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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Speiser

INCA and Point Topic's Annual Metrics for the UK Independent Network Sector Report 2023

Annual Altnet industry report shows independent operators continue to be a vital force in the expansion of the UK’s fibre infrastructure whilst bolstering competition within the sector.


Altnets full fibre networks covered 25% of the UK, as well as 25% of the UK’s harder-to-reach rural areas at the end of 2022, connections increased by 48% year-on-year to reach over 1.5m, and investment and expenditure within the sector are expected to reach £24bn by 2030.


Summary

The benefits of competition in the UK’s broadband sector have been starkly illustrated by the latest annual review from Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) in a report compiled by Point Topic.


Using data provided by independent network operators, this year’s Metrics for the UK independent network sector report reveals that approximately 25% of the UK is now able to receive full fibre broadband from an independent supplier, with over 2m properties in harder to reach rural areas now also being passed by Altnet fibre networks (Figure 1).


Figure 1.  Altnets UK fixed network nationwide coverage areas and  Altnet coverage in Ofcom’s Area 3 (harder to reach rural) areas, February 2023.
Figure 1. Altnets UK fixed network nationwide coverage areas and Altnet coverage in Ofcom’s Area 3 (harder to reach rural) areas, February 2023.

Private investment continued to flow into the independent network sector over the past year despite the challenging economic conditions and increasing interest rates. Planned investment to 2030 has increased to £24bn. This is more investment than BT Group and Virgin Media/O2 combined, whose own investments and deployments have been spurred on by competition from the Altnets. Taken altogether, planned full fibre investment until 2030 is only beaten by HS2 as the UK’s biggest infrastructure investment programme (Figure 2).


Figure 2.  UK infrastructure programmes ranked by investment
Figure 2. UK infrastructure programmes ranked by investment

“We are very pleased to contribute to this important work. The independent network sector is moving quickly and deploying across the UK including some of the most challenging areas”, said Point Topic’s CEO Oliver Johnson. “They are supplying people, businesses and a spectrum of clients and delivering the bandwidth and important ancillary services that we all want and increasingly need. The sector has performed well in the face of significant headwinds in the UK. Take-up in particular looks strong across the rapidly expanding networks and with a healthy tier mix they have a solid base to support the development and expansion of the sector.”


Key Points

  • Altnet operators had passed 8.2 million premises with fibre by the end of 2022. This is approximately 25% of UK premises

  • 2.3 million of these premises were in Area 3, meaning that Altnets have delivered full fibre connectivity to a quarter of UK premises in hard-to-reach areas

  • There are 1.5 million live connections (48% growth year-on-year) to independent fixed networks provided by full fibre gigabit-capable connections

  • Combined Altnet full fibre network footprints covering cities, towns, and villages across the UK now rival that of Openreach’s 10 million premises (Figure 3)

  • Investment and expenditure in the independent network sector continued throughout 2022 with an estimated additional £6 billion having been committed to network expansions and operations during the year

  • Estimated planned CAPEX spend by Altnets until the end of 2030 at over £24.2 billion is higher than that of BT Group’s (Openreach) £15 billion and Nexfibre’s (a joint venture between Liberty Global, Telefónica and InfraVia Capital Partners) £4.5 billion combined.

Figure 3. Comparison of independent network providers’ and Openreach’s gigabit capable full fibre evolution, 2020–2022
Figure 3. Comparison of independent network providers’ and Openreach’s gigabit-capable full fibre evolution, 2020–2022

The 2023 ‘Metrics for the UK independent network sector’ report has been produced in partnership between INCA and broadband market intelligence specialists Point Topic, drawing on input from both INCA members and non-members. It provides an overview of the UK’s independent network operator sector as of end-2022 and early 2023 in terms of scale, coverage, ambitions, and concerns. As in the previous three years, it includes both fixed and fixed wireless network operators.


INCA PT 2023 Report

See previous reports for 2022 and 2021


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