Gigabit access available to 77% of UK in Q3 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 September 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 operatorstell 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.
At the end of Q3 2023, the overall FTTP coverage was just over 17.4m premises (54.5%), up from 16.3m in Q2 2023.
The FTTP coverage was 50% or higher in 54% of local authorities (LAs), up from 46% of LAs three months earlier.
In Q3 2023, the largest number of FTTP premises added was in Manchester (+27K), Glasgow (+24K) and Shropshire (+23K).
This quarter, 24 local authorities saw 10%+ growth in the percentage of their premises passed with FTTP networks, up from 15 in Q2 2023.
Almost 1.9m premises could choose between three independent ﬁbre ISPs (including resellers). This ﬁgure went up by +180K premises in Q3 2023.
Across the UK, 23% of premises still lacked gigabit access, down from 25% three months earlier.
Openreach and FTTP in general
In three months to the end of Q3 2023, there was a slight slowdown in the Openreach full ﬁbre rollout, compared to the previous quarter. We found 724K additional FTTP premises (down from 850K added in June 2023), which resulted in our total recorded Openreach FTTP footprint of 11 million premises. This is 34.5% of all UK premises, up from 32.2% three months earlier. The decline in the number of Openreach ADSL, FTTC and Gfast only premises has continued – their number went down by 721K compared to 706K in Q2 2023. As before, the largest decline (-616K premises) was in FTTC only coverage, as this technology is being replaced by FTTP. Nevertheless, non-fibre platforms still covered 20.5 million premises in the UK.
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 94.8% of its premises passed, an increase from 94.6% in Q2 2023. Among the top ten LAs by this measure, nine are in Northern Ireland. Once again this quarter Openreach added most FTTP premises in Scotland, with more than 18K additional premises passed in Glasgow. The city still has headroom for FTTP deployment, as only 36% of its premises were passed by Openreach FTTP and 64% by any FTTP network as of Q3 2023. Medway in South East and Wakefield in Yorkshire and Humber also gained 18K+ new Openreach FTTP premises. Overall in Q3 2023, Openreach appear to have been focusing their FTTP build in the northern areas of the UK (Table 2).
At the end of Q3 2023, the overall FTTP coverage, including Openreach FTTP network, altnets, Virgin Media O2’s RFOG network and KCOM was 17.4m premises, (54.5% of the UK total).This metric was up from 16.3m (50.8%) in Q2 2023.
Table 3 lists top and bottom ten UK local authorities (LAs) by FTTP coverage in Q3 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 99.4% and 91.6% respectively.
As before, small islands and rural or remote areas dominate the bottom ten list. It is encouraging to see that the bottom ten list this quarter cuts off at 12%, as opposed to 8% in the previous quarters, as FTTP is coming to more premises in more local authorities.
Compared to Q2 2023,Allerdale, Melton, Oadby and Wigston, and Redcar and Cleveland moved out of the bottom ten rankings, aftergrowing their FTTP premises by 8%, 10%, 5% and 4% respectively. It should be noted that these ﬁgures do not include Virgin Media O2’s Docsis 3.1 network coverage, which is widely available in some of the LAs. For the combined coverage data see our granular dataset.
Among all the LAs, in Q3 2023 the largestnumber of FTTP premises added was in Manchester (+27K),Glasgow (+24K) and Shropshire (+23K).
At the end of Q3 2023, FTTP coverage was lower than 20%of premises in 8% of UK local authorities (30), down from 10.4% three months earlier. The FTTP coverage was 50% or higher in 54% oflocal authorities (202), up from 45.5%of LAs three months earlier. During Q3 2023, FTTP rollout gathered pace despite high inflation, labour shortages and supply issues. This quarter, 24 local authorities saw 10%+ growth in the percentage of their premises passed with FTTP networks,up from 15 in Q2 2023. High growth areas are spread out across the UK.
Wychavon in West Midlands, High Peak in East Midlands and Scarborough in Yorkshire and the Humber topped the charts with +25.2%, +22.6%and +18.2% respective increases in premises covered by FTTP.
Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) is accelerating full fibre network rollout mainly via their nexﬁbre venture using XGS-PON technology. According to the new CEO, nexfibre passed 500,000 premises by the end of September 2023, with all of them being ready for service. This figure does not include 175,000 premises passed to be acquired by nexfibre from Virgin Media O2 as part of the Upp transaction.
nexfibre aims to roll out full fibre to 5 million homes not currently served by VMO2’s network by 2026, with the opportunity to expand to an additional 2 million homes. Meanwhile VMO2 plans to upgrade its entire network (16m premises) to full ﬁbre by the end of 2028. If this goes to plan, jointly with nexfibre, VMO2 total fibre footprint could reach 21-23 million premises by that time. As the two companies intend to make their networks available to other providers, they could become a first country-wide alternative to Openreach.
Altnets and other independent ﬁbre providers
The 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 Q3 2023, our ﬁgures showed CityFibre at the top of the league with 2.6m FTTP premises covered by their network. Vodafone, Zen and TalkTalk remained the largest retail providers using CityFibre network.
According to our records, Community Fibre passed just over 1.1m premises, followed by Hyperoptic with 0.9m, Netomnia with 0.65m, and Gigaclear with 0.4m (Figure 3). During Q3 2023, among the altnets with at least 100Kpremises, we recorded the highest growth for Full Fibre (+220%) and FW Networks (+79%). Once again, brsk showed strong growth as well (+49%).
Overlap by independent fibre broadband providers has increased further, as multiple network operators and ISPs are increasingly competing for the same customers. (We are 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 over CityFibre’s network.)
In Q3 2023, 103 local authorities had three overlapping independent ﬁbre providers, compared to 96 in Q2 2023 (Table 5). Coventry and Peterborough have maintained their lead by the percentage of premises served by three providers, with 78.6% and 76.3% respectively. Aberdeen City has overtaken Milton Keynes in the third position with 74.1%. Among the LAs served by three fibre providers, Glasgow, Leeds and Leicester saw the largest number of additional premises served in Q3 2023, at +26K, +18K and +15K respectively.
As many as 178 local authorities (48%) had two independent ﬁbre providers overlapping, up from 153 in Q2 2023 (Table 6). Rotherham saw the largest gains of additional FTTP premises served by two providers, at +8K. 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 broadband providers, while inevitable market consolidation will push others down the ranks.
In Q3 2023, growth in fibre provider overlap continued. Almost 1.9m premises could choose between three independent ﬁbre ISPs. This ﬁgure went up by 180K premises, compared to 48K in Q2 2023. The number of premises passed by two independent ﬁbre providers also grew to 705K, up by 107K (+86K in the previous quarter).
The trend of the growing overlap will continue but the industry is beginning to see increasing consolidation. In recent news, Broadway Partners, an altnet who was in administration, got acquired by Voneus. SWS Broadband and Cadence Networks were also merged into Voneus, with the combined group targeting 350,000 rural properties across the UK.
At the end of Q3 2023, 23% of UK premises still did not have access to gigabit capable broadband (either the Virgin Media O2 gigabit network or an FTTP network). This metric was 39% in Wales and 31% in Scotland. In England it was 22%, while Northern Ireland was best connected with only 6% of premises not passed by a gigabit network. Compared to Q2 2023, Wales and the UK saw the largest improvement (-2%).
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 (98.5% and 96.3% respectively) and Cornwall by the number of premises not covered (150K). Given the size of the county, this translates to 48% of all premises, which is not the worst indicator. In terms of the number of premises, we recorded the largest improvement in ‘gigabit deficiency’ in Shropshire, where 23K additional premises gained gigabit access in Q3 2023.
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.