Broadband News

UK enters FTTH Council EU global ranking at last

After many years of embarrassment the policy makers can breathe a small sigh as we are now on the FTTH Council EU charts for global ranking of FTTH, though only a small sigh as we are still at the bottom.

iDate chart for FTTH Council Europe
Household Penetration for Full Fibre measured by iDate for FTTH Council Europe, March 2019

The latest infographic figures produced by iDate for the council suggest 1.5% penetration but we believe this is a typo since the bar is not as wide as Austria who also score 1.5%, so the figure in the release of 1.3% appears to be the correct figure.

The 1.3% penetration rate is based on iDate counting 369,250 subscribers from a total of 2,817,000 premises, or in other words a take-up rate of 13.1%.

UK regulator, Ofcom has played a major role in promoting investments in FTTH/B across the country. After reducing the prices of wholesale services from Openreach to encourage investments and competition in the market, Ofcom set out a plan to support full-fibre investment in July 2018. The plan follows the direction set in Ofcom’s 2016 Strategic Review of Digital Communications which is aimed at supporting the Government’s ambition of 15 million homes to have access to full-fibre broadband by 2025.

FTTH Council EU on changes to UK full fibre picture

While Ofcom has had a role, we believe the wholesale services reductions is referring to the duct and pole access (PIA) changes which while being used is not the driver behind the jump in the last year or so. As we have found with our tracking of new build there is a generally a couple of years lag between decisions from bodies like Ofcom, Openreach and Westminster and significant changes on the ground. The biggest driver for the changing picture is that CityFibre has moved from just announcements to actually having services people can buy, Virgin Media Project Lightning continuing to deliver, KCOM pushing towards the 100% mark in Hull and Openreach with new build and the BDUK projects and since January 2019 the Fibre First project is delivering in larger volumes.

The figure of 2,817,000 premises passed looks a little high as this suggests 9 to 10% availability and Ofcom stated 6% in its last Connected Nation report and with the same rounding to an integer value we agreed with Ofcom.

The current state of play in the UK we are tracking has the UK at 6.37% premises passed with FTTP from one or more operator i.e. 1,906,096 premises and this is a significant jump from the 1,188,453 premises of six months ago. Spotting the full fibre roll-outs means we are usually around six weeks behind the operators throwing a final switch to light some fibre, so we are likely to be 100,000 to 200,000 premises behind and other variations can arise e.g. is a shared office building one premises for counting or is it 200 premises due to the large number of firms operating from it or if talking residential then a large care home complex with 150 residents and Wi-Fi fed by FTTP does that count as 1 or 150?

The penetration figures may not be something that investors are worried about today but in a couple of years when the decisions need to be made on whether to commit to expansion plans that will realise the Governments ambition for 15 million premises of full fibre it will be very important, so it is going to be interesting to track the trends for where people are buying full fibre and almost more importantly where they are not.


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