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Full-fibre broadband penetration reaches 5%

The number of UK properties able to access a full-fibre broadband connection has hit a small but significant milestone, according to Ofcom

As of May 2018, about 1.4 million premises, representing around 5% of the total number of properties in the UK, are now able to access a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), or full-fibre, broadband connection.

This is up from 1.2 million in January, and just over 800,000 in June last year, according to statistics released by telecoms regulator Ofcom.

The small, yet statistically significant milestone has come as a direct result of a growing number of large providers and network builders, notably the likes of Openreach and Vodafone, putting more weight behind the gold standard of broadband delivery technology.

Institutional investors have also caught the full-fibre bug, with Hyperoptic receiving a significant tranche of cash to extend its network back in August, while rival CityFibre was bought for more than £500m by venture capitalists in April.

“Full-fibre networks can deliver faster speeds, are more reliable and provide a more consistent performance, with speeds closer to those advertised,” said Ofcom in one of its regular updates 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.”

At the same time, the number of premises that cannot receive an adequate broadband connection – deemed to be one that can deliver 10Mbps speeds down and 1Mbps up – has fallen by about 70,000 to 860,000 properties, or 3% of the UK total.

Under the incoming broadband universal service obligation (USO), everyone who cannot currently receive a connection capable of delivering over 10Mbps will have the right to request and receive one at a cost threshold of up to £3,400. A consultation with the industry over how this will work is ongoing, even though many stakeholders have derided the USO as “short-termism” and “silly”. The designated USO provider is expected to be named before the end of the year.

The updated report also revealed that the number of premises able to receive superfast broadband (+30Mbps) had reached 93% and the number able to receive ultrafast broadband (+300Mbps) was 48%, the second figure largely due to an expansion of Virgin Media’s cable network.

Read more about full-fibre broadband

The next annual Connected Nations report is expected to be released in December 2018, and will update the picture to the end of September 2018 with more in-depth data from a wider range of sources. It will also incorporate data from fixed-wireless access (FWA) providers – a technology that Ofcom said it was “continuing work to further understand”.

The latest mobile coverage figures for 4G services found that nationally, indoor coverage from all four operators was 76% of premises, up from 74% in the previous update. Geographically, 64% of the UK’s landmass is now covered by 4G, up from 62%, and the area covered by nobody at all has fallen by 1% to 11%. As with the figures for fixed broadband connections, all current coverage data is now correct to May 2018.

Ofcom’s latest figures include corrections to EE’s 3G and Vodafone’s 4G data. Both operators had previously supplied inaccurate data – in Vodafone’s case, the operator had under-predicted the extent of its 4G coverage, while EE had overstated its 3G coverage. These statistics should now appear accurately in the report, and Ofcom also said it would be probing both EE and Vodafone to find out if they had breached their reporting obligations.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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