Ofcom has published its digital infrastructure report ‘Connection Nations 2022 UK’ which shows that ‘Gigabit capableBroadband ISP networks cover 70% of the UK (21 million locations), up from 47% last year, and outdoor 5G mobile coverage from at least one operator is available for 67-77% of premises (increase of 42-57%).
The report provides a general summary of broadband and mobile network availability and data usage across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, although it is largely based on data collected a few months ago (September 2022).
A NOTICE: The government’s original definition of “super fast broadband‘ was 24Mbps+, which translates to about 97-98% coverage.
Before we start, it is important to note how Ofcom defines the different fixed broadband service classes. In this sense, “Decent broadband‘ means a download speed of 10Mbps+ with uploads of 1Mbps+ (i.e. the Universal Service Obligation), while “Super fast” is 30Mbps+, “gigabits” corresponds to 1 Gbps+ (1000Mbps+) and “Whole fiber“essentially means a pure Fiber to the premises Network (these are also gigabit capable).
As usual, we’ve split our summary of the key findings of this report into fixed broadband and mobile network categories.
Fixed line broadband coverage
The main focus in 2022 was the rapid deployment of “full fiber” FTTP broadband networks from different providers (Summary of the progress of full fiber construction in the UK), which still predominantly reflects the efforts of commercial investments in urban areas. Admittedly, that is beginning to change, albeit too late for today’s report to reflect.
The government’s new £5 billion state aid has been funded Project Gigabit Ambitions aiming to make gigabit speeds available to at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, and “nationwide” Coverage to 2030 (here), is expected to drive current deployment by focusing support on those in the hardest-to-reach rural areas (i.e. the bottom 20% of buildings). But the first orders are just being placed.
Overall, the picture today is that Britain “full fiber“Network coverage has increased from 10% in 2019 (3 million buildings), 18% (5.1 million buildings) in 2020, 28% (8.2 million buildings) in 2021 and is now at 42% (12.4 million buildings). In the meantime, “gigabitsCoverage, powered by both FTTP and Virgin Media’s DOCSIS 3.1 network (there’s a lot of superstructure between those two), has increased from 47% last year to 70% now (20.8 million sites).
Elsewhere,”Super fast” Coverage improved slightly to 97% (28.7m premises), which drops to 86% in rural areas (vs. 83% last year). But the number of premises that do notdecent broadband” Service is at 0.3% or 80,000 locations (vs. 0.4% or 123,000 locations last year). However, this is only true if you include 4G and fixed line coverage in the number, but if you only look at fixed line solutions it would be around 2% (half a million buildings).
Unfortunately, many of those that remain in sub-10Mbps areas are often too expensive for even the USO to fix (here and here), but the gap is expected to narrow. The Ofcom report predicts the number of buildings not getting (decent) 10Mbps broadband could drop to fewer 52,300 until March 2025.
Ofcom also provides some useful rural vs urban coverage split data for superfast, decent broadband, full fiber and gigabit lines below – broken down by region.
In terms of intake, about 73% who are able to “super fast broadband” Actual use of the service (up from 69% last year and 60% in 2020). Meanwhile, 25% have afull fiber” network, which is up 24% over the last year. The reason this hasn’t changed much is because of the fast build speed (i.e. building at a faster pace than people can sign up), which tends to suppress adoption numbers until builds are slow and coverage maturity is reached.
In terms of usage of gigabit-capable networks, Ofcom states that around 38% of customers are on such a network, which is higher than the full fiber figure above as this also includes Virgin Media’s legacy Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC). becomes. Network.
Elsewhere, the average monthly data volume per household on fixed broadband connections increased in the past year 482 gigabytes (vs. 453GB last year or 6.4%). We couldn’t find a similar number for mobile/mobile broadband networks.
Lindsey Fussell, Head of Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group, said:
“Millions more people will benefit from faster, more reliable Internet as the rapid adoption of full-fiber broadband continues. This can be especially important at this time of year when online shopping is at its peak and people are streaming festive favorites.
It’s also heartening to see that more people in hard-to-reach areas are gaining access to decent broadband as work continues to connect rural communities.”
The regulator also created one additional report which attempts to predict how coverage will evolve through March 2025. If all network deployments are realized as planned, the number of properties will increase from 11.0 million (as of September 2022) to 24.8 million by March 2025 (84% of the UK), while gThe igabit-enabled coverage could be over 90%.
Ofcom is also looking at the superstructure between gigabit-capable competitors. “we It is estimated that up to 66% of the objects will be able to use VHCN (gigabit-capable) services from two providers or more providers” by 2025.
The report also includes mobile network coverage data such as across the common 4G and 5G based platforms that most people should be familiar with. The UK has four primary network operators (MNOs) – O2 (VMO2), Three UK, EE (BT) and Vodafone – as well as a number of virtual operators (MVNOs) that piggyback on them.
Ofcom found that between 80% and 87% of the UK landmass (geographical coverage) can now access a 4G network when looking at all operators (up from 79% to 86% last year) – with EE having the strongest coverage. The new 1 billion Common Rural Network The agreement aims to increase 4G geographic coverage from any operator to 95% by the end of 2025 (here), and in the long term this should help 5G as well.
Regarding 5G, the regulator noted that it is available from at least one MNO (operator) in the vicinity of about 67-77% of UK buildings (42-57% increase over the last year). The technology has around 12,000 mobile sites across the UK (up from around 6,500 in 2021) and 86% of these sites are in England, 8% in Scotland, 4% in Wales and just 2% in Northern Ireland.
However, 4G continues to carry the bulk of mobile data traffic (87% of all data traffic), with 4G coverage from at least one MNO (EE) also reaching 92% of the UK landmass. Traffic transmitted over 5G has increased at a faster rate, going from 3% of all traffic in 2021 to over 9% this year, generated from a device pool that is now c. 20% 5G enabled mobile phones.
Elsewhere, we were able to find some 4G geographic coverage numbers for individual mobile operators in rural and urban areas.
2022 Geographic UK 4G coverage by operator
Urban areas (2021 figure)
EE 99% (98%)
O2 99% (98%)
Three UK 99% (98%)
Vodafone 99% (99%)
EE 85% (81%)
O2 80% (72%)
Three UK 77% (75%)
Vodafone 80% (76%)
Otherwise you can watch the whole thing United Nations 2022 report online.
Alongside this report, Ofcom has also published their latest international comparison, comparing the UK’s broadband and mobile connectivity to the four major EU economies (France, Germany, Spain and Italy) and several other major countries. The data on this front is from 2021 and therefore the numbers below are lower than those given above.
Overall, we still score well for “Super fast” coverage, but are on the low end for all-fiber, although this rollout is currently going through a rapid ramp-up phase. We think the FTTH Council Europe country ranking (here) shows this difference better than most.
UPDATE 11:09 am
We received a comment from Openreach.
CEO Clive Selley, Openreach said:
“It’s great to see continued progress in modernizing the UK’s digital infrastructure, especially given the challenges every business is currently facing. This is a massive, complex, national engineering project and the economic, social and environmental benefits will be enormous, so I am proud that Openreach is at the forefront – building further and faster than any other company out there.
We’ve already reached nine million homes and businesses, building in hard-to-reach rural communities as well as in the more densely populated parts of the UK.”