• Veronica Speiser

Research Round-up August 2022

Analysis of Q2 2022 UK ISP subscribers and network operators connections by technology, Project Gigabit Delivery Plan – summer update 2022, plus ISP news and government updates

 

Point Topic’s key publication of the month: UK Q2 2022 Retail ISP and Network Operators Market Analysis


Fixed line broadband market shows sharp signs of slowdown but broadband connections break the 29 million milestone


By the end of Q2 2022, the UK fixed line broadband market showed signs of a continued slowdown as the level of net adds for both the retail and wholesale sector returned back to pre-Covid pandemic levels. BT and Virgin Media O2’s (VMO2) subscriber numbers continued to wane during the quarter with BT’s Consume segment reporting a loss of 11k subscribers, whilst VMO2 reversed its poor performance in the previous quarter with net gains of 16k up from the net loss of 8k fixed line subscribers in Q1.


Figure 1: Total UK Retail Broadband Subscribers and Net Additions, Source:  Point Topic
Figure 1: Total UK Retail Broadband Subscribers and Net Additions, Source: Point Topic

BT’s Consumer segment did ride out the turbulent quarter with an impressive revenue boost of revenue by nearly 7% due to its annual tariffs price increase of 9.3% and the deft management of its existing subscriber base. However, BT will struggle for the remainder of the year to carry on this strong financial performance given the general slowdown in broadband uptake and challenging market conditions impacting its business division.

Openreach also had a sluggish quarter but revenue growth remained positive with a 5.2% increase in the quarter up from 2% in the previous, due to inflation and the rise in cost of fibre-enabled products. Remarkably, Openreach reported a loss 44k broadband connections, which is the first quarter in several years for the supplier to experience a drop in its subscriber base. BT Group reported that the 17k bad debt disconnections that were deferred from the previous quarter did go some way in explaining the overall lacklustre performance along with the reduction in voice-only lines. As AltNets start to consolidate and increase their network coverage along with VMO2s JV full fibre rollout, Openreach will likely see this trend continuing over the next year.


Openreach has continued its rollout at pace and its full fibre rollout footprint covered 7.957 million homes and businesses, passing around 2.8 million premises Y-o-Y. Its FTTP connections were also up with just over 2 million connections compared with 1.7 million in Q1 with overall numbers nearly doubling Y-o-Y from 1.086 million (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Openreach FTTP Network Coverage, Subscribers and Penetration Rates, Source: BT Group Company Reports
Figure 2: Openreach FTTP Network Coverage, Subscribers and Penetration Rates, Source: BT Group Company Reports

Virgin on the other hand, did not report such a stable quarter, with a churn rate of 13.7 per cent up from 12.2 per cent. The operator also reported a weaker revenue performance which was down by 0.6 per cent in its fixed line segment. This was due to VMO2’s milder new customer pricing options along with discount incentives given to current subscribers to increase overall retention.


Wholesale connections see a levelling out

At the close of Q2 2022, we estimate wholesale connections to have reached just over 29 million. Growth in the sector has started to slow and as reported above Openreach for the first time reported a loss of connections. Increase in net broadband connections grew by 0.5% Q-o-Q, which despite the increase in FTTP network coverage by major and AltNet suppliers is indicative that the market is reaching saturation point along with AltNet suppliers not gaining as much traction as expected within their footprints.


As expected, DSL lines are on the wane and dipped to 3.15 million during the quarter down from 3.36 million during the previous quarter. FTTC connections decreased to 16.4 million compared to 16.5 million in Q1 2022. FTTP ultrafast (100 Mbps+) lines are steadily progressing however and have risen to around 3.4 million up from just over 3 million in the previous quarter (Figure 3 below).


Figure 3:  Wholesale broadband connections by technology Q2 2021 – Q2 2022, Source:  Point Topic
Figure 3: Wholesale broadband connections by technology Q2 2021 – Q2 2022, Source: Point Topic

For more information on key findings along with further information about the Q2 2022 UK ISP Market Analysis Report see our free analysis section. Full reports and supporting statistical analyses are available via our UK Plus subscribers service, sign-in here to access our UK Plus content.


DCMS Project Gigabit Delivery Plan - summer update 2022

On 30 August DCMS published its £5bn Project Gigabit progress summer update, with the previous spring update being released at the end of May 2022. The report included an overview of the programme’s progress in meeting the government’s target of 85% nationwide gigabit-capable network coverage by 2025, updates on the procurement stages of project intervention areas, the current status of Project Gigabit in the devolved nations along with the Gigabit Voucher scheme and Public Sector Hub upgrades.


Key Programme updates from the last quarter

  • UK gigabit-capable network coverage as of 17 August 2022 reached 70% up from 42.4% Y-o-Y (Figure 4)

  • First procurement contract signed in North Devon with supplier Wessex Internet, to cover 7k premises; further contracts due to be awarded in Teesdale and Northumberland in coming months

  • Local and regional procurements launched in Hampshire and Shropshire for 118k premises

  • Total value of Project Gigabit procurements to date >£690 million; 498k premises passed with gigabit-capable broadband

  • £82 million investment announced with the Department for Education connect 3k schools to gigabit-capable broadband

  • To date over 106k vouchers worth more than £214 million have been issued through the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, with 73k having been implemented

  • Published new research on the use of Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme by SMEs, found over 80% reported an increase in productivity due to connection upgrades along with 70% reporting more efficient and stable business activity during the Covid pandemic

  • Published BDUK’s 2021 to 2022 Performance Report.

Figure 4: UK gigabit-capable coverage by type with trajectory, Source: DCMS analysis, ThinkBroadband. Data is accurate as of 17 August 2022
Figure 4: UK gigabit-capable coverage by type with trajectory, Source: DCMS analysis, ThinkBroadband. Data is accurate as of 17 August 2022


Regional and devolved nations gigabit-capable coverage accelerating

According to the DCMS’ update the East Midlands and North East regions have seen the largest increase in gigabit-capable network deployments since April 2021. The East Midlands went from 18% of premises covered to 72% Y-o-Y, with the North East increasing from 14% to 70%. Northern Ireland remained the best covered of the devolved nations with 71% coverage in April 2021 to 87% coverage at the close of April 2022. Virgin Media O2’s DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit-capable network covers around 480k premises in the province, with future plans to expand its FTTP footprint to tens of thousands more in the near future. Openreach’s FTTP network covers 575k premises, whilst Belfast-based supplier Fibrus is quickening its FTTP rollout pace and has passed around 100k premises.


Wales came in on the bottom of the chart with 53% of national coverage up from 29% in the previous year. Given the remoteness of premises and challenging terrain of the country, coupled with delayed Openreach project deployments, it is likely that Wales’ digital connectivity will be playing catch-up until late 2023 as Project Gigabit funding begins to slowly turn into deployments.


See figure 5 below for the regional and devolved nations gigabit-coverage progress update from April 2021 to April 2022.


 Figure 5: Gigabit-capable coverage by region and devolved nation, Source: ThinkBroadband. Data accurate as of 17 August 2022.
Figure 5: Gigabit-capable coverage by region and devolved nation, Source: ThinkBroadband. Data accurate as of 17 August 2022.



 

Other key telecoms sector news items from the month can be found below.


BT Group News

Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) News

CityFibre (CF) News

Independent Operators (AltNets) News

Other News

Devolved Nations News


 


If you are a subscriber to UK Plus, sign-in here to access our UK Plus content where you can view our updated Q2 2022 profiles of the UK’s leading internet service providers, as well as our annual overview of the country’s broadband market.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about UK Plus or these particular publications.



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