11 million households in the United Kingdom are now reached by full-fibre broadband. That is up from 7 million the previous year. That coverage figure does not mean that many homes actually receive a fibre broadband service. Broadband availability is now generally comparable to that of satellite or terrestrial broadcast networks, although there is a considerable difference between urban and rural coverage.
The communications regulator Ofcom reports that 36% of households in the United Kingdom can now get a full fibre connection, which is more reliable and capable of delivering download rates a gigabit per second. A year previously the percentage of homes was 24%. In 2020 it was 14% and the year before that just 8%. In Northern Ireland the percentage has reached 83%.
The increased availability of full fibre services is mainly driven by deployments of the larger fibre infrastructure operators but is supported by a number of smaller providers serving individual communities and regions.
The number of homes able to get gigabit capable broadband is up to almost 20.2 million, which is 68% of households in the United Kingdom, rising to 74% in urban areas but only 34% in rural regions. That also reflects the number of homes passed by cable networks. That is not to say that anything like that number of homes actually have a gigabit connection.
So-called ‘superfast’ broadband coverage, of 30 megabits per second or more downstream, remains at 96% of homes in the United Kingdom. That is comparable to the availability of satellite or terrestrial television. However, in rural areas, superfast broadband coverage is only 85%, which is still considerably lower. It leaves over 600,000 rural residential premises without access to broadband of 30 megabits per second or more.
Coverage is one thing, but adoption is another. Ofcom does not report how many households are actually connected to a full-fibre network or broadband generally. It has estimated in the past that about a quarter of households that could get a fibre connection do so and that about 7 out of 10 that could get a superfast connection do so.
99% of properties could receive what Ofcom describes as ‘decent’ broadband, which it defines as a least 10 megabits per second downstream and 1 megabit per second upstream, over a fixed or wireless network.
That leaves 83,000 homes without access to ‘decent’ broadband. Of these, around 66,000 are not expected to be covered by a publicly-funded roll-out scheme in the next twelve months, and therefore may be eligible for the broadband universal service. That means that they have the right to request a connection, but they have to pay the excess cost if it would cost more than £3,400 to connect them.
The latest numbers relate to May 2022 and come from the Autumn update to the Connected Nations report from Ofcom. Ofcom says that it will report on service adoption in its next annual edition.