Broadband affordability in the UK in January 2024: A Postcode Lottery; Global broadband subscriber growth rebounds as fibre increases its share further in Q3 2023; BDUK Project Gigabit updates; UK telecoms sector news; government and Ofcom updates
Key publication of the month:
Broadband affordability in the UK – January 2024
Entry-level cost of broadband and what consumers get for it
As of January 2024, the lowest available monthly broadband subscription at the postcode level varied from £13.99 (a fixed-wireless (FWA) service) to £41.25 (an FTTP service). The £13.99 monthly subscription was advertised by Kijoma, although we were not able to establish whether the ISP is still taking new customers. This price was marketed for an FWA service with 40/2 Mbps (down/up) speeds and 20GB monthly data cap. Vispa’s FTTP package priced at £41.25 included 100M/20 Mbps speeds and no usage limits.
Below is an example of monthly subscription distribution at the postcode level in and around Cardiff. In this area, the cheapest broadband available to consumers in one lucky postcode was a 4th Utility FTTP plan priced at £15.00 a month and offering 50/50Mbps speeds. In the majority of postcodes (38%), however, the cheapest broadband was offered by TalkTalk – it was an FTTC plan with 38/9Mbps speeds at an average price of £25.38 a month (£14.50 a month for six months, then £29.00 a month for 18 months with a 24-month contract).
UK-wide detailed pricing data at the postcode level is available to our customers, and it can be updated monthly upon request. In this analysis, we are focusing on the pricing at the small area level (LSOAs / DZs / SDZs).
At the small area level across the UK, entry-level broadband subscriptions varied from £13.99 to £29.99 a month (Table 1). At the postcode level, the cheapest option was a £13.99 FWA plan advertised by Kijoma. Another FWA provider VFast followed with a £14.50 plan offering 24/1Mbps speeds and 5GB usage cap. It came with a hefty one-off charge of £199.00. At the other end of the spectrum, in some areas the cheapest broadband was supplied by BT at £29.99 a month. It was an ADSL service with a £31.99 activation charge, and it came out as the cheapest option in 4 small areas.
The cheapest broadband based on the FTTP technology was available in 428 small areas from 4th Utility. With 50/50 Mbps speeds and a £15 monthly subscription, it came third in lowest price table, offering the best value for money in terms of bandwidth and price ratio.
Read the complete article in our free analysis here.
Building Digital UK (BDUK)
As of January 2022, BDUK has been asking suppliers delivering gigabit-capable infrastructure to submit national data returns on a 4-monthly basis (January, May, and September) to provide detailed build plans at premises level. The purpose of this National Rolling Open Market Review (NR OMR) is to ensure that it has the most up-to-date information about suppliers’ existing and planned build - in particular, commercial build - over the next three-year period with supplier submissions being used to inform eligibility across Project Gigabit.
This Request for Information (RFI) will allow BDUK to identify potential IAs for government subsidy. This NR OMR RFI is concerned with the following areas as shown below (and on the map) and will close on 24 February 2024:
Central East England
Central West England
North East England
North West England
South East England
South West England
BDUK state that although data and evidence is being collected for all areas above, the assessed outcome for the January 2024 NR OMR will be limited to England and Wales only; due to ongoing OMR/PR activity within Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Scotland Announces Evaluation of its Publicly-Funded R100 Programme
On 16 January, the Scottish Government Office of the Chief Economic Advisor (OCEA) announced that it will commission an evaluation exploring the performance of the Reaching 100% (R100) programme against Investment Objectives. It is essential that we are able to assess Value for Money of this programme in terms of understanding the social, economic, environmental and other benefits to households, businesses and communities of improvements in broadband connectivity and speed.
Funding for R100 includes £592.2m of Scottish Government investment, £49.4m from the UK Government (BDUK) and £54.1m from BT who has been awarded the LOTS 1,2, and 3 contracts aiming to cover around 114,900 premises by 2027/28.
The UK Government revealed in December that Scotland’s share of the £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme will be an “estimated” £450m, although market engagement work is ongoing (i.e. getting feedback from suppliers) and has yet to reach the procurement stage.
Despite contract delays due to a legal challenge by Gigaclear back in 2020, Openreach have covered around 36,100 premises increasing to 48k if the Openreach ‘overspill’ - the extra premises that Openreach picks up while working within the same areas on the R100 build, along with successful Gigabit Voucher premises.
The evaluation will take place until 12 February with its findings due to be published later this year.
BDUK Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme
BDUK surprised the telecoms community in January by its rethinking of Gigabit Broadband Voucher Eligibility criteria.
To recap, BDUK’s website clearly outlines its parameters stating that the primary eligibility requirements are for homes or businesses to reside in rural areas where existing broadband speeds are “less than 100Mbps” and a “gigabit capable network isn’t likely to be built to that area commercially in the near future” (i.e. no commercial or publicly funded gigabit network exists or is planned within the next 3 years).
So, what is BDUK saying now? Areas that were previously covered by ‘Superfast’ programmes such as, Connecting Devon and Somerset, and have received minimum speeds of around 35 Mbps – either through FWA or FTTC technology are not eligible for the Gigabit Voucher Scheme as they have met the criteria of having suitable Internet connectivity that was sponsored by the Government.
Due to complaints put forth by some suppliers, on 27 January BDUK noted that it has agreed to review the questions raised over subsidy longevity between schemes and acknowledged that they could have done a better job of communicating all of this clearly with their suppliers.
Key January telecoms sector news
BT Group News
Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) News
CityFibre (CF) News
Independent Operators (AltNets) News
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