6 out of 10 UK premises now have an over 100 Mbps broadband option
The path to 100% Gigabit coverage is a long one but in the meantime some other small milestones are being passed. With 60.04% of UK premises now able to buy a 100 Mbps or faster service and with the combined might the G.fast, FTTP and Virgin Media RFOG roll-outs this figure is growing.
Superfast broadband (30 Mbps and faster) broke the 60% barrier eight years ago in March 2012.
The 100 Mbps definition includes G.fast services but the Gigabit target of full coverage by the end of 2025 obviously excludes this and if Virgin Media was to magically upgrade all its existing cable network to its 1.1 Gbps Gig1 service today then Gigabit coverage would be 57.8%. The roll-out of DOCSIS 3.1 across the whole Virgin Media network is expected to take a year or two and with the FTTP roll-outs once the roll-out is complete we should be in the 60% to 70% region in a couple of years.
Predicting the Gigabit coverage figures is difficult as you need to take into account the overlaps e.g. 4 out of 10 CityFibre FTTH premises (selling via Vodafone Gigafast) already have Virgin Media cable. The overlap between Virgin Media and Openreach FTTP is running at the same ratio but is a lot higher in the Fibre First areas.
The reason the DOCSIS 3.1 roll-out is so important is highlighted if we look at what date we estimate the UK would reach 50% actual full fibre coverage and based on the rate of increase in the last 12 months the date for 50% FTTP coverage is 21st February 2031 and 100% full fibre coverage in 2043. Of course if roll-outs accelerate as the fibre builders keep saying they are these dates will improve.
The big question is will the combined commercial roll-outs push Gigabit into the 80% and higher region by end of 2025, meaning that the £5 billion the current Government has promised for to deliver a Gigabit option to those missing out commercially. Allowing for the overlaps and we suspect the figure for Gigabit is going to be around 75% if we assume that nothing has been delivered using the Governments £5 billion fund. There are a number of factors that mean the figure might be higher or lower, higher if take-up of the faster service options increases sharply, lower if something like coronavirus was to reach pandemic levels and towns in the UK were to enter lock quarantine periods.
The worst thing that could happen in 2020 though is if a high profile full fibre broadband provider was to get its backhaul provisioning wrong and people upgrading from a partial fibre 30 Mbps service were to find that even though they have full fibre the peak time performance is not unlike their old service and if the network is congesting badly video buffering was actually worse. Mistakes like this when on a large scale will be remembered and will make the process of getting people to upgrade slower as millions will carry on with the broadband they have today.