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  • Writer's pictureJolanta Stanke

UK premises passed in Q1 2023: 2.5m can choose between 2 or more independent fibre ISPs

Updated: May 11, 2023

This is our regular update on fixed broadband availability in the UK, tracking the progress between the end of December 2022 and the end of March 2023. The analysis is based on the ThinkPoint broadband availability dataset which includes 1.7m postcodes[1]. More granular, postcode level broadband availability updates by ISP and technology, are available to our ThinkPoint customers.


Key headlines:

  • At the end of Q1 2023, the overall FTTP coverage was just over 15m premises, up from 13m at end-2022.

  • The FTTP coverage was 50% or higher in 39% of local authorities (LAs), up from 31% of LAs three months earlier.

  • During Q1 2023, 29 local authorities saw 10%+ growth in the percentage of their premises passed with FTTP networks. East Renfrewshire, Staffordshire Moorlands and East Dunbartonshire, topped the charts with +19.4%, +17.6% and +16.8% increase in premises covered by FTTP.

  • Across the UK, more than 1.6m premises could choose between three independent fibre ISPs. These figures were up from 1m premises we recorded in December 2022.

  • Bournemouth, Aberdeen and West Northamptonshire saw the largest number of new FTTP premises passed by three providers.

  • Across the UK, 2.5m premises had access to two or more independent fibre providers at the end of March 2023, compared to 2.1m in December 2022.

Openreach and FTTP in general

In three months to the end of March 2023, we saw an acceleration in the Openreach full fibre rollout, compared to the previous year. We found 814,358 additional FTTP premises, which resulted in our total recorded Openreach FTTP footprint of 9.5 million premises (29.7% of all UK premises, up from 27.2% at end-2022). In turn, the decline in the number of Openreach ADSL, FTTC only and Gfast only premises is gathering pace, with the focus staying on FTTP deployment in line with Openreach’s aim to pass 25 million premises by the end of 2026. We recorded the largest decline - 700K premises, in FTTC only coverage, which is expected given that this technology is being replaced by FTTP. FTTC coverage has come down from 60% in December 2022 to 58% in March 2023.

Table 1. Openreach footprint by technology. Source: Point-Topic.
Table 1. Openreach footprint by technology. Source: Point-Topic.

Regarding the proportion of total premises passed by Openreach FTTP, urban centres, towns, and regions beyond London and the South East are predominant, with Northern Ireland enjoying particularly extensive coverage. Belfast remains the leading local authority in terms of the availability of Openreach fibre, with 94% of its premises passed, an increase from 93% in December 2022.


During Q1 2023, Openreach added most FTTP premises in Scotland and the North, with more than 10K premises added in Glasgow, Sheffield, Wigan and Aberdeen City. Brighton, a London borough of Lewisham and Birmingham also made the top ten ranking by this measure.

Table 2. Top ten LAs by Openreach FTTP premises added in Q1 2023. Source: Point-Topic.
Table 2. Top ten LAs by Openreach FTTP premises added in Q1 2023. Source: Point-Topic.

As of the end of Q1 2023, the overall FTTP coverage, including Openreach FTTP network, independent fibre networks (altnets), Virgin Media O2’s RFOG network and KCOM was just over 15m premises, (47.3% of the UK total). This metric was up from 13.7m (43.2%) at end-2022.


Table 3 lists top and bottom ten UK local authorities (LAs) by FTTP coverage in this period. Among the top ten LAs, those based in Northern Ireland dominate given Openreach’s prominent FTTP presence and the rollouts by Fibrus, though the top stop has been retained by Kingston upon Hull, thanks to KCOM. Coventry and Milton Keynes have also remained in the top ten league, as in the previous months. Among all LAs, in Q1 2023 the largest number of FTTP premises added was in Glasgow (+28,695), and the largest percentage growth was in East Renfrewshire (+19.4%).


The bottom ten LAs are based mainly in Scotland and the North West. Most of them are not attractive targets for fibre investment, as they are either rural or remote, or both. In Q1 2023, we lost several LAs from the bottom list, as they saw a more or less significant growth in FTTP coverage since end-2022. They include Wyre Forest (+13.6%), North East Lincolnshire (+9.6%), Woking (+6.5%) and Oadby and Wigston (+3.6%). We should note that these figures do not include Virgin Media O2’s Docsis 3.1 network coverage, which is widely available in some of the LAs.

Table 3. Top and bottom ten local authorities by % of premises covered with FTTP (any network). Source: Point Topic.
Table 3. Top and bottom ten local authorities by % of premises covered with FTTP (any network). Source: Point Topic.

As of 31 March 2023, the FTTP coverage was lower than 20% of premises in 14.1% of UK local authorities. This is a significant drop from 19.4% at end-2022. The FTTP coverage was 50% or higher in 38.9% of local authorities, up from 31.2% of LAs three months earlier.


During Q1 2023, 29 local authorities saw 10%+ growth in the percentage of their premises passed with FTTP networks. High growth areas are well spread out across the UK. East Renfrewshire, Staffordshire Moorlands and East Dunbartonshire, topped the charts with +19.4%, +17.6% and +16.8% increase in premises covered by FTTP.

Figure 1. Growth in FTTP premises passed during Q1 2023, local authority level. Source: Point Topic.
Figure 1. Growth in FTTP premises passed during Q1 2023, local authority level. Source: Point Topic.

Table 4. Top ten local authorities by growth in percentage of premises passed by FTTP, Q1 2023. Source: Point Topic.
Table 4. Top ten local authorities by growth in percentage of premises passed by FTTP, Q1 2023. Source: Point Topic.

Independent fibre providers

The independent fibre network operators are also progressing their full fibre rollouts. As of the end of Q1 2023, our figures showed CityFibre at the top with 2.25m FTTP premises covered by their network[2]. Vodafone, TalkTalk and Zen remained the largest retail providers using CityFibre network.


According to our records, Community Fibre passed 0.9m premises, followed by Hyperoptic with 0.8m, Netomnia and GNetwork with just over 0.4m and Gigaclear with 0.3m. During Q1 2023, among the providers with at least 50K premises passed, we recorded the highest growth for LitFibre, from 14K to 70K premises (it is excluded from the chart as an outlier). Once again, Zzoomm exhibited significant growth - they extended their FTTP network from 66K to 107K FTTP premises. SwishFibre and FW Networks also increased their FTTP footprint by more than 50%.

Figure 2. Independent network fibre footprints (operators with more than 50K premises). Source: Point Topic.
Figure 2. Independent network fibre footprints (operators with more than 50K premises). Source: Point Topic.

Network overlap by independent fibre providers has increased further[3], as multiple network operators as well as ISPs are increasingly competing for the same customers.


In Q1 2023, 98 local authorities had overlapping networks from three independent fibre providers, up from 78 at end-2022. Coventry, Peterborough and Milton Keynes have maintained their lead by the percentage of premises covered by three providers, with 78%, 76% and 73% respectively. Bournemouth, Aberdeen and West Northamptonshire saw the largest number of new FTTP premises passed by three providers in Q1 2023, with +83K, +82K and +78K respectively.

Table 5. Top local authorities with three independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 30,000 premises passed). Source: Point Topic.
Table 5. Top local authorities with three independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 30,000 premises passed). Source: Point Topic.

Across the UK, more than 1.6m premises in 73K postcodes could choose between three independent fibre ISPs. These figures were up from 1m premises and 46.5K postcodes we recorded in December 2022.

Figure 3. Premises passed by three independent fibre providers, December 2022 and March 2023. Source: Point Topic.
Figure 3. Premises passed by three independent fibre providers, December 2022 and March 2023. Source: Point Topic.

At the end of Q1 2023, another 134 local authorities had two independent fibre providers overlapping. Kirklees and Sheffield saw the largest gains of new FTTP premises passed by two providers, at +40K each. At the same time, we recorded a decline in the number of such premises in Bolton and a couple of other LAs as they moved to the category of areas served by three FTTP providers.


As a result, the number of premises passed by two independent fibre providers at the end of Q1 2023 dropped to 511K compared to 758K three months earlier.

Table 6. Top local authorities with two independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 10,000 premises covered). Source: Point Topic.
Table 6. Top local authorities with two independent fibre providers overlapping (more than 10,000 premises covered). Source: Point Topic.

Overall 2.5m UK premises had access to two or more independent fibre providers at the end of March 2023, compared to 2.1m in December 2022. In total, independent fibre providers passed 6.7 million premises, having added 841m in the first three months of 2023.


The trend of the growing number of premises served by several fibre providers will continue but in the next few years the industry will see consolidation. This has already begun, with investment firm Fern Trading announcing plans in February 2023 to consolidate several fibre providers they own into a single entity[4]. More recently, rumours emerged about VMO2 talking to CityFibre about a potential acquisition[5].

Table 7. Premises covered by independent fibre providers, December 2022. Source: Point Topic.
Table 7. Premises covered by independent fibre providers, December 2022. Source: Point Topic.

Despite fibre rollouts gaining pace, 26% of UK premises still did not have access to gigabit capable broadband (either the Virgin Media O2 gigabit network or an FTTP network) at the end of March 2023. This metric was 44% in Wales and 34% in Scotland. In England it was 25%, while Northern Ireland was the least ‘gigabit deficient’ with 10% of premises not passed by a gigabit network. Compared to December 2022, Northern Ireland saw the largest improvement (-3%).

Table 8. Premises not covered by gigabit network, Q1 2023. Source: Point Topic.
Table 8. Premises not covered by gigabit network, Q1 2023. Source: Point Topic.

Local authorities in remote and rural areas still lack access to gigabit broadband, with Isles of Scilly remaining at the top of the list in terms of percentage of premises not passed by gigabit capable networks (98%) and Cornwall by the number of premises not covered (156K), though the latter saw an improvement from 163K recorded at the end of 2022.

Table 9. Top ten local authorities by premises not passed with gigabit capable networks, March 2023. Source: Point Topic.
Table 9. Top ten local authorities by premises not passed with gigabit capable networks, March 2023. Source: Point Topic.

Figure 4. Percentage of premises NOT passed by a gigabit network, by local authority. March 2023. Source: Point Topic.
Figure 4. Percentage of premises NOT passed by a gigabit network, by local authority. March 2023. Source: Point Topic.

 

The complete dataset used to produce this analysis is part of our ThinkPoint service which involves UK Broadband Mapping at postcode level. For more information check our UK Mapping page.


To find out more you can contact us on 020 3301 3303 or e-mail oliver.johnson@point-topic.com

 

[1] There will generally be 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. [2] The footprint reported by CityFibre is 2.5 million premises passed, including 2.25m that are ready for service. See the earlier footnote about our lag behind operator announcements. [3] We are now including in this category independent network operators (altnets) as well as retail ISPs using their networks. For example, multiple ISPs are selling fibre broadband supplied by over CityFibre network. [4] https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2023/02/fern-consolidates-uk-isps-jurassic-fibre-swish-fibre-giganet-and-allpoints-fibre.html [5] https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/9511-virgin-media-o2-may-be-acquiring-cityfibre

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