More than 17 million UK homes gain full-fibre broadband access

Ofcom report into state of UK fixed and wireless communications shows surge in full-fibre uptake over the past 12 months and 5G mobile coverage continuing to grow rapidly

The latest report on progress in the availability of broadband and mobile services in the UK from communications regulator Ofcom has revealed continued momentum, with a record 17 million UK homes now having access to full-fibre broadband and 4.6 million taking it up.

The key finding in the Connected nations 2023 report was that, for the first time, full-fibre broadband is available to over half of homes in all four of the UK nations. Northern Ireland leads the way, with over nine in 10 homes (91%) able to get full-fibre connectivity. For England, Scotland and Wales, this percentage was 78%, 7% and 64% respectively.

Overall, 28% of homes and businesses that can access full-fibre from the growing number of operators or all sizes have taken it up, with 4.6 million premises connected. Take-up in rural areas is nearly double that of urban homes (49% versus 25%).

Encouragingly, Ofcom found there had been a continued and further reduction over the past year in the number of homes and businesses unable to access “decent” broadband, defined by the government as delivering at least 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds. These decreased by 27% to 61,000 premises, and Ofcom estimated that around 11,000 of these would be connected via publicly funded schemes by 2024.

Interestingly, more homes were found to be taking up satellite broadband, with around 42,000 UK customers connected to Starlink’s satellite service, up from 13,000 a year ago. The majority of these subscribers are in rural areas.

Looking further at wireless connectivity, the report discovered that the availability of 5G continues to grow rapidly, with estimated coverage provided outside of UK premises by at least one operator of over 85% – a rise on last year’s 67%. 5G traffic has shown around 140% growth, representing around 17% of total mobile traffic. Yet the majority of mobile traffic continues to be carried over 4G, accounting for just over four-fifths (81%) of total data traffic. Widely accessible across the UK, 4G coverage is available from all operators outside more than 98% of UK premises.

Ofcom data showed that there were around 2.4 million devices still reliant on 2G or 3G networks, which has more than halved from last year’s estimated 5.5 million. Ofcom noted that of all network data traffic, just 3% is used by 3G, which has decreased by over two-fifths (44%) year on year. Mobile network operators are starting to switch off their 3G networks, with EE, Vodafone and Three planning to do so next year, followed by Virgin Media O2 in 2025. As the switch-offs progress, Ofcom assured that it would aim to ensure to ensure consumers are treated fairly and that disruption is minimised according to its official guide.

Commenting on the survey results, Ofcom’s network and communications group director, Lindsey Fussell, said: “The rapid rise in availability of full-fibre broadband is good news for people and businesses across the UK, with millions more able to benefit from fast, reliable and future-proof internet. When the time comes to take out a new broadband contract, we encourage people to shop around and find out what options are available to make sure they are on the best package for their needs.” 

Read more about UK broadband

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

Data Center
Data Management