H1 2022 – UK Gigabit broadband coverage nears 70%

The latest independent semi-annual summary of UK broadband coverage for the first half of 2022 estimated that “full fiber” (FTTP) ISP networks have increased their reach to 37.61% of premises (from 30.23% in H2 2021) and 69.24% are within reach “gigabit” speeds (instead of 65.22%). But results vary around England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The focus, both politically and generally, is currently on improving “gigabit” (1000Mbps+ Where 1 Gbps+) class networks. Currently, almost all of this new gigabit connectivity comes from Fiber to the premises (FTTP) via Openreach (BT), Hyperoptic, CityFibre, CommunityFibre, G.Network, Gigaclear and many more (Summary of all-fiber constructions).

However, Virgin Media’s recent upgrade (VMO2) to DOCSIS 3.1 technology – spread across both their new FTTP and Hybrid coaxial fiber (HFC) (here) – changed that dynamic. The aforementioned upgrade was completed late last year and now covers almost 16 million premises, which is why gigabit coverage has improved so rapidly since 2019. But progress will now be more slow because many FTTP builds focused on urban areas will overload HFC.

At present, most progress in gigabit-enabled network coverage is still due to commercial investment, often with some support from various government voucher programs. But we are also waiting for the new £5 billion gigabit project (F20) will begin to have minimal impact from the end of this year (unless delays accumulate), before increasing more rapidly through 2023 and beyond.

Meanwhile, those still stuck in sub-10Mbps areas will, for now, have little choice but to try to exploit the government’s flawed 10Mbps. Universal service obligation (USO), opt for a satellite solution (Starlink is fine, if you can afford it) or wait for a landline upgrade. People taking USO are promised speeds above 10 Mbps (often over 4G rather than fiber), but some of them are already finding that they live in areas where even USO can’t cover the colossal upgrade costs (here and here). The government is still exploring support options for these remote premises.

Below is the latest modeling of Think Broadband to July 2022 (H1 – 2022). It should be noted that the figure of ‘Less than 10 Mbps‘ does not reflect 4G mobile coverage, which plays a role in the official USO but is not included in TBB’s mapping work; it’s incredibly difficult to make an accurate model for mobile coverage.

REMARK: Figures in brackets (%) represent previous H2 result – 2021 (January 2022).

Availability of the fixed broadband network H1 – 2022

Area 30Mbps+ Full fiber gigabit % Less than 10 Mbps
England 97.6% (97.39%) 36.50% (29.13%) 70.28% (66.56%) 0.7% (0.82%)
UK 97.2% (96.89%) 37.61% (30.23%) 69.24% (65.27%)
1.1% (1.21%)
Wales 96.3% (95.86%) 35.16% (27.69%) 52.4% (46.40%) 1.9% (2.16%)
Scotland 95% (94.76%) 34.42% (27.77%) 63.42% (59.39%) 2.8% (2.92%)
North Ireland 92.6% (90.82%) 84.88% (75.58%) 85.98% (78.83%) 4.9% (5.90%)

NOTE 1: Almost all gigabit coverage comes from Virgin Media’s existing HFC cable network, although Openreach, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Cityfibre and others all have big “full fiber” (FTTP) expansion plans. But there is a lot of overhead between HFC and FTTP.

NOTE 2: It is very important to remember that government/policy coverage targets, such as 85% for gigabit, reflect a national average, which of course may be better or worse for some areas (e.g., some may achieve coverage). higher, while others could be well below).

Note that each devolved region (Scotland, Wales, etc.) has its own policy and objectives, all of which feed into the central UK figure. For example, while North Ireland may lag in superfast speeds and good coverage for the USO, their full fiber optic coverage is ahead of other regions, and we believe they will also be one of the first to achieve near universal coverage gigabit compatible broadband.

As previously stated, this data is an estimate and should be taken with a pinch of salt, not least because it does not always reflect the very latest position in the real world. But it’s still one of the best and most up-to-date gauges we have to verify official claims (official numbers tend to be a bit higher than TBB’s due to differences in data modeling , etc.).

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