UK government claims ‘gigaboom’ as next-gen broadband reaches one in two premises

Hot on the heels of major expansion in fibre networks across the nation by a number of leading operators, government data shows 50.2% of UK premises are now able to access gigabit-capable broadband, up from 6% in 2019

More than half (50.2%) of UK homes and businesses can now access the fastest commercial broadband speeds available, according to research carried out by ThinkBroadband on behalf of the UK government. This means more than 15 million properties can access a broadband connection capable of download speeds of 1Gbps.

The government described reaching the landmark as a huge leap in gigabit broadband availability, which stood at just 6% in January 2019, and as a vindication of Project Gigabit, its £5bn plan to deliver next-generation broadband to hard-to-reach areas. 

Announced in March 2021, Project Gigabit will begin by connecting up to 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley. Contracts for these first areas went to tender this spring, with digging planned for the first half of 2022. In June 2021, the UK government announced the next procurements to connect up to 640,000 premises in Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The research noted the great strides made by the UK telecoms industry over the past year. It cited Virgin Media O2, which revealed this month that its gigabit broadband network had been expanded to reach more than 10 million homes across the UK and it intended to upgrade its entire footprint of 15.5 million homes before the end of the year.

“We are pleased to see the UK break through the 50% mark for gigabit availability and...are looking at 65-68% gigabit coverage in early 2022”
Andrew Ferguson, ThinkBroadband

In terms of specific roll-out to a variety of locations of different sizes and types, the study observed that communities across the UK had seen big increases in gigabit broadband coverage spurred by public and commercial investment.

As an example, it cited West Dunbartonshire in Scotland, which has seen gigabit broadband availability surge from just 1% in July 2020 to 95% today, and Stourbridge in Worcestershire, where gigabit broadband availability is now 96% when none was available in January 2021.

Across the West Midlands, gigabit broadband availability stood at 3% in January 2019, but has now hit 91.5%. In the resort city of Blackpool, gigabit broadband coverage jumped from 2% in January 2019 to nearly 85%, and in Reading, UK home to some of the leading global technology businesses, coverage has rocketed from 5% in January 2019 to 93%.

Commenting on the research, ThinkBroadband editor Andrew Ferguson said: “We are pleased to see the UK break through the 50% mark for gigabit availability, and if existing plans from providers come to fruition, we are looking at 65-68% gigabit coverage in early 2022.

“The next few years are going to be transformative for the UK broadband market, with many full-fibre networks being built, and we look forward to mapping all of them and ensuring the public can easily see what their broadband options are.”

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