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  • Writer's pictureJolanta Stanke

Q2 2023: 25% of UK Premises Still Lack Gigabit Broadband

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

This is our regular update on fixed broadband availability in the UK, tracking the progress between the end of March 2023 and the end of June 2023. The analysis is based on the ThinkPoint broadband availability dataset which includes 1.7m postcodes. More granular, postcode level broadband availability updates by ISP and technology, are available to our ThinkPoint customers.

Note: There will generally be a lag to the operator announcements for premises passed at the time since it takes us time to properly track and audit any new deployments, unless the operators tell us about them. Also, we report RFS (ready for service) premises, while some operators and ISPs include premises where customers can pre-order a broadband service.

Key headlines:

  • At the end of Q2 2023, the overall FTTP coverage was just over 16.3m premises, up from 15m in Q1 2023.

  • The FTTP coverage was 50% or higher in 45.5% of local authorities, up from 38.9% of LAs three months earlier.

  • Across the UK, more than 1.7m premises could choose between three independent fibre ISPs, compared to 1.6m we recorded in Q1 2023.

  • Among the LAs with 30K+ premises passed by three providers, Bolton saw the largest number of new premises added in Q2 2023,at +22,435.

  • As of the end of June 2023, 25% of UK premises still did not have access to gigabit capable broadband. This metric was 23% in England, 41% in Wales, 32% in Scotland and 7% in Northern Ireland. However, all countries of the UK saw improvement in this area.

Openreach and FTTP in general

In three months to the end of June 2023, there was a slight acceleration in the Openreach full fibre rollout, compared to the previous quarter. We found 850K additional FTTP premises (up from 814K in March 2023), which resulted in our total recorded Openreach FTTP footprint of 10.3 million premises. This is 32.2% of all UK premises, up from 29.7% three months earlier. At the same time, the decline in the number of Openreach ADSL, FTTC only and Gfast only premises has slowed down – their number went down by 706K compared to 810K at the end of March 2023. As before, the largest decline (-611K premises) was in FTTC only coverage, as this technology is being replaced by FTTP.

Table 1. Openreach footprint by technology. Source: Point-Topic.
Table 1. Openreach footprint by technology. Source: Point-Topic.

Looking at the proportion of total premises passed by Openreach FTTP, urban centres, towns, and regions outside London and the South East dominate, with Northern Ireland enjoying particularly extensive FTTP coverage. Belfast remains the leading local authority in terms of the availability of Openreach fibre, with 94.6% of its premises passed, an increase from 94% in March 2023. Among the top ten LAs by this measure, seven are in Northern Ireland.


During Q2 2023, Openreach added most FTTP premises in Scotland, with almost 20K additional premises passed in Glasgow. The city still has a significant scope for FTTP deployment, as only 30.5% of its premises were passed by Openreach FTTP and 57% by any FTTP network as of June 2023. Four LAs from Yorkshire and The Humber, two from West Midlands, one from North West, one from Wales and one from London also joined the top ten ranking (Table 2). Openreach are still adding more than 1,000 premises a week in another large urban centre of Birmingham, where their FTTP penetration is 47% (52% when taking into account other networks).

Table 2. Top ten LAs by Openreach FTTP premises added in Q2 2023. Source: Point-Topic.
Table 2. Top ten LAs by Openreach FTTP premises added in Q2 2023. Source: Point-Topic.

At the end of Q2 2023, the overall FTTP coverage, including Openreach FTTP network, independent fibre networks (altnets), Virgin Media O2’s RFOG network and KCOM was 16.3m premises, (50.8%of the UK total).This metric was up from 15m (47.3%)in Q1 2023.


Table 3 lists top and bottom ten UK local authorities (LAs) by FTTP coverage in Q2 2023. The Northern Ireland LAs dominate the top ten, largely as a result of Openreach’s prominent FTTP presence. The only LAs that made the list from outside Northern Ireland are Kingston upon Hull and Coventry, with Milton Keynes pushed out of the top ten league by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon. Among all the LAs, in Q2 2023 the largest number of FTTP premises added was in Trafford (+21,617), and the largest percentage growth was in Burnley(+29.2%).


As before, small islands and rural or remote areas dominate the bottom ten list. Compared to Q1 2023, Gosport and Rossendale moved out of the bottom ten rankings, after growing their FTTP premises by 8% and 3% respectively. Of course, these figures do not include Virgin Media O2’s Docsis 3.1 network coverage, which is widely available in some of the LAs. The combined coverage is reflected in our granular dataset.

 Table 3. Top and bottom ten local authorities by % of premises covered with FTTP (any network). Source: PointTopic. * Including Openreach, KCOM, independent networks and Virgin Media O2’s RFOG.
Table 3. Top and bottom ten local authorities by % of premises covered with FTTP (any network). Source: PointTopic. * Including Openreach, KCOM, independent networks and Virgin Media O2’s RFOG.

As of the end of June 2023, the FTTP coverage was lower than 20% of premises in 10.4% of UK local authorities, down from 14.1% three months earlier. The FTTP coverage was 50% or higher in 45.5% of local authorities, up from 38.9% of LAs three months earlier.


During Q2 2023, 15 local authorities saw 10%+ growth in the percentage of their premises passed with FTTP networks, down from 29 LAs in Q1 2023. High growth areas are well spread out across the UK.

Figure 1. Growth in FTTP premisespassed during Q2 2023, local authority level.Source: Point Topic.
Figure 1. Growth in FTTP premisespassed during Q2 2023, local authority level.Source: Point Topic.

Burnley, Hyndburn and North Lincolnshire, topped the charts with +29.2%,+27% and +20.1% respective increase in premises covered by FTTP.

Figure 2. Top ten local authorities by growth in percentage of premises passed by FTTP. Source: Point Topic.
Figure 2. Top ten local authorities by growth in percentage of premises passed by FTTP. Source: Point Topic.

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) accelerated their network rollout, mainly via their nexfibre project using XGS-PON technology. According to the operator, they added 175,500 premises in Q2 2023, up from 107,800 in Q1 2023.With 1.4m RFOG premises in our database (43K up since March 2023), and VMO2 claiming a total FTTP footprint of 3 million homes at the end of June 2023, we estimate that their nexfibre network passes around 1.5m homes. Having said that, we are still identifying the postcodes where this network is present (we found only 300 so far).

Table 4. Virgin Media premises passed by RFOG technology
Table 4. Virgin Media premises passed by RFOG technology

VMO2 are now the second largest FTTP network operator in the UK after Openreach, having overtaken CityFibre. The company aims to have 4 million FTTP premises by the end of 2023 and to upgrade its entire network to full fibre by the end of 2028.


Independent fibre providers

The independent fibre network operators (altnets) are pushing ahead with their fibre rollouts. As an increasing number of altnets are exceeding 100K fibre premises passed, we are now focusing on this cohort. At the end of Q2 2023, our figures showed CityFibre at the top of their league with 2.35m FTTP premises covered by their network [1]. Vodafone, Zen and TalkTalk remained the largest retail providers using CityFibre network.


According to our records, Community Fibre passed just over 1m premises, followed by Hyperoptic with 0.9m, Netomnia with 0.5m, and Gigaclear with 0.3m (Figure3).

During Q2 2023, among the providers with at least 100K premises, we recorded the highest growth for SwishFibre (+121%) once again. Likewise, brsk and Zoomm continued to show strong growth (+65%and +39% respectively).

Figure3. Premises passed by independent fibre network operators, June 2023 (more than 100K premises). Source: Point Topic.
Figure3. Premises passed by independent fibre network operators, June 2023 (more than 100K premises). Source: Point Topic.

Network overlap by independent fibre providers has increased further[2], as multiple network operators and ISPs are increasingly competing for the same customers.

[2] We are now including in this category independent network operators(altnets) as well as retail ISPs using their networks. For example, multiple ISPs are selling fibre broadband supplied by over CityFibre network.


In Q2 2023, 96 local authorities had overlapping networks from three independent fibre providers, compared to 98 in Q1 2023.This figure has gone down slightly because there was an increase in areas covered by 4 and 5 networks. Coventry, Peterborough and Milton Keynes have maintained their lead by the percentage of premises covered by three providers, with 78%, 76% and 73% respectively. Among the LAs with 30K+ premises passed by three providers, Bolton saw the largest number of new premises added in Q2 2023, at +22,435.


Table 5. Top local authorities with three independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 50,000 premises passed). Source: Point Topic.
Table 5. Top local authorities with three independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 50,000 premises passed). Source: Point Topic.

Across the UK, more than 1.7m premises in 76K postcodes could choose between three independent fibre ISPs. These figures were up from 1.6m premises and 73K postcodes we recorded in March 2023.


The number of premises passed by two independent fibre providers at the end of Q2 2023 grew to 597K,compared to 511K three months earlier.


Some 153 local authorities had two independent fibre providers overlapping, up from 134 in Q1 2023. Kingston upon Hull saw the largest gains of new FTTP premises passed by two providers, at +20K (among LAs with at least 10K premises in this category). We expect this list of LAs to growth further as more networks and ISPs start competing for the same customers. At the same time, some LAs will move up to the category of 3+ fibre providers, while inevitable market consolidation will push others down the ranks.

Table 6. Top local authorities with two independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 10,000 premises covered). Source: Point Topic.
Table 6. Top local authorities with two independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 10,000 premises covered). Source: Point Topic.

At the national level, 2.65m UK premises had access to two or more independent fibre providers at the end of June 2023, compared to 2.46m in March 2023. In total, independent fibre providers passed 7.5 million premises, having added 843m in Q2 2023.


Table 7. Premises covered by independent fibre providers. Source: Point Topic.
Table 7. Premises covered by independent fibre providers. Source: Point Topic.

The trend of the growing overbuild will continue but in the next few years the industry will see consolidation. Most recent news concern Broadway Partners, an altnet who rolled out full fibre networks on the Isle of Arran and South Wales but saw administrators appointed in May 2023 and is likely to be acquired by another entity. GNetwork are another altnet where there is uncertainty. Changes at the board level and a lower than projected count of premises passed, in our data at least, are challenging for the company.


Despite network build by the incumbent and altnets, 25% of UK premises still did not have access to gigabit capable broadband (either the Virgin Media O2 gigabit network or an FTTP network) at the end of June 2023.


This metric was 41% in Wales and 32% in Scotland. In England it was 23%, while Northern Ireland was the least ‘gigabit deficient’ with 7% of premises not passed by a gigabit network. Compared to March 2023, Northern Ireland and Wales saw the largest improvement (-3%).

Figure 4. Premises not covered by gigabit networks.Source: Point Topic.
Figure 4. Premises not covered by gigabit networks.Source: Point Topic.

Local authorities in remote and rural areas still lack access to gigabit broadband, with Isles of Scilly and Copeland remaining at the top of the list in terms of percentage of premises not passed by gigabit capable networks (98% and 97% respectively) and Cornwall by the number of premises not covered (153K). Compared to Q1 2023,we recorded the largest improvement in Shropshire (7%) and Buckinghamshire (5%) among the top ten LAs with the largest number of premises lacking gigabit access.

Table 8. Top ten local authorities by premises not passed with gigabit capable networks, June 2023. Source: PointTopic.
Table 8. Top ten local authorities by premises not passed with gigabit capable networks, June 2023. Source: PointTopic.
 

The complete dataset used to produce this analysis is part of our ThinkPoint service which involves UK Broadband Mapping at postcode level. For more information check our UK Mapping page. To find out more you can contact us on 020 3301 3303 or e-mail oliver.johnson@pointtopic.com.


[1] The footprint reported by CityFibre is 2.5 million premises passed, including 2.25m that are ready for service. See the earlier note about our lag behind operator announcements.

[2] We are now including in this category independent network operators(altnets) as well as retail ISPs using their networks. For example, multiple ISPs are selling fibre broadband supplied by over CityFibre network.

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