146,552 premises passed by Openreach full fibre in the last month - UPDATED
The month preceding 12th July was once more a busy month for Openreach and its roll-out of FTTP, we found an additional 146,552 premises that can order FTTP from any one of the companies that use the Openreach GEA-FTTP network.
The numbers when we split them out into the five categories we track for Openreach FTTP are:
- 545,485 premises via BDUK/gap funded or other rural intervention an increase of 8,696 premises
- 1,314,235 premises in Fibre First areas an increase of 69,711 premises
- 90,526 premises in Fibre Village/Market Town areas an increase of 24,263 premises
- 399,180 premises via New Build since January 2016 an increase of 18,713 premises
- 198,427 premises via commercial/old roll-out an increase of 25,189 premises
The two Fibre First and Market town/village lists make up the bulk of the increase, but rural areas continue to the assortment of projects delivering, and this includes Wales and Scotland. The commercial category is predominantly new build estates from the last two decades, i.e. prior to 2016 but generally later than 1995, the most likely reason for this is that they are easier to upgrade since ducting is mapped better and in good condition.
The Openreach FTTP footprint we know about totals some 2,547,833 premises versus a figure of 2,750,000 that is what Openreach appear to be talking about as built currently. So we continue to be our usual 8 to 10 weeks behind their figures. The pace at which we found the FTTP works out at 4,885 a day or 34,195 every week.
Openreach is building towards a goal of 4.5 million premises passed by the end of March 2021 and based on what we have seen in the last three months our figures suggest this will be reached in January 2022. If we take into account our usual lag in finding the properties passed this suggests an October date. While it is possible to take this as proof Openreach is set to miss its target by six months, it needs pointing out that their roll-out pace is increasing, and if their 2.75 million figure is correct the pace needs to increase to 194,000 premises passed every month. To put that into context this is the equal to rolling out to the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole local authority every month for the next 9 months.
In terms of what people are buying the lockdown during Q2 will have reduced the number of FTTP installs that went ahead, but there are still some observations to make for speeds seen over the Openreach network.
- 3 out 10 tests (30%) in the new build category were on a 100 Mbps or faster based connection
- Just 6% of tests in Fibre First areas were on a 100 Mbps or faster connection
- 17% of tests in the BDUK/gap funded category were on a 100 Mbps or faster connection
- 18% of tests in the commercial category were on a 100 Mbps or faster connection
- No fibre for the Fibre Village category, the roll-out there is not tracked specifically for speed tests yet, but will be for Q3 as volume of tests increases.
The low 6% in Fibre First areas is not a blip, we have seen this difference before and the reality seems to be it is simply a factor of the existing speeds available to people, i.e. 83.5% of the Fibre First footprint has a Virgin Media cable option, in the new build category cable coverage is down at 8.3%. Another factor is that the vast majority of the Fibre First premises will have VDSL2 options in the 40 to 76 Mbps region. The Commercial category which sits between the two for takeup of the 100 Mbps and faster services has a cable footprint of 40.9%.
The pandemic and the enforced working from home had been expected to drive a commuting revolution with benefits to the environment of reduced car mileage but there are growing calls within political circles for the work from home culture to end and return everyone to the dull offices. This is not because of any productivity problems, or staff not being able to work from home but rather the side effect to many sandwich shops and other ancillary benefits of people heading out for lunch or a drink after work. We hope that companies will review what has worked well and what has not in the last few months and where things have been working well give employees flexibility to work from home a lot more going forward compared to 2019 and before.
What has all this to do with FTTP? Well we suspect that the combination of home working and desire for households to have enough bandwidth for everyone to do what they want might lead to a better take-up of the ultrafast FTTP options. This had partly started ahead of the pandemic when the BT Consumer FTTP pricing dropped as the 500 Mbps (strangely not visible now) and the 900 Mbps option rolled out and we did see something of a lull in new BT500 and BT900 services for two months, but from mid June new connections started popping up again when doing our daily sweep of the new and unusual in our speed test database. The question is whether the economic uncertaintities will balance out this desire for better broadband and that is why the UK needs TalkTalk and Sky to stop just talking about supporting the Openreach GEA-FTTP products but properly launch, to give people a wider choice of well known brand names and introduce switching competition.
Update Monday 13th July 2020: We don't usually update on the UK wide total for Openreach FTTP in between the monthly update, but a good illustration of the pace of the roll-out is that in the last day we have found an additional 6,800 premises. These went into the checker on Sunday evening and the map is updating throughout Monday. This is not the highest daily total we have found, that was somewhere around 12,000 premises in a single day earlier in 2020. Obviously it would be great to be finding 7,000 premises every day, but with the roll-out spread across the whole UK there are often days when we find a lot less.