Skip Navigation

UK starts to register on fibre league tables
Wednesday 28 September 2011 10:23:52 by Andrew Ferguson

If you take the presence of fibre-to-the-home/premises (FTTH/FTTP) to be the gold standard of broadband access, then compared to other countries in Europe the UK has a very low number of homes passed. ISPReview has highlighted this through a report by the FTTH Council Europe.

To give an idea of the scale of the roll-out in each country we have added the population figure to the table, which reveals that while many people talk about high levels of fibre access in other European countries, the reality is that it is very much down to whether you live in a coverage area.

FTTB may not be familiar to some people, but it is fibre-to-the-basement, and is often used for blocks of flats, and involves terminating the fibre in the basement, and running Ethernet to each individual flat. While the UK does not show up, there are firms like Ask4 using this configuration.

Countries Providers FTTH/B Homes/Buildings Passed Population
Bulgaria Blizoo Cable operator 1,100,000 7.3m
Denmark TDC Incumbent 250,000 5.5m
Estonia Elisa Incumbent 210,000 1.3m
Finland Telia Sonera Incumbent 600,000 5.4m
France SFR Alternative Operator 550,000 65.8m
  France Telecom Incumbent 819,403  
  Free Alternative Operator 450,000  
  Numericable Cable Operator 4,500,000  
Germany Net Cologne Power Utility 240,000 81.8m
  Wilhelm Tel Power Utility 200,000  
Hungary Magyar Telecom Incumbent 290,000 9.9
Italy Fastweb Alternative Operator 2,000,000 60.6m
  Telecom Italia Incumbent 550,000
Latvia Lattelecom Incumbent 357,485 2.2m
Lithuania TEO Incumbent 700,000 3.2m
Netherlands KPNReggefiber Incumbent 768,000 16.7m
Norway Altibox Power Utility 350,000 4.9m
Portugal Portugal Telecom Incumbent 1,279,000 10.6m
  Sonaecom Alternative Operator 300,000  
  Vodafone Alternative Operator 200,000  
Russia Beeline/VimpelCom Alternative Operator 8,900,000 142.9m
  Comstar UTS Alternative Operator 2,000,000  
  ER Telecom Alternative Operator 5,000,000  
Slovakia Orange Slovensko Alternative Operator 320,000 5.4m
  T-COM/Slovak Telecom Incumbent 360,000  
Slovenia T2 Alternative Operator 310,000 2m
Spain Telefonica Incumbent 500,000 46m
Sweden Telenor Alternative Operator 500,000 9.3m
  Telia Sonera Incumbent 320,000  
Switzerland Swisscom Incumbent 275,000 7.9m
Turkey Super Online Alternative Operator 718,000 73.7m
UK BT Openreach Incumbent 250,000 62m
Ukraine Beeline/VimpelCom Alternative Operator 3,000,000 45.8m

It is very important to note that the figures are the number of homes passed, not the number actually buying a service from an operator. Additionally in countries like France with multiple options it is not known how much the coverage areas overlap.

Openreach has a target of some 2.5 million homes passed by its fibre network by 2012, which looks likely to be missed, but if this can be reached in the next 18 months the UK would look a lot better in the standings. Any improved placing would only result if other countries have slowed down their own roll-out. What is most disappointing, is that the UK has no alternative operators showing up. There are smaller scale roll-outs such as Hambleton with Rutland Telecom, but no large firm has bitten the bullet and rolled out in the UK. The standard answer is the cost of access to Openreach ducting is too high, but apparently BT pricing is in line with the rest of Europe. One thing that will be holding investors back is that with 50% of UK homes being passed by the 50Meg service from Virgin Media, many people have access to superfast broadband, but the numbers purchasing the faster services and thus bringing in substantial revenue is relatively low.


Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
"What is most disappointing, is that the UK has no alternative operators showing up" - No-one else wants to build their own networks.
Posted by adslmax over 6 years ago
UK operators is just simple don't care about us! They only investment on large businesses!
Posted by themanstan over 6 years ago
Strange that VM as a cable operator claiming to pass 10m homes, does not show on this table... yet in France and Bulgaria they have cable operators that show up which pass fewer homes... oh the wonders of stats!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
On the overseas cable op's, one presumes that those listed have a FTTH infrastructure, or FTTB.

If it were a list of FTTC/N then of course VM would qualify.
Posted by Renfrew over 6 years ago
I wonder if the slow installation in the UK of fibre connections by alternative providers, has anything to do with the Fibre Tax (rates levied on the value of installed fibre per kilometre).

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Communication, etc., was highly critical of the fibre tax whilst in opposition but upon becoming the Minister he immediately scrapped the review which had just been started and left the status quo in place.

Why do politicians complain that people accuse them of being hypocritical?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
I doubt it Renfrew, if there was money to be made that tax would be passed on, despite all the fuss you'll find the majority don't want 50Mb+ and even less want to pay the real price it costs to provide it
Posted by themanstan over 6 years ago
Then this form of analysis is skewed. Apartment buildings are far more the norm in Europe, than in the UK. FTTB is very common and economically viable. The UK is more suited to FTTB/N/C (although some will disagree and demand FTTH no matter the cost).
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
FTTB is very common in Europe, as was small telecoms cupboards in the basement and landlords happy to help in connecting this sort of thing up.

So yes it is skewed due to ratio's of apartments, but some firms are moving in that area - ask4 as mentioned in article.
Posted by vicdupreez over 6 years ago
I just think it is time for the UK (read BT) to stop installing EVERY itteration of a given technology. When BT started their ADSL install at 512kbps, ADSL max was already available. Why not go there directly. Why not as copper cables need replacing, replace them with fiber as opposed to copper, or when there is a need for a new connection down the road somewhere, and there is no more copper pairs available, just stick in the fiber... It will save so much and even just doing that will already make such a difference.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
^ sigh

You can't just "replace" copper with fibre it doesn't terminate in the same way, so you are suggesting if the copper from your house to the pole breaks its cheaper to replace the whole stretch of copper from your home to the exchange with fibre?

Also you can't officially use fibre only for voice until Ofcom say its ok to do so.

What you've suggested has been suggested many times and pulled apart many times. Its sadly not that simple
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
ADSL Max (RADSL) and the 0.5Mbps, were the exact same hardware at the exchange. Just a different mode of ADSL.

Anyone who thinks its just pull a fibre for each phone line from the exchange to a home is in for a shock, when they see the work that goes into getting FTTH to a property.
Posted by camieabz over 6 years ago
If we compare France with the UK (population vs premises passed) we see that the UK is less than half of the French amount, in spite of being a smaller (more densely populated) geographical country.

BT and the rest need to pull up their socks.
Posted by themanstan over 6 years ago

Actually urban France, where most of the fibre is, is more densely populated than equivalent UK urban areas. Apartment blocks are the norm rather than houses and this makes FTTB the n
Posted by themanstan over 6 years ago
orm too, which is a relatively cheap way to bring fibre to lots of people at once. I would check the population density of Paris vs London and you'll see how they get to pass so many homes. 1 fibre lay to an apartment will effectively pass ~ 40+ homes. there are far fewer cities in the UK that have the same proportion of large apartment blocks to house ratios like there are in Europe. This is what makes fibre roll-outs "cheaper" and more efficient. We just live our house ideal too much here in the UK.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
camieabz there are no "rest" which is a main part of the problem
Posted by michaels_perry over 6 years ago
The table is misleading. It should show number of homes and number of homes passed, rather than total population. A percentage column would be most revealing if it is based on those criteria.
Posted by vicdupreez over 6 years ago

Fine... Run the fiber, get some folks on a fiber to the home connection, and stick a DACS (?) device on some of the remaining lines to fix the original issue. Not saying they should just remove the copper. (Incidentally this is exactly what they are planning on doing in Australia. Selling the copper will pay for part of the install). What I am saying is that they should stop making SUCH a big deal about it and just get on with it.

Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
vic, if people are willing to pay the costs of providing FTTH I'm sure they will just get on with it.

£30 a month with no install fee doesn't cut it I'm afraid :(
Posted by vicdupreez over 6 years ago

I offered to get the way leaves, purchase the cable, do the digging, bury the cable and give BT two ends to connect, and the head of engineering from BT in Northern Ireland actually laughed at me... I do not want this for free... I would be happy to put my hand in my pocket to get the work done. I unfortunately also know that where I live will be the very last place in Northern Ireland to be upgraded for even ADSL2+. Rathlin Island will get it before me since that would be a PR stunt...

Posted by creakycopperline over 6 years ago
Posted by GMAN99 10 days ago
I doubt it Renfrew, if there was money to be made that tax would be passed on, despite all the fuss you'll find the majority don't want 50Mb+ and even less want to pay the real price it costs to provide it

And how do you know? have you conducted a national study?
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.