broadband fibre optic cables

Full-fibre broadband rollout ramps up but UK household adoption remains low

More than 40 per cent of UK homes can now access full-fibre broadband connections as Ofcom says the rollout of the new connections is continuing “at record pace”.

In its annual Connected Nations report, it found that full-fibre connections are now available to 12.4 million households (42 per cent) – an increase of 4.3 million from last year.

In its last manifesto, the Conservative Party promised to install full-fibre, gigabit-capable broadband in every home and business across the UK by 2025.

This pledge was later downgraded to just 85 per cent of premises in the UK, although last year, MPs questioned whether even this target was plausible considering the speed of the rollout.

The average UK home broadband download speed is currently 59.4Mbit/s but the gap between UK households seeing the fastest and slowest speeds is widening as many customers upgrade to faster services.

Full-fibre connections – along with upgraded cable networks – have the potential to deliver download speeds of one gigabit per second (Gbit/s) or higher. In total, gigabit-capable broadband through a range of technologies is now available to 70 per cent of the UK (nearly 21 million homes), up from 47 per cent last year, Ofcom said.

Households now use an average of 482GB of data a month, but only around 25 per cent of households that are serviced by full fibre connections are opting to pay for them.

The vast majority (97 per cent) of UK homes can now get superfast broadband, which is defined as providing download speeds of at least 30Mbit/s. But more than a quarter (27 per cent) who have access to it have not taken it up.

However, nearly 80,000 homes and businesses (0.3 per cent) do not have access to ‘decent’ broadband, defined by the government as offering download speeds of 10Mbit/s and upload speeds of 1Mbit/s. Many of these are in the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK.

This is the minimum speed that should be available to premises under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) which provides a legal right to request a decent broadband connection, up to a cost threshold of £3,400 per premises.

While 80,000 homes still remain below this threshold, this figure has fallen from 123,000 last year, and Ofcom estimates that a further 15,000 of these premises will be covered by in the next 12 months.

Satellite broadband can also be an alternative for people who do not have access to traditional broadband services.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s network and communications group director, said: “Millions more people are benefitting from faster, more reliable internet as the rapid rollout of full-fibre broadband continues. That can be particularly important at this time of year, as online shopping peaks and people stream festive favourites.

“It’s also encouraging to see more people in hard-to-reach areas get access to decent broadband, as work continues to connect rural communities.”

The rollout of 5G has also rapidly increased in the last year and Ofcom estimates that around seven in ten UK properties are in areas where 5G is available from at least one mobile network operator, up from about half last year.

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