Full Fibre Broadband Reaches 17 Million UK Homes, Says Ofcom

British communications regulator Ofcom has published the current state of connectivity in the UK, in its latest Connected Nations report.

The regulator announced that for the first time, over half of households in each of the four nations that compromise the United Kingdom, have access to full fibre broadband, otherwise known as fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP).

Ofcom’s research found that 57 percent of UK homes now have access to full-fibre, up from 42 percent last year. It also found that 5G coverage continues to expand.

Fixed-line

The United Kingdom has approximately 28.4 million households, and Ofcom said that a record 17 million UK homes have access to full-fibre broadband.

That said, only 4.6 million (i.e. 28 percent) that have access to gigabit capable networks have signed on the dotted line to obtain ultrafast speeds. Take-up in rural areas is nearly double that of urban homes (49 percent vs. 25 percent).

In September Openreach updated its full fibre build plans, adding another 19 locations that would cover 200,000 new premises to the FTTP deployment.

Ofcom said that its analysis shows that some providers experience fewer faults on their fibre network compared with a copper-based network.

And it noted that for the first time, full-fibre broadband is available to over half of homes in all four of the UK nations. Northern Ireland is the leader here, with over nine in 10 homes (91 percent) able to get full-fibre.

“The rapid rise in availability of full-fibre broadband is good news for people and businesses across the UK, with millions more able to benefit from fast, reliable and future-proof internet,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director.

“When the time comes to take out a new broadband contract, we encourage people to shop around and find out what options are available to make sure they are on the best package for their needs,” said Fussell.

There has been a further reduction in the number of homes and businesses unable to access ‘decent’ broadband in the last year, decreasing by over a quarter (27 percent) to 61,000 premises.

Ofcom and the government define decent broadband as being at least 10 Mbit/s download and 1 Mbit/s upload speeds.

Ofcom said it estimates that around 11,000 of these will be connected via publicly funded schemes by next year.

Additionally, more homes are taking up satellite broadband, with around 42,000 UK customers connected to Starlink’s satellite service (up from 13,000 last year) – the majority in rural areas.

Mobile connectivity

Meanwhile Ofcom said the availability of 5G “continues to grow rapidly”, with estimated coverage provided outside of UK premises by at least one operator of over 85 percent – a rise on last year’s 67 percent.

Ofcom said that 5G traffic has shown around 140 percent growth, representing around 17 percent of total mobile traffic.

However it is clear that 4G mobile networks continue to carry the lion’s share of UK mobile traffic, thanks to 4G coverage from all operators being available in more than 98 percent of UK premises.

Indeed, over four fifths (81 percent) of total mobile traffic is carried by 4G networks.

It comes as UK operators switch off their 3G networks, with EE, Vodafone and Three planning on doing so next year followed by Virgin Media O2 in 2025.

Ofcom data shows that there are around 2.4 million devices still reliant on 2G or 3G networks, which has more than halved from last year’s estimated 5.5 million. Of all network data traffic, just 3 percent is used by 3G, which has decreased by over two fifths (44 percent) year on year.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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