In Ofcom’s 2021 Connected Nations report on the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK, it was revealed that the rollout of full fibre technology is accelerating at its fastest ever rate, with more than 8 million homes (28%) now able to access full-fibre broadband – an increase of 3 million properties in the last year.
750,000 homes upgraded to faster, more reliable full fibre services last year, taking the number of properties connected to nearly two million. However, the report conceded that these homes still represent less than a quarter of those to which full-fibre upgrades are available. Meanwhile, around 123,000 homes still do not have access to a ‘decent’ broadband connection.
There is no denying that progress is being made to reach the Government’s target of ‘at least 85%’ coverage by 2025. Indeed, the recently set 2030 target for nationwide ‘gigabit-capable’ broadband in the Levelling Up White Paper reflects the Government’s increasing confidence in both the market’s ability to deliver strong coverage and their expectations of what Project Gigabit will be able to achieve over the next decade. However, the fact that it has committed less than a quarter of the £5 billion funding needed to support roll-out to the hardest to reach 20 per cent of premises has left industry players concerned the 85% target will still be ‘challenging’.
Despite this, current estimates suggest the rollout should be complete by 2026, and the 5G network expansion is halfway through. Schemes like Project Gigabit prove that the government is committed to achieving this goal and reforms are taking place. Installing gigabit broadband in new homes, for example, will give homeowners and tenants access to future-proof internet connections while reducing the need to retrofit them.
Funding is easily one of the biggest barriers to deployment. What is on offer from the UK Government merely scratches the surface of what is needed to get to 85%, let alone 100%. The private sector now has an even more critical role to play in helping to bridge the gap needed to deliver the Government’s ‘Connected Britain’ vision. Private funding and/or investment is one of the solutions available to fibre-up faster, and the Government must commit to an approach that gives confidence to investors and capitalises on the attributes of businesses and the public sector.
Public Sector bodies, Service Providers and Network Operators must work together to roll out full fibre networks across the UK. An investment in the digital transformation of our country will have long term and far-reaching benefits for us all – both economically and socially.
Full fibre is considered the most future proof investment. It provides consistent gigabit speeds, costs less to maintain, and has no long-term foreseeable capacity constraints enabling it to support technologies, including 5G and IoT.
In addition, building the infrastructure to supply fast, reliable connectivity to homes and businesses across the UK will ultimately underpin our efforts to build back better from the pandemic, and as foreseen in the Government’s flagship Levelling Up White Paper, spread opportunity and prosperity across the nation.
In our next blog, we discuss full fibre’s role in powering 5G and how the technology will finally start living up to its ‘hype’.