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|
|Germany||Net Cologne||Power Utility||240,000||81.8m|
|Wilhelm Tel||Power Utility||200,000|
|Comstar UTS||Alternative Operator||2,000,000|
|ER Telecom||Alternative Operator||5,000,000|
|Slovakia||Orange Slovensko||Alternative Operator||320,000||5.4m|
|Turkey||Super Online||Alternative Operator||718,000||73.7m|
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.