Clearer service information could add 1.6 million full-fibre homes by 2025

Report finds that the speed at which Britain could benefit from the economic and social impact of billions of pounds of full-fibre infrastructure investment could be improved by clear labelling and information on broadband services

A study commissioned by CityFibre testing the impact of labelling alongside a description of available broadband technologies has calculated that having a label alongside clear information would enable consumers to better identify the products that deliver the speed and reliability they need, and could increase consumer take-up of full-fibre products by as much as 40%.

The Impact of labelling on full fibre adoption report was commissioned by the former altnet, which has grown to be the UK’s third-largest full-fibre platform provider, and carried out by WIK-Consult. It is designed to feed into a review currently underway by GigaTAG, the UK government’s taskforce for driving adoption of full-fibre and other gigabit-capable products.

WIK-Consult’s findings were based on a consumer survey and a conjoint study involving a representative sample of 3,000 consumers, choosing among hypothetical broadband offers.

The GigaTAG taskforce launched in August 2020 to drive the consumer take-up of gigabit speed internet connections. It is led by consumer and business groups including Which? – the consumer body that recently found the country’s largest providers to have proved a let-down regarding connection reliability, internet speeds and value for money – the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

GigaTAG’s Interim Report, published in December 2020, set out “labelling systems to present simple, clear and consistent information” as an emerging solution to ensure that “consumers and businesses are aware of, and understand, gigabit-capable broadband”. The final set of recommendations to the government are expected in May 2021.

In drawing its conclusions, CityFibre sought to estimate the potential impact of broadband labelling on the rate at which homes will have access to full-fibre broadband over time. It assumed the UK will achieve 100% full-fibre coverage over the next 10 years, and that full-fibre take-up without a labelling system would reach 10% of available homes in the first year of deployment, increasing by 10 percentage points each year thereafter, up to an assumed limit of 80% after eight years.

The bottom line was that without labelling intervention there would be 4.9 million homes connected to full-fibre by 2025; with a labelling system, the prediction was that there would be 6.5 million homes connected to full-fibre by this time.

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The report also revealed the extent to which consumers are confused by current broadband marketing terminology. More than half of respondents in the survey (52%) believed they already had a full-fibre service, despite four-fifths of them living in areas where full fibre is not yet available.

However, despite the UK’s nationwide full-fibre roll-out being underway and gathering fast pace over 2021, supported by a £5bn public subsidy and an estimated £20bn of private investment, GigaTAG has indicated that clearer information on broadband products will be needed to enable consumers and businesses to adopt these networks at scale.

“The huge potential for broadband labelling to improve awareness, trust and take-up of full-fibre is great news for consumers and for the country,” said Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, which has implemented an aggressive roll-out plan over 2021.

“With nationwide roll-out ramping up fast, full-fibre will soon be in easy reach of most homes and businesses,” he said. “Now is the time to focus on helping them switch, so we can unleash the economic benefits of full fibre as quickly as possible and bolster the investor confidence needed to complete the nationwide roll-out.”

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