UK fibre coverage expands to 4.2m premises

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More than four million homes and businesses now have access to full fibre connectivity, according to new data released by Ofcom.

The regulator says 4.2 million properties are now connected to a full fibre network, a figure which represents 14 per cent of all UK premises. This is up from 12 per cent the last time the regulator released an update in the spring.

The vast majority of the UK’s broadband infrastructure is delivered by fibre the cabinet (FTTC) technology that uses copper for the final few metres of a connection.

UK fibre coverage

However Openreach, Virgin Media and ‘altnets’ like Cityfibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear are all now investing in ‘full fibre’ networks. Meanwhile, the government itself has adopted a ‘fibre-by-default’ approach.

In terms of ultrafast broadband – a figure which Ofcom defines as in excess of 300Mbps and can include cable and fibre technologies – coverage is now up to 55 per cent thanks to the addition of 500,000 new properties.

Meanwhile, superfast broadband (at least 30Mbps) coverage remains at 95 per cent, while 98 per cent of all properties can get a ‘decent’ standard of connectivity. Ofcom defines ‘decent’ broadband as having transmission rates of 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. Recent regulation changes allow anyone in the UK to demand this minimum standard as part of the Universal Service Obligation.

Openreach currently plans to cover up to 20 million homes and businesses with fibre by the end of the decade, but says it could go further with a favourable investment climate. The government believes four fifths of the country will be covered by commercial deployments and has indicated it is willing to support measures that extend this coverage.

In terms of mobile coverage, Ofcom says the proportion remains static but it expects that the Shared Rural Network (SRN) framework will have a positive impact in the near future by allowing operators to share infrastructure in poorly-served areas.

The next update will be in December when Ofcom publishes its annual Connected Nations report. It is expected that publication will offer some insight into how the Coronavirus pandemic affected the UK’s network infrastructure.

At the height of lockdown, Openreach only carried out ‘essential’ repairs and maintenance in order to minimise social contact and protect the public and its engineers.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.