The usual model we run for broadband coverage is based on actual services that are available to order, but we have done something a bit different and made the assumption that every green street cabinet was to be given a VDSL2 twin and what effect this would have on the superfast coverage levels in UK.
Given where we are with the 90% superfast target for the UK looming and like to be hit in the next couple of months this exercise should give some insight into how easy or not the next target of 95% superfast coverage by the end of 2017 will be.
The UK picture seems to say that the 95% target is impossible for Openreach, but there are tricks up their sleeve such as adding cabinets for the Exchange Only lines which cover around 2.3% of premises and with some more native FTTP added to the mix and deployment of FTTrN or Onesie cabinets to more remote clusters hitting 95% looks possible, just not as straight forward as the original 90% targets.
|While Northern Ireland has ticked the 95% NGA box for sometime, once you add a speed qualifier the dispersed nature of premises outside of Belfast and Londonderry is very obvious. Northern Ireland coverage is still improving, but at a fairly slow rate and this is being achieved mainly by extra cabinets to serve clusters too far from existing cabinets and while some native FTTP is available at 0.07% it is still very small. Of all the parts of the UK, Northern Ireland is the one that is hardest to get right i.e. spotting new cabinet infill work and whether it is actually live.|
|Scotland interestingly even with every cabinet enabled will not hit 90% superfast coverage, this is because of the large number of exchanges where every line is an exchange only line. The EO situation in Scotland is improving and with 6.2% left to look at and so if that work was to continue then 95% becomes viable especially if the areas we believe are due native FTTP are delivered.|
|The SuperfastCymru is one of the most widely misquoted projects, with a figure of 96% superfast coverage as the target often mentioned, but the reality of the 2016 target the project there has is a 96% fibre based target, with 90% superfast as the resulting goal. Our projection of every cabinet live for VDSL2 actually shows the project barely making the 90% superfast goal, hence why the fibre figure was always so high for the project. Again exchange only line upgrades will help as coverage pushes on for 95% superfast, but deployment of FTTP (or even other technologies) will be needed. Wales currently has 0.33% availability of native FTTP, but we know of more areas in actual build and they have suggested FTTP coverage might reach 3 to 4%.|
England with a result of 93.8% superfast (24 Mbps definition) is the closest to the 95% goal and each week we see more exchange only conversions, so the 2% of EO premises is shrinking and add to this the FTTP that keeps appearing things then 95% looks in the bag. Remember England includes KC, so the FTTP coverage if the roll-out there continues will keep rising even.
The story is far from uniform across England, as different counties have very different population dispersion patterns, and thus we have Lancashire hitting 95.2%, but for counties like Cumbria, Devon, Somerset, Northumberland even if every EO line was converted they will not make the target by a decent margin. This pretty much means for areas like Devon they are going to need to keep rolling out FTTP, already the county has 1.39% coverage from Openreach and this needs to keep rising quickly if the 90% superfast target is to be hit, let alone reaching for 95%.
Devon and Somerset sit in an odd position as they are the only counties to have not signed the main phase II contract yet, and this exercise shows the scale of the problem and maybe why plans from BT in its phase II bid did not match the ambitions of CDS, i.e. to push forward to 95% superfast coverage using the existing Openreach product portfolio would mean lots more FTTP and the cost per premise starts to escalate and may actually reach the point where for the budget available 95% is not possible with fibre based services. If Devon was as flat as Lincolnshire then a fixed wireless solution would be simple, but the varied landscape of the county makes even fixed wireless more of a challenge.
So enough future gazing and showing what VDSL2 might achieve, back to seeing what the various projects have delivered to people and then as people take-up services and do speed tests the actual impact on average speeds in the various areas of the UK.