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Fixed broadband has been a success story for the UK over the past two years, with gigabit connectivity landing in places historically underserved by broadband, but research from Point Topic has shown that as of April 2022, in just over a third, 34%, of all UK local authorities, fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) coverage was still lower than 20% of premises, and 50% or higher in only 17%.
The study was carried out based on the ThinkPoint broadband availability dataset, which includes 1.7 million UK postcodes.
The 34% total FTTP coverage figure was down from the 42% recorded in February 2022, while the 50% benchmark was up from 13% two months earlier. The study also found that in total, independent FTTP networks passed 3.8 million premises, and just over 200,000 premises had access to two or more independent fibre networks. Some 14 local authorities had overlapping networks from three independent fibre network operators, while 109 local authorities had two independent fibre networks intersecting.
At the end of April 2022, the total FTTP coverage from UK providers – including Openreach, KCOM, Virgin Media RFOG and independent fibre networks – was 10.8 million premises.
Looking at individual companies, the study found that Openreach has been pushing forward its full-fibre roll-out. Point Topic found 410,000 additional Openreach FTTP premises in March 2022, and 299,000 in April 2022, which resulted in the total recorded FTTP footprint of 6.9 million premises, representing 21.7% of all UK premises. As in previous months, the number of Openreach’s ADSL, fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC)-only and Gfast premises continued to decline, with the focus shifting to FTTP deployment. The company aims to cover 25 million premises with this technology by the end of 2026.
The Virgin Media O2 gigabit network was present in 81% of local authorities. In 50% of local authorities, its coverage was 50% or higher. Virgin Media O2 passed 49% of UK premises with its gigabit network, with FTTP and Virgin Media O2’s DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit networks overlapping in multiple areas.
Given Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) had already announced the completion of its gigabit broadband roll-out to 15.5 million homes, which covers its entire footprint, Point Topic found only a handful of additional VMO2 gigabit premises between the end of February 2022 and April 2022. At the same time, with just over a million RFOG premises passed, VMO2 remained the second-largest FTTP network operator in the UK, after Openreach.
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In some areas, the Openreach FTTP network was complemented by independent fibre networks and/or Virgin Media’s RFOG network. Also, KCOM was found to have a significant FTTP footprint in the North East.
Taking this into account, Think Point’s list of the leading UK local authorities by total FTTP coverage as of April 2022 was headed by the city of Kingston upon Hull, on 99.3%, and then by Belfast, with 91.7%. These cities were followed by Ards and North Down (88.1%), Milton Keynes (87.9%), Peterborough (85.2%), Derry City and Strabane (84.6%), and then Antrim and Newtownabbey, and Coventry, both with 84.4%.
The largest conurbations at the bottom of the list were Luton and Fareham (2.8%), Copeland (2.6%), Burnley (2.4%) and Oxford (2.0%). The Orkney Islands scored 2%, while neighbouring Shetlands scored 1.9% and the Isle of Scilly 1.5%.