The figure of 19 million premises in the UK now having the option to order a fibre based service from one of the providers who use the Openreach network is an important one for the stats watchers. 19m works out at a magical two thirds of UK premises and when combined with the Virgin Media footprint means some 73% of UK premises have the option to order something that has a higher proportion of fibre than traditional ASDL networks.
The 19 million does include 630,000 premises where FTTC (maybe a few FTTP) services have been made available via the 44 BDUK projects (there are two more projects still in procurement). The BT press release describes the 630,000 as 'largely rural' which is not a phrase we would have chosen, since a good number of the cabinets we have tracked in announcements are on the edges of larger towns or an estate that is in a rural area, but would not look rural from the front garden.
"Fibre broadband is the future and BT has invested billions of pounds to ensure as many people as possible can benefit. The early achievement of this milestone marks the culmination of several years of hard work by our engineers and planners. They have pulled out all the stops to bring fibre to a vast expanse of the country over a very short period and I would like to thank them for their efforts and commitment.
Great progress has been made but we aren't stopping here. We need to ensure as many people as possible have access to fibre and that is why our engineering teams are working hard to extend the digital superhighway into rural areas.
The UK broadband market is intensely competitive and consumers are enjoying fantastic value for money. Broadband speeds have increased dramatically over the last decade whereas prices have tumbled. Customers are the winners."Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive, BT Group
The figure for those with the religious belief that premises passed is not the metric to use will prefer the number connected which is 2.7m Openreach fibre customers plus 4.4m Virgin Media to give a total of 7.1 m fibre based broadband connections (we are not sure why BT claim a smaller 6m, unless there around 1 million greedy premises with two fibre based connections).
Update 11:45am The lower figure of 6m accounts that BT uses appears to take into account that only 77% of Virgin Media customers are on a 30 Mbps or faster service. The higher 7.1m is reasonable though if referring to a fibre based service rather than one with a minimum speed qualification.
"The UK now has the widest fibre availability of the top five European economies as well as the highest take up rate. Commercial operators like BT, with support from Government, are delivering one of the fastest roll outs of fibre in the world and these figures demonstrate that the Government’s aim to provide access to superfast speeds to 95% of the UK by 2017 is well on track."Communications Minister Ed Vaizey
Openreach may be sweating its copper assets but in a cold commercial world the lower costs and speed of FTTC deployment make total sense. The current Government (and previous Labour) projects also had such tight deadlines and limited funding that a more FTTH rich deployment in the rural areas was never going to happen. While the Fibre on Demand (FTTP option in areas where FTTC is available) is widely criticised for its pricing, it does show that Openreach has planned ahead and has put in place the basic infrastructure for a GPON deployment in maybe 10 to 15 years, when the improvements from vectoring are feeling like basic broadband of 2012.