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Superfast roll-out progress update March 2016
Tuesday 08 March 2016 12:11:52 by Andrew Ferguson

Another month has past and the UK has not hit the magic 90% superfast target, we are moving closer with an extra 0.3% of UK premises now able to order a superfast service. 0.3% sounds like an insignificant number but does comprise around 84,000 added in the last month. Not all of the 84,000 is from Openreach, some will be down to the Virgin Media roll-outs and KC Lightstream service in Hull, but the bulk is Openreach based. The figure also takes into account the distance limitations of VDSL2.

London was a surprise mover in the month, and this is in part due to the restart of the Openreach commercial roll-out in the capital combined with some privately funded cabinets going live for VDSL2. For other urban parts of the UK there is growing ground swell for Openreach to enable more of its cabinets, even though a large number are fully overlapped by Virgin Media, i.e. people want a choice of provider.

Coverage of broadband at 30 Mbps and faster and observed mean speed test in February 2016
Compare superfast coverage and observed broadband speed test results

A grey scale version of the superfast coverage (30 Mbps and faster) map is available. Our April update will feature a full UK map, as we can now generate this, the March copy has been posted to our twitter account, which usefully shows the difference between VDSL/FTTP/Cable coverage at any speed and those able to get superfast speeds. It should be obvious but we have to point out that observed broadband speeds from speed tests are always going to lag availability and this is identical world wide, unless you rip out old networks and force upgrades and price rises on customers. Hopefully as take-up increases for the superfast services, we will see the colours of the observation map shift closer to the availability map. If in the next two or three years this does not happen then the vocal complainers who say the BDUK process has delivered nothing wothwhile will be proved right.

A small but important milestone has been reached, previously we reported on England breaking the 24 Mbps superfast 90% barrier and now a couple of months later England has reached superfast coverage at speeds of 30 Mbps or more to 90% of premises.

thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast, USC, USO and Fibre Broadband Coverage across the UK, its nations and regions for premises
In descending order of superfast coverage - figures 7th March 2016
(change since 7th February 2016)
Area % fibre based % superfast
24 Mbps or faster
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast
100 Mbps or faster
% Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under proposed 10 Mbps USO
South East 96.7% 93.7% (+0.1) 93.1% 48.7% 0.75% 0.5% 2.7%
London 95.2% 93.7% (+0.3) 93.4% 67.9% 1.41% 0.3% 1.7%
East Midlands 96% 93.2% (+0.2) 92.6% 56.6% 0% 0.6% 3%
North East 94.7% 92.8% (+0.1) 92.4% 50.9% 0.04% 0.3% 2.4%
West Midlands 94.4% 92.1% (+0.5) 91.6% 61.6% 0.07% 0.5% 3.5%
North West 95.1% 91.9% (+0.3) 91.3% 45.7% 0.44% 0.7% 3.9%
England 93.6% 90.6% (+0.3) 90% 52.7% 1.14% 0.6% 4.2%
United Kingdom 93% 89.5 (+0.3) 88.9% 49.9% 0.98% 0.8% 5%
East of England 92% 88.5% (+0.5) 87.8% 47.7% 0.34% 0.8% 5.4%
Wales 90.6% 86.2% (+0.3) 85% 29.1% 0.4% 0.9% 8.3%
South West 91.1% 86.1% (+0.5) 85.1% 42.8% 2.5% 1.1% 7%
Yorkshire and Humber 88.5% 85.3% (+0.3) 84.5% 48.2% 3.04% (includes KC Lightstream) 0.7% 7.1%
Scotland 87.6% 83.6% (+0.4) 82.8% 39.2% <0.01% 1.3% 8.8%
Northern Ireland 95.7% 78.7% (=) 77.1% 27.2% 0.07% 7.2% 14%

The roll-out from Virgin Media Project Lightning is having a small impact on the superfast figures, as it may help some in urban areas on the fringe of Openreach cabinets, but the Virgin Media roll-out which is a mixture of traditional cable and FTTP is generally boosting the ultrafast figure. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing where Virgin Media is deploying FTTP without precise local observation, so we are not adding their figures to the FTTH/FTTP numbers we track.

Of the 0.3% increase in coverage in Wales in the last month almost one third has been native FTTP areas finally going live and based on reports from Wales there is much more to come, but the pace will have to pick up if the 80,000 FTTP premises (around 4%) previously suggested is to be reached. The problem with the GPON FTTP roll-out is not technical, but simply the time it takes roll-out, and then the subsequent extra install effort needed for each premise that orders the service.

What is going to be interesting in a few months is once the UK wide 90% superfast target has been met for both 24 Mbps and 30 Mbps definitions, what difference the Gigaclear, B4RN, IFNL and other FTTH networks will make to things like the USC coverage levels. The mail bag with concerns over availability of fixed wireless solutions and line of sight issues, means that while will we may advise that a fixed wireless option is available until we have seen take-up and speed test results for a postcode we may not roll wireless coverage information into data to reduce 2 Mbps and 10 Mbps not-spots.

For all those who've not been helped by the BDUK roll-out in any shape or form it is easy to say the project has achieved nothing, but the most rural area of the UK i.e. rural hamlets in sparsely populated areas that comprise 0.7% of UK premises have superfast broadband available to 40.4% of premises, this is split with 1.8% on Openreach FTTP and the other 38.6% getting superfast via VDSL2, if you remove the 30 Mbps speed qualifier then the FTTC/P availability actually climbs to 61.2%. The difference is the effect of line length on VDSL2 performance but given many of these areas have until now only had up to 7.15 Mbps ADSL exchange based services, even a jump to 10 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload (improved backhaul capacity and DLM systems too) will be welcome or maybe not based on social media reactions.


Posted by jumpmum about 1 year ago
With the improving weather there is still a small chance that 90% superfast (24Mb) will be hit by the end of the financial year (next report). If so OR will deserve a bouquet but will no doubt just get the brickbats.
I am impressed by the speed with which they have got Wales to over 86.2% superfast considering the topology and start point. Will be good to see the 1% FTTP hit as well, and see the added 0.x% from the other full fibre operators when you add it in.
Posted by gf20 about 1 year ago
Assuming the reason why Yorkshire and Humber is lower is due to Superfast South Yorkshires very slow roll out which doesn't seem to be covered anywhere
Posted by 21again about 1 year ago
OR are starting to lay fibre in some areas of the Highland West Coast which will benefit some but as there are a majority of EO lines many will still be stuck on ADSL from the 20CN exchanges, unless there is technology which can overcome this but still using a cable connected to an exchange.
Posted by themanstan about 1 year ago
Andrew, do you think when the 90% is hit that you might do a maps comparison?
Before commercial roll-out, BDUK start and BDUK end.
That would show VM coverage at the start >24Mbps, coverage extended by the BT commercial and finally BDUK phase 1 complete.
Posted by plc143 about 1 year ago
For all those who've not been helped by the BDUK roll-out in any shape or form it is easy to say the project has achieved nothing. Too right M8 still waiting on sunny peckham,london.
Posted by jumpmum about 1 year ago
Yoorkshire and the Humber will be affected by the slow rollout of FTTP in Hull. This will take a while to cover BUT will give a large Ultrafast coverage when complete. This is why the FTTP figure is the highest.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@themanstan Yes can already rollback Constituencies a year or so, just need to do some tweaking and should be able to go back to 2010 for council areas.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Most of the EO lines down here in West Sussex were switched to a cabinet close to the exchange.
This is something that wasn't announced it just quickly happened. Hopefully if the lines are not to long you can expect the same - keep an eye on the road works info.
Posted by alexdow about 1 year ago
Taking the UK Figure of 93% "fibre based", isn't the actual Uptake/Upgrade around 30% of that availability figure, by the last published BT/OR figures, so only about 28% of the "total premises passed" equating to around 7.5 Million, out of the about 25 Million total?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@alexdow take-up of fttc is around 22%, then there are the Virgin Media customer base to add too.

Hence why we said the the two maps should as take-up increases more closely match each other. The large table of figures does not include any take-up column.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
Andrew I find it difficult to reconcile the claim of 40% superfast coverage in the most sparse village, hamlets and isolated dwellings category with your maps showing the postcodes unable to receive even 10Mbps. Nor does it equate the experience in many counties that are struggling to get superfast coverage much above 2/3 of the intervention area despite having cherry picked the most densely populated areas first. Are there some BDUK areas which are way above average so producing this strange result?
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
I think that it is important to realise the limitations of the copper network. This FTTC upgrade is as good as it gets for many of the 90%. G.Fast due to its range is likely just to be an urban rollout. FTTP may be a generation away if we wait for BT. New players like City Fibre on the wholesale side and innovators like Gigaclear are our best bet. Personally I will opt for Fixed Wireless.
Posted by DrMikeHuntHurtz about 1 year ago
BT should be broken up, I base that solely on me not having fiber and probably not seeing it until 2020 or beyond, despite being surrounded by fiber cabinets and being a non-rural area (not EO either).
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
DrMikeHuntHurtz about so where are you then
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Lots of factors have affected Yorkshire
- Digital Region collapse in South Yorkshire
- KC's choice of FTTP in Hull and a good proportion of East Yorkshire, slow to deploy, combined with the lateness of BDUK in EY.
- Kirklees chose to not bother with phase 1 of BDUK, in West Yorkshire
- North Yorkshire is huge, and spread out. Even with an early and pretty successful BDUK project, there is a way to go yet.

It all adds up.
Posted by MCM999 about 1 year ago
@DrMikeHuntHurtz Why do you think that breaking up BT would make the slightest difference? All companies deploying infrastructure such as broadband need to make a return on their investment. If upgrading your cab is commercially unviable then regardless of its owner, BT or otherwise, someone is going to need to provide the funds. You can either do that yourself or wait on the generosity of others.
Posted by movie about 1 year ago
"but we have yet to find a GeoJSON file that maps NI parliamentary seats" The Guardian has some KML files available which can be easily converted to GeoJSON

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Thanks Movie, will have grabbed copies to do some work and checks with.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
The same system that generates the under 10 Mbps postcode list is the one that generates the 40% in rural hamlets figure and in places like Scotland, one cabinet outside the exchange often covers 75% of premises

The local site also lets people see what we think for their postcode, so if I've got a whole village wrong should be easy for people to check and report.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@gerarda The total premises in GB Hamlet (both sparse and less sparse) areas matches the number of premises in GB Urban areas that are without superfast broadband.

Which are these many counties?
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
Most counties started with coverage of around 50-60% and are now in the 85-90% range so that’s about 2/3 of the intervention area covered.

To take an example Suffolk started at about 55% and is now 85% so exactly 2/3.

If you look the phase 3 OMR you will find a list of 3724 postcodes that will still be left out at the of the SEP programme.

If you look at which is roughly the stage we are now there is no way that anything like 40% of the rural sparse has been covered- 5-10% at the outside.
Posted by t0m5k1 about 1 year ago
Being in the wonderful Basingstoke fiber NOTSPOT of Chineham I just want to know when fiber will reach me!
I see everyone in other parts of Basingstoke get FTTC/P &/or Virgin but alas I still have ADSL2+ which provides me with the superfast speed of 2mb

BT wholesale show there is a waiting list yet nobody will tak an order & when pressed they say they don't have orders so whereis this so called waiting list.

It's all becoming hot air & nothing coming, even when I ask an openreach engineer they clam up & say "sorry I don't get told that !"
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
If BT Wholesale is showing a waiting list then it means the cabinet is enabled but waiting on expansion in the form of line cards.

If you want us to ask then send an email to obviously will need the address and will pester Openreach.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@Gerarda I have NOT published a rural spare figure, but a GB Hamlet - area sparse figure in the article which comprises just 175,000 premises across the whole UK.

How big is this rural sparse definition you are using and where is the postcode to definition system I can use. To date using ONS tables for this splitting up.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@movie Found an update to the json files we use that has added the UK level map that makes life easier now.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
Andrew - I meant hamlet sparse - though adding village sparse to get rural sparse only roughly doubles the number.

I was comparing this map with the one on my previous post - I dont have access to the postcode data but it does seem odd that 40% of premises with almost no neighbours are within 1K of an FTTC enabled cabinet
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
The gap between VDSL2 via cabinet and superfast is pretty high 61.2% and 40.4% (1.8% are FTTP) and the manual reviews of areas don't point to a systematic problem in the model.

Getting data to support the hypothesis that no-one in rural areas has been helped by BDUK would guarantee acres of press coverage, alas while lots of gaps things are changing.

What you will find I suspect is that urban areas have a higher proportion of 50 Mbps or faster VDSL2 than the 'rural' areas, i.e. more cabs at a cross roads between 2 villages rather than in the centre of population.

Posted by DrMikeHuntHurtz about 1 year ago

My cabinet was due to be done, then BDUK came along and offered cash to BT to do all the other unviable cabinets, they then forgot about my cabinet, did the others, hit their target, and ****** off.
Posted by DrMikeHuntHurtz about 1 year ago
Also breaking up BT would be a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned, if I am getting shafted, everyone else can to.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
The pass of the commercial cabinet roll-out did slow down a great deal, and some were dropped once the cost of power was supplied by power company, or objections to locations. If cabinet is still showing in the plans then still some hope - or encourage another provider to the area e.g. Virgin Media who are expanding.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@Andrew I did a few checks on Suffolk postcodes and hamlet-sparse does not mean the place is as isolated as the definition at first suggests. Of the 8 I checked 2 were capable of getting superfast. One of these was just outside Mildenhall and one just outside Woodbridge. Places which I would have deemed as isolated were often defined as rural village with no mention of sparse.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
In which case you need to take up the definitions with the ONS if they do not meet your expectations and lobby for them to be reassessed.

If you think I've messed the cross linking up, then would need to know the 8 postcodes you checked, just outside Mildenhall is a bit woolly.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
Your speed estimates did agree with the Better Broadband site - I was just making the point that although rural hamlets sparse may seem on the face of it the most difficult category to supply with FTTC superfast in practice it may not.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
An interesting couple of documents.

But why are you asking about "sparse" hamlet/villages in the context of Suffolk?

If you look at Figure 14 of the ONS document, you'll see that almost none of Suffolk gets categorised within the sparse categories, save the tiniest sliver on the coast around Leiston.

Look at North Norfolk, central Wales, north-western North Yorkshire or Exmoor for areas which have widespread "sparse" areas.

Even Dartmoor isn't classified as sparse; too close to Plymouth and Torquay for that.

Only the very darkest blue areas in figure 13 get considered sparse.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
In Suffolk's case, Lowestoft, Norwich, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds seem to add just enough population density to make the whole county qualify as other than sparse.

Figure 13 helps show the hotspots in the "sparse at 10km" definition, with the effect smoothed out in the "sparse at 30km" definition.

I suspect the presence and size of the Wash is enough to allow North Norfolk and East Lincolnshire to end up qualifying as sparse.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
I think the important factor is that a hamlet which is 10 miles from the next hamlet is not considered to be in a "sparse context", if it then happens to be within 15 miles of a large city.

It might meet your idea of "isolated", but that isn't what the ONS uses "sparse" for.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@wwwombat ONS definitions seem to be pretty fluid - figure13 suggests that there were almost none in Suffolk, then the map in figure 14 suggested most of Suffolk was sparse - but then when I went down to postcode level I found it was something in between, but not necessarily, as I said before, where I would have expected to have found them based on any of the 10K, 20K or 30K smoothing/

Posted by MCM999 about 1 year ago
@DrMikeHuntHurtz FTTC or FTTP? BT do indeed seem to have failed those areas where they said they were going to commercially provide FTTP. Not that VM are any better. I live in SW9 with an EO line and have neither FTTC/FTTP from BT or cable from VM although neighbours in the same road can get both. BT are now helping unlike VM who have shown no interest.
Posted by obsidian76 about 1 year ago
"unless you rip out old networks and force upgrades and price rises on customers. " of course these massive corporations could take a hit on the bottom line and roll out a proper fibre network, but hey Im being silly and naive lol
Posted by themanstan about 1 year ago
Yes you are.

UKgov actually prevented BT from rolling out fibre in the 70s and 80s... BT had fibre productions factories for hardware... but UKgov said "No" to protect cable TV. Found itself with factories it couldn´t use, so sold them to Fujitsu and HP.
Now UK gov has recently said yes, all the benefits have gone of owning the production...
Posted by DanSpurr about 1 year ago
so i live Next door to an exchange (but still have a Cabinet line)

i'm about 25m from cabinet and 50m from the Exchange (LN5 7TR) see how close we are on the cabinet there are nearly a 100 properties and yet every other week i see cabinets serving smaller footprints being upgraded especially just recently a cabinet on the same road as my address 200m away was undergoing its works and that serves 20 business' and noone else
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
And conversely the business only cabinets have been complaining and lobbying hard to get their cabinets upgraded too.

The EO work needs extra work compared to the usual just adding a fibre twin.

Also projects cannot fund premises that can already get Virgin Media, so it may be 100 premises but 80 can get Virgin Media so better return elsewhere and that close to the exchange ADSL2+ should be in the 19 Mbps and faster region.
Posted by leexgx about 1 year ago
i believe it was the 1990 when BT was prevented under its Own money to provide a Full FTTP roll out (thatcher)
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
I think you are reading figure 14 wrong. The colours there say most of Suffolk is either rural village, or rural hamlet, but almost entirely NOT sparse.

Almost none of the south-east of England is sparse.

Take a look:
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
The land area maps (e.g. fig 14) are always deceptive unless you know the demographics of an area e.g. the five big towns in Suffolk comprise half the population.

And SCC analysis suggests 58.8% urban, 41.2% rural
Posted by DrMikeHuntHurtz about 1 year ago

FTTC, it seems BT did FTTP for EO lines only, not sure how many though.

I've also checked the planning application register and there has been no attempt by BT.
Posted by MCM999 about 1 year ago
BT shouldn't normally need planning consent other than in conservation areas or similar although there are other ways that LAs can obstruct and delay upgrades. In our case Lambeth are refusing to allow BT to complete the installation of our new all-in-one cab by virtue of a section 58 order under the New Roads and Street Works ACT 1991, this despite no work having been done to the road since before the act came into force. Probably the most common causes for delay are power related, where the cost can be prohibitive in some cases.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Good point.
I guess I meant "most" to apply to land area; map colouring rarely gives you a good indication of the way stats apply to population.

The document you link has a clearer example of "sparse" areas in Suffolk, on the last page. Again, just a small area on the coast.

Another ONS map showing sparse areas is
map 1.

That same doc highlights that, while the ONS puts 18% of the population into rural areas, it only classifies 1.8% as sparse.

Being "sparse" is rare.
Posted by DrMikeHuntHurtz about 1 year ago

Considering where my cabinet is located I wouldn't be surprised if it's power related, also considering the number of properties connected to it I couldn't understand how they could otherwise pass it up.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@andrew @wwwombat

Yes Having checked back I was looking up Hamlets and isolated dwellings without the "sparse" qualification.

The ONS map however is strangely skewed to coastal areas as if they taken the absence of any dwellings on the seaward side into their calculations.

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
And how many comments later do I get to say I had in the original article indicated how sparse 'sparsely populated areas that comprise 0.7% of UK premises'.

The 18% is precisely why I've said 20% rural for some years now when discussing UK broadband.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The recent "emerging findings" document on the BDUK market trials does some analysis on sparsity vs premises density.

The distinction appears to be primarily that "premises density" affects the viability of the basic proposal (eg wireless masts), while the "sparsity" affects the cost of backhaul.

Figure 1:
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago

I noticed that coastal effect too. Except the region in East Lincolnshire has almost the opposite effect. I guess Skegness gets in the way there.
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