Research Round-up September 2023
Q2 2023: 25% of UK Premises Still Lack Gigabit Broadband; Broadband Tariff Benchmark Report Q2 2023; UK telecoms sector updates; ISP news; government and Ofcom updates
Point Topic’s key publications of the month:
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.
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.
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.
The complete dataset used to produce this analysis is part of our ThinkPoint service which involves UK Broadband Mapping at postcode level.
Read the complete article in our free analysis here.
Point Topic tracks the changes in the standalone and bundled broadband tariffs provided by European operators every second quarter. This report presents the latest tariff benchmarks at the end of June 2023.
The complete tariff data is available within Point Topic’s European Broadband Operators and Tariffs (EuroBOT) subscription service. We provide access to the raw data, as well as charts and tables for the tariffs offered.
Residential broadband packages
As of the end of June 2023, the copper-based residential broadband tariffs were the cheapest ($54 PPP) but they also offered the lowest average download speed at 14Mbps. There was little change in these metrics compared to Q2 2022. The average monthly tariffs for cable and fibre broadband were similar ($69 PPP and $67 PPP respectively). However, the fibre-based tariffs offered a higher average download speed at 534Mbps, compared to 488Mbps over cable. Year-on-year, the average tariffs based on these technologies decreased only slightly but the average download speeds went up by 15.6% for cable (from 422Mbps to 488Mbps) and by 5.7% for fibre (from 505Mbps to 534Mbps).
In Q2 2023, the average downstream bandwidth, regardless of technology, was 469Mbps, up from 440Mbps a year ago. As FTTP and Docsis3.1 availability across Europe is becoming more widespread, we recorded 269 residential gigabit tariffs (with downstream bandwidth of at least 900 Mbps) in Q2 2023, compared to 241 such tariffs in Q2 2022.
Business broadband packages
We recorded the largest year-on-year change in the average business tariff for fibre – the average monthly charge increased by 20.1% from $142 PPP to $170 PPP. It wasn’t quite matched by the increase in download speed, which went up by 10.3% from 628Mbps to 693Mbps.
Businesses using cable-based broadband saw the largest boost in the average download speed – between Q2 2022 and Q2 2023, it went up by 23.1% from 402Mbps to 496Mbps. At the same time, the average monthly cost for these services has increased by only 5.5%, from $102 PPP to $107 PPP.
In Q2 2023, the combined average download speed grew by 11.4% y-o-y and stood at 588Mbps, largely thanks to the increase in the average speed over cable (Figure 3). The average monthly charge went up from $143 PPP to $165 PPP.
Read the complete article in our free analysis here.
BDUK Project Gigabit Update
Project Gigabit progress update September 2023, published 20 September 2023
The first premises have been connected under BDUK’s Project Gigabit contracts, and it has now launched all of its currently planned procurements in England. BDUK has a total of 27 live procurements, covering a total of over 780k premises. Combined with the existing 12 live contracts, this represents over £2bn of investment to support the deployment of gigabit-capable broadband to over 1.1m premises in hard-to-reach areas across the UK.
Since its last progress update in June 2023 BDUK have:
launched a further nine new local and regional procurements, with a combined indicative value of £597m, to cover up to 260k more premises. This includes two cross-regional contracts that will target some of what is deemed under Project Gigabit to be the hardest-to-reach areas
reached the milestone of the 100,000th voucher used to connect premises to gigabit-capable broadband
published a Voucher evaluation report, which highlights how its Gigabit Vouchers have improved access to gigabit-capable connectivity for homes and businesses
published its latest evaluation report of the Superfast Programme which found that by September 2021, the programme had helped upgrade up to 300k additional premises to gigabit-capable broadband - connections that would not have happened without the Government intervening
Other key telecom sector news items from the month can be found below.
BT Group News
1 September – Openreach published NGA2022/23 1Gbps+ Pilot Extension to inform all CPs about an extension to the 1Gbps+ Pilot to 31 December 2023.
5 September – Openreach announced its UK wide stop sell of its Wholesale Line Rental (WLR). WLR relies on the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), meaning Openreach will no longer offer or support WLR products (that enable own-brand phone service on its network using its copper cables and networking equipment) by the end of 2025, as it moves to new digital, internet-based (All IP) services such as FTTP, SOG.fast and SOGEA.
12 September – Openreach announced 19 new Fibre First build locations where it plans to deliver to more than 200k homes and businesses. The locations are spread across the UK in both rural and urban areas including: Chichester in West Sussex, Broughton in Greater Manchester, Perth in Scotland, and Pantymwyn in Wales. It also announced it had passed more than 11.5m premises across the UK, including around 3.7m million in the hardest-to-serve ‘final third’ of the country.
12 September – Openreach released GEN058/23 briefing provides two years’ advance notice of a pricing special offer on FTTC/SOGEA 55/10 & 80/20 & G.fast/SOG.fast 160/30 for the period from 1 September 2025 to 31 March 2026.
An extension to the GEA special offer which will come into effect once the current offer comes to an end on 31 August 2025. The current offer is available to see at: GEN012/23. The extension will cover the period between 1 September 2025 and 31 March 2026.
14 September – In pursuit of its commitment to becoming a net zero business by the end of March 2031, BT Group announced that it trialled several ‘liquid cooling’ technologies that could substantially improve energy consumption and efficiency metrics in its networks and IT infrastructure.
An industry first, BT Group will trial ‘precision liquid cooled’ network switches using a solution provided by Iceotope and Juniper Networks® QFX Series Switches, which are widely used in existing network cloud architectures.
26 September – BT released regional rollout schedule for Digital Voice: Autumn 2023 North West and London, Spring 2024 West Midlands, South East, Wales, and East Anglia, Summer 2024 North East, Scotland, and South West.
Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) News
6 September – nexfibre, in partnership with Virgin Media O2, has reached an agreement with fibre operator, Upp, to acquire the provider. The acquisition will efficiently boost the fibre footprint of nexfibre by 175,000 premises in the East of England and ensure investment and network build in the region.
7 September – VMO2 announced that it will start to switch off 3G services in 2025 as part of its ongoing network transformation. The programme will also contribute to the company’s sustainability goals as 4G and 5G are significantly more energy-efficient compared to older 3G equipment. While the 3G network carries less than 4% of all data used on Virgin Media O2’s network, it accounts for 11% of the company’s total energy consumption. 4G and 5G, which together account for 96% of mobile network data traffic, are 10 times more efficient.
18 September – Virgin Media O2 announced customers get double data and speed boost for no extra cost.
21 September – Virgin Media O2 has created the “Connected Farm of the Future” in a trial with Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley, designed to showcase how enhanced mobile connectivity could transform rural agriculture. Virgin Media O2 has boosted its network across Cannon Hall Farm to remove signal blackspots and not-spots.
CityFibre (CF) News
7 September – CF announced it has completed its £15m rolloutEast of Wokingham Town and North of Crowthorne, with the build now progressing towards the remainder of Crowthorne and Northwest of Wokingham. The full rollout is expected to reach completion in 2025.
21 September – CF awarded its first round of contracts to build partners as it mobilises to deliver four county-wide full fibre rollouts under the government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme. The deployments will bring gigabit-capable infrastructure to 715k rural properties that would otherwise be excluded from commercial rollouts.
The contracts have been awarded to Granemore Group in Cambridgeshire, OCU Group and CCN Communications in Hampshire, OCU Group in Norfolk, and Telelink, OCU Group and Granemore Group in Suffolk. The appointment of build partners will enable CityFibre to begin the first phase of construction in each location. The first homes passed by the rollout will be in Cambridgeshire and are expected in late October.
29 September – CF’s £40m rollout in Dundee is moving into the Invergowrie and Ninewells Hospital areas in addition to Marketgait and around the Overgate Shopping Centre in the city centre. Work is also underway between East Marketgait and Hilltown, plus the Waterfront by South Victoria Dock Road. The full rollout is expected to reach completion in 2024.
Independent Operators (AltNets) News
1 September – Octopus Energy Group announced it has signed a deal with Impello Limited (“Shell”), a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum Company Limited, to buy Shell Energy in the UK and Germany, taking on two million new home energy and broadband customers.
14 September – nexfibre’s latest full fibre location to go live in Stirling (Scotland) covering 6,900 homes; with this being the first phase of the rollout it is expected the next phase will cover (around 27k) premises as the Stirling and Bannockburn areas.
14 September – Fern Trading finalised the consolidation of its wholesale and retail ISPs (AllPoints Fibre, Jurassic Fibre, Giganet (Cuckoo), Swish Fibre) and launched the new branding of its FTTP group, comprising of national wholesale network - AllPoints Fibre and national ISP - Cuckoo broadband, in a move that will accelerate full fibre delivery over the next five years.
22 September – Gigaclear reached 500,000 rural premises passed milestone.
25 September – Macquarie Capital, Israel Infrastructure Fund and Tiger Infrastructure Partners announced that they have merged SWS Broadband and Cadence Networks with Voneus Broadband, and simultaneously acquired Broadway Partners. SWS Broadband, Cadence Networks and Broadway Partners all begin operating as part of Voneus as of today. The combined group will be funded with up to £250m in new capital from the three shareholders and bank lenders with the combined company aiming to serve over 350k premises across the UK.
25 September – Utility Warehouse announced it is now selling CityFibre full fibre broadband via TalkTalk Wholesale services.
25 September – YouFibre announced it had reached the 50,000th subscriber milestone.
26 September – County Broadband shifts focus from FTTP deployments to customer take-up and looks at future job redundancies as a result.
29 September – F&W Networks announced it will be scaling back FTTP rollouts, discontinuing taking orders for Gigabit Voucher builds and will be looking to reduce staff numbers in the future due to the difficult economic environment.
7 September – The Ofcom Connected Nations report was published using data from April to May 2023 and the biggest news is that when looking at homes, the UK hit 50% full fibre coverage in April 2023.
14 September – Government awards £88m to 19 UK 5G Open Network projects
28 September – September 2023 update on broadband coverage in Ofcom areas 2 & 3.
28 September – EU reveal 2023 broadband and 5G connectivity progress vs UK
If you are a subscriber to UK Plus, sign-in here to access our UK Plus content where you can view our updated Q3 2023 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 particular publications.