeds exceeding 300 Mbps, has risen to 48%, up from 36% the year before, largely due to the roll out of Virgin Media’s cable broadband network.

Meanwhile, the number of premises that cannot access adequate broadband, defined as a connection that can deliver download speeds of at least 10 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps, has fallen to 860,000, or 3%, from 1.07 million a year before.

Under the incoming universal service obligation (USO), these households will have the legal right to request and receive an adequate connection, up to a cost of £3,400. The designated USO provider is due to be named by the end of the year.

Mobile coverage also increased, with 76% of indoor premises able to access 4G from all four mobile operators, up from 64% the year before. Geographic 4G coverage by all networks now stands at 64%, up from 48%, and the percentage of geographic area not covered by any operator is now just 11%, down from 21%.

4G coverage of A and B roads continues to lag, with coverage from all four operators at just 54%. However, the percentage of roads without any 4G coverage has fallen to just 6%.

Ofcom’s next update to the Connected Nations report is due to be released in December and will feature figures for September 2018.

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