Fibre broadband connections are now available to 12.4 million homes in the United Kingdom, or 42% of households. That is 4.3 million more premises than a year ago. However, only a quarter of homes with access to fibre are taking it. While fibre networks are generally reliable, they are still dependent upon power, not only to the home but also to streetside cabinets.
The latest Connected Nations report from the United Kingdom communications regulator Ofcom shows the population is increasingly able to access fast fixed and mobile networks.
70% of homes in the United Kingdom have access to gigabit capable broadband networks, that includes full fibre networks and upgraded cable networks that can deliver download rates of 1 gigabit per second or more. That is the figure for addressable homes passed by these networks. The actual number of homes that receive such rates is lower, with take-up estimated at 38%. Availability is also lower in rural areas, to around 1.5 million homes.
Openreach plans to reach 25 million premises with full fibre network access by the end of 2026. Having completed the upgrade of its cable network by the end of 2021, Virgin Media O2 aims to offer full fibre across its network footprint by 2028.
97% of homes in the United Kingdom can access broadband with download rates of at least 30 megabits per second, which is sufficient for online video services. However, only 73% of premises able to receive such services take them. Rural availability is lower, at 88% in England and down to 76% in Scotland.
There are still around 80,000 homes and businesses without access to what the communications regulator Ofcom describes as ‘decent’ broadband, with a download rate higher than 10 megabits per second, through either fixed or wireless networks. That is around 0.3% of the homes and businesses, across the United Kingdom, but about 1% in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland. About 15,000 of these will be covered by publicly funded roll-out schemes in the next 12 months.
5G mobile coverage from at least one network has now reached 67-77%, with estimates ranging from high confidence to very high confidence, up from 42-57% last year, with deployments at around 12,000 sites. The four mobile network operators estimate that they each provide 4G outdoor coverage to around 99% of premises, although that does not mean you can get a decent signal inside. Indoor coverage is apparently at least 92% of all premises, although your experience may suggest otherwise.
It is also apparent how dependent both fixed and mobile networks are on electrical power. Storms last winter caused lengthy power outages, which led to communications services being unavailable for several days in some areas.
Fixed fibre networks are dependent not only on power in the home but also to street cabinets, which typically only have battery backups for up to four hours. Thousands of mobile mast sites, with battery backup capacity of between 15 minutes and six hours, were also knocked out by prolonged power outages in some areas. On provider reported that over 1,500 of its mobile sites went down in one storm, with 130 of them down for more than three days. Some customers were left without any means of electronic communication over Christmas, and fixed network providers took up to two months to reconnect all customers.
The Connected Nations 2022 report is available from the Ofcom web site.