Demand Stimulation of Superfast Broadband is Essential as BT’s Fibre Broadband Network Reaches 50% of UK Premises

Today, BT announced it has passed more than 15 million premises with its fibre broadband network, meaning more than half of UK homes and businesses can now access high-speed fibre broadband services.

BT claims that its commercial £2.5 billion fibre programme is about 18 months ahead of its original schedule, and is on course to pass about 19 million premises by the end of spring 2014.

As shown in our figure below, BT has been making excellent progress with its commercial roll-out programme, with a noticeable uplift in the last quarter, and looks to be on course to reach 19 million premises (which equates to about 66% of UK premises by the end of March 2014) – which would actually be ahead of its latest accelerated plans.

 BT fibre broadband availability in the UK
Historical and predicted fibre broadband availability from BT’s £2.5bn commercial deployment

 

It is important to note that, as well as deploying fibre as part of its commercial roll out, BT is also working with councils and local authorities to take fibre to areas outside the private sector’s current and projected footprint. BT has already signed 18 BDUK contracts and hopes to sign further BDUK-related deals in the coming months. These additional deployments are not included in the fibre availability chart above. We believe that these projects will increase the availability of high-speed fibre broadband to 90% (or even more) of UK premises by the end of 2015.

The UK Government’s aspiration is that superfast broadband (defined as delivering in excess of 24Mbps) should be available to 90% of UK premises by 2015, as described in our UK superfast broadband page. Typically, the availability of fibre broadband in local authority projects will be significantly greater than the superfast broadband percentages (since some premises with fibre will not have speeds of 24Mbps or more). For example, Cambridgeshire County Council is targeting at least 90% of premises with superfast speeds but plans for 98% of premises having access to fibre broadband.

So, within less than three years, the vast majority of premises will have access to fibre broadband. While the progress on fibre infrastructure roll-out looks very promising, statistics on the actual take-up of fibre services are less positive, although it is still early days for superfast broadband.

As shown in the chart below, take-up of BT fibre broadband has been increasing. In its results for the quarter to the end of December 2012, BT reported that take-up is “growing strongly” with around 1.25 million homes having access to fibre broadband services. However, this still equates to less than 10% of the 13 million homes that could access fibre broadband.

Take-up of BT fibre broadband

Take-up of BT fibre broadband in the UK

Now that extensive roll-out of fibre broadband is well underway, we believe that should be an increased focus on demand stimulation for superfast broadband services. Availability is not enough and, ultimately, adoption is a much more important measure of success. From the perspective of the UK Government and local authorities, the greater the take-up of BT fibre broadband services, the stronger the commercial case for fibre broadband deployment becomes without the need for public investment.

We believe that too many people in areas already covered by fibre broadband are:

  • unaware of what fibre broadband is and what the benefits of superfast broadband are
  • unaware that fibre broadband services are already available in their area
  • unaware that the price premium for fibre services compared with conventional broadband is already relatively low.

To address these, we have developed a range of information pages on this website.

Our page What is fibre broadband? FTTC and FTTP explained comprehensively explains what fibre broadband is, with videos from BT Openreach.

Our page Why you need superfast broadband describes the benefits of superfast broadband services for both consumers and businesses.

Our page Superfast broadband provides information about BT’s commercial fibre roll-out as well as information about all of the local authority projects across the UK aimed at bringing superfast broadband to rural areas. This will enable you to understand if and when you will be able to access fibre broadband.

Many broadband users make the assumption that superfast broadband services are considerably more expensive than conventional broadband. However, this is not the case, as found by Ofcom in its recent report.