Research Roundup March 2022
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
During March Point Topic published three publications covering the UK and global fixed line broadband markets. Key findings and overviews can be found below and on our free analysis section with detailed reports available via our UK Plus subscribers service, sign-in here to access our UK Plus content.
The analysis is based on the ThinkPoint broadband availability dataset which includes 1.7m postcodes. At the end of February 2022, the total FTTP coverage including Openreach, KCOM, Virgin Media RFOG and independent fibre networks was 9.8 million premises (31% of the UK premises). Virgin Media O2 passed 49% of UK premises with their Docsis 3.1 based gigabit network. Of course, FTTP and Docsis 3.1 networks overlap in multiple areas.
As of February 2022, in 42% of all local authorities the total FTTP coverage was still lower than 20% of premises. However, this figure is down from the 48% we recorded in December 2021. In February 2022, the total FTTP coverage was 50% or higher in 13% of local authorities.
More granular, potscode level broadband availability updates by ISP and technology, are available to our ThinkPoint customers.
Figure 1 provides a breakdown by local authority of FTTP network coverage in February 2022.
Following our recent study of broadband affordability in the UK, today we are looking at the lowest available gigabit broadband tariffs across the UK. By gigabit we mean broadband services with 900-1000Mbps downstream speeds, provided over FTTP or Virgin Media’s Docsis3.1 networks.
For England and Wales, we conducted our analysis at the level of LSOA (Lower Layer Super Output Area), a geographical unit used by the ONS to report small area statistics. Each LSOA contains between 400 and 1,200 households. For Scotland, we used their small areas called Data Zones (DZ). These are small enough units at the right level of granularity to reflect the differences even within the same cities, towns and rural areas. There are currently around 42,000 small areas (LSOAs and DZs) in the UK.
For this analysis, we used residential broadband tariffs marketed by ISPs in February 2022. Broadband services with gigabit speeds and the lowest available monthly subscriptions that consumers could access in every LSOA were the basis of our comparison. A lot of these tariffs came with a minimum commitment – 12, 18 or 24 month contracts. We used the lowest tariffs available, even if that meant the longest fixed term contract.
As of February 2022, we found at least one gigabit tariff available in 89% of all UK LSOAs and DZs. The lowest available monthly cost of gigabit broadband across the UK varied from £25.00 (a 900/900Mbps service from Toob in Southampton) to £96.00 (a 1000/200Mbps service from Ecom in Buckinghamshire). Both services came with free installation.
Some ISPs additionally charge for installation and / or activation, although this is more typical of smaller ISPs and community projects, with an exception of Virgin Media and KCOM who also have set-up charges. Installation of broadband services tends to bear especially high cost in rural areas though some consumers can get the cost subsidised by the Government under the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
Ten gigabit broadband services in our sample came with installation / activation charges which varied from £5.00 to £150, with the majority of ISPs waiving set-up costs for customers signing fixed term contracts.
In Q4 2021, the average monthly charge for residential fibre connections decreased by 9.9%, compared to Q4 2020. In the same period, the price of cable broadband increased by 1.2% while the average subscription to copper-based broadband services increased by 0.5%. Driven by the lower cost of fibre, over the 12 months to the end of December 2021 the average monthly charge for residential broadband services fell by 10.4% and stood at $82 PPP (purchasing power parity).
The average downstream bandwidth provided to residential subscribers has gone up by 32% in Q4 2021, compared to Q4 2020. The boost was caused by the increase in bandwidth provided over fibre and cable networks. In Q4 2021, the average download speeds over cable increased by 12.3%, as there were a proliferation of DOCSIS3.1 tariffs with gigabit speeds becoming available. In the same period, the average download speeds over fibre grew by 33.5%, compared to Q4 2020. We have recorded 397 residential gigabit tariffs (with downstream bandwidth of at least 900Mbps) in Q4 2021, compared to 367 in Q2 2021 and 335 in Q4 2020.
A significant jump in the average bandwidth of fibre based broadband tariffs have had the largest effect on the overall average broadband speeds in the business segment.
In Q4 2021, the combined average download bandwidth grew by 25.7% compared to Q4 2020 and stood at 362Mbps. This was caused by the boost in the average speed over cable and especially fibre, 14.3% and 21.8% respectively. Copper maintained largely the same average download speed compared to the previous quarter (Figure 3).
The average monthly cost of business broadband subscriptions decreased on copper and cable platforms, -9.2% and -2.4% respectively. With the significant increase in the average bandwidth in fibre broadband services came an 11.1% increase in the overall average cost of business broadband compared to Q4 2020
For further details head to our Free Analysis section.
AltNet operators have continued their full fibre fixed network rollouts during March at pace as operators announced further expansion of their services throughout the country on nearly a daily basis. Unsurprisingly, Openreach has continued to hit its stride with its FTTP rollout and at the close of February 2022 had covered 6.5m premises. Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) which completed its entire 15m premises network upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 technology in December 2021, has been slowly carrying on with its Project Lightning FTTP rollouts and announced a further 1,200 premises had been passed in Wigan, Greater Manchester on 30 March. Given that VMO2 announced in July 2021 their intentions to upgrade their entire network yet again to FTTP by 2028, progress updates or future investment and/or strategic partnership announcements on how the supplier will be funding this rollout have been few and far between. AltNets however, have proven to be delivering on their deployment ambitions whilst scaling up their operations as several smaller providers announced network expansions through the month. Having secured £123m in private investment in November 2021, national wholesale fibre infrastructure supplier Netomnia announced several new areas for expansion on 1 March. The first location is Darlington (County Durham) with £14m earmarked for the project with the aim of passing 46,000 premises. Guildford (Surrey) was the next location and Netomnia will be investing £16.5m to cover 52,000 premises. Lastly, Carlisle (Cumbria) will see £13m of investment to cover 44,000 homes and businesses. On 22 March Netomnia announced £21m would be invested in Maidstone (Kent), where they aim to pass 72,000 premises. Already active around other areas of the county (Gravesend, Canterbury and Ashford) this latest announcement brings their total build plans in the area to 141,000 premises with £42m being invested overall. The supplier, who resells its broadband services via its YouFibre sub-brand, will face competition from other network operators in these areas including Virgin Media O2, Openreach (BT) and Grain, to name but a few. However, Netomnia seems confident in their rollout strategies which has been underscored with their 8 April announcement that they had secured a new round of funding for £295m led by DigitalBridge Investment Management. Netomnia has passed more than 130,000 premises since their rollout has commenced in 2020. Ogi which operates in Wales continued their “build and unbundle” strategy confirmed on 1 March that they had unbundled 20 exchanges with a further 13 due to be completed by the end of the year. Backed by a £200m investment from Infracapital, Ogi are aiming to pass 150,000 premises with full fibre by the end of 2025, however they have been backhauling exchanges in the interim to offer their services via Openreach’s network to maximize their coverage. Belfast based Fibrus who is delivering the publicly funded Project Stratum in Northern Ireland announced on 2 March, that they have passed 20,000 premises and are on track to reach a further 50,000 by the end of the year. Shortly thereafter, Fibrus announced they would be extending their network to further locations in Northern Ireland and in Cumbria (England) bringing the total to 250,000 premises by the end of 2022. On 4 March, Jurassic Fibre, who covers areas of Devon, Somerset and Dorset announced that it had connected its 1000th customer. Backed by £250m investment from Fern Trading, the supplier aims to pass 350,000 premises in the next five years. Gigaclear announced on 8 March that they will be investing £7m to extend their footprint into areas of Suffolk and on 15 March the supplier started rolling out in Blandford Forum in Dorset.
BT Group News
· 3 March – Openreach announced final chapter for Superfast West Yorkshire And York partnership, since 2013, more than 114,000 premises have been upgraded, with the majority benefitting from access to faster, more reliable superfast broadband speeds; around 11,000 of the more recently connected premises are connected to their FTTP network and have enabled 97 exchanges. · 2 March – Openreach announced they will be putting their Fibre Community Partnerships programme on hold temporarily until it can clear the backlog of projects, which has seen a soaring rise in demand over the past year.BT Group News · 7 March – BT is partnering with local authorities in towns and cities across the UK, including London, Leeds and Birmingham, to boost mobile coverage by mounting small cell antennas on street furniture such as lampposts and CCTV columns. · 10 March - BT selects Google Cloud as strategic partner for group-wide data and AI transformation. · 10 March - BT announces rural 5G trial in Wales through its 5G Wales Unlocked project which is just one of several trials demonstrating how ultrafast technology like 5G could transform rural communities.
CityFibre (CF) News
· 2 March – CF connects the majority of homes in Alstone and Rowanfield areas of Cheltenham with the town-wide rollout due to be completed by end 2023 · 3 March – CF announced £45m expansion projects in Luton and Dunstable, with work to begin in Luton in April 2022, while Dunstable’s rollout is scheduled to get underway in early 2023 · 4 March – CF signed a strategic multi-year, multi-million-pound contract with digital networks integration firm STL. The partnership will see STL supply CityFibre with high fibre count Celesta Intelligently Bonded Ribbon (IBR) Cables with Stellar bend-insensitive fibre and ribbon optimised joint enclosures. · 8 March – The Fishwick and Frenchwood areas of Preston goes live · 16 March – CF announced Castlebeck, Manor and Richmond areas of Sheffield goes live · 17 March – RunFibre to launch gigabit-capable broadband services for Wolverhampton and Gloucester residents over CityFibre network · 17 March – CF announces the latest construction phase of the £270m full fibre network in Glasgow is now underway in Bishopbriggs and is being delivered by GCU UK on behalf of CityFibre. Work has been going on south of the river for more than a year, and work in the north west of the city began last summer. · 21 March – CityFibre has now made the majority of homes in the Southsea, Fratton, Milton, Eastney, Copnor and Burrfields areas of Potsmouth ‘ready for service’ · 23 March – CF awards £21m contract to Trust Utility Management Ltd. to deliver its network rollout in Lincoln, a project which has sparked the creation of more than 80 local jobs.
Independent Operators (AltNets) News
· 1 March – Wildanet announced a price freeze on its broadband packages · 1 March – Zzoomm also announced a price freeze for the remainder of the year; its FTTP services in Sandhurst and Crowthorne (Berkshire) go live · 2 March – Lit Fibre launch their FTTP services in Sudbury (Suffolk) three months after the project was announced · 3 March – TrueSpeed announced expansion plans for Portishead and Clevedon covering 8,000 premises · 3 March – BDUK confirmed Wight Fibre will receive £9m in funding via its Gigabit Voucher Scheme to aid further rollouts across the island which should reach 60,000 premises by the end of 2023 · 4 March – Gigaclear announced an 18-month price freeze on its services · 9 March – Hull-based provider, Connexin, launch 2 Gbps home broadband services · 9 March – Pure Broadband announced that it has joined wholesale supplier MS3’s network to offer services to areas of the North East · 7 March – Digital Infrastructure Ltd announced next 9 locations in Rotherham and Lancaster for its rollout plans · 8 March – County Broadband announced that it will be extending their network to a further 21 villages in Cambridgeshire · 16 March – LightSpeed announced 7 additional towns in Norfolk, Essex and Rutland have been added to their network plans which currently covers 30,000 premises. · 28 March – Newcomer, YesFibre, announced they have started their deployment in the town of Rugeley (Staffordshire)
Other key news items throughout the month can be found below
Policies, Studies, Survey and Ofcom Announcements
· Proposal for new telecoms security regulations and code of practice · Secure connected places - external advisory group · New body to make UK world-leading centre for telecoms innovation · Joint Committee report on the draft Online Safety Bill: Government response · Digital Regulation: Driving growth and unlocking innovation · Code of practice for wireless network development in England · Ofcom Publishes “Spectrum Roadmap - Delivering Ofcom’s Spectrum Management Strategy” · Living our lives online – top trends from Ofcom’s latest research · How new satellite technology could unlock broadband for remote homes · Ready for launch – Ofcom consults on new space spectrum strategy · Switching Survey Claims 7 Million UK Broadband Users Overpaying · Study Claims UK Consumers Want Universal Broadband Routers
Devolved Nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) Broadband Announcements
 There will be generally 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 operators tell us about them.