Continuing broadband market slowdown – UK Q4 2017

Analysis of Q4 2017 UK ISP numbers

UK broadband market sees lowest fourth quarter growth in 2017 since Point Topic records began

Key fixed broadband market trends this quarter:

  • UK broadband market sees lowest fourth quarter growth in 2017 since Point Topic records began
  • Household penetration of broadband stood at 85.4 per cent at the end of December 2017
  • DSL lines wholesaled by Openreach has dropped below the one million mark for the first time
  • FTTx line take up showed an increase of nearly 7.2 per cent during Q4 2017 with active fibre-based lines just below an estimated 9,493,000
  • Superfast broadlines now represent 55 per cent of the UK’s broadband base.

UK fixed broadband expansion continues to slow

The UK fixed broadband market experienced its lowest fourth quarter additions according to Point Topic’s records, adding only 203,800 lines bringing the total fixed broadband sector to just under 26,265,000. This marks the third consecutive Q4 decrease with Q4 2016 at 241,900, Q4 2015 at 255,200, compared with 339,400 three years ago (see Figure 1 below).

Nevertheless, household penetration of broadband continues to creep up, standing at 85.4 per cent at the end of December 2017, a rise from 84.9 per cent the previous quarter and 82.9 per cent year-on-year.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology continues its downward spiral with just over 11.5 million active lines at the end of 2017. In something of a milestone, the number of DSL lines wholesaled by Openreach has dropped below one million for the first time.

Active cable modem lines stood at nearly 5.11 million at the end of December 2017, up from just over 4.92 million a year ago.

FTTx technology, including fibre-to-the-cabinet, fibre-to-the-building and fibre-to-the-premises, continues its advance across the UK with an increase of nearly 7.2 per cent during October to end-December 2017, bringing total fibre-based lines to just above an estimated 9,492,000.


Figure 1: Broadband lines added in the UK 2012 to 2017

Superfast lines surpass the 14 million mark

There is more positive news regarding penetration of active superfast broadband lines. Point Topic estimates there were just over 14,464,000 broadband lines live in the country offering speeds of 30Mbps and above at the end of December 2017, representing 55 per cent of the broadband base. This includes the range of FTTx technologies and cable modems. This is up by 4.85 per cent during the quarter, from nearly 13,795,000 at the end of September 2017.

BT Consumer continues to be the largest retailer of FTTx lines, with 58.7 per cent of its broadband customer base, up from just below 57 per cent the previous quarter. In January 2018, BT Consumer launched products at 152Mbps and 314Mbps, with minimum speed guarantees.

Meanwhile Virgin Media’s broadband base continues to see more subscribers taking higher speeds. The operator says that 70 per cent of its broadband customers take speeds of +100Mbps, up from 52 per cent a year ago.

TalkTalk added another 89,000 net subscribers to its fibre-based services bringing its total to 1,177,000 FTTx lines.

Sky says that fibre penetration in the UK and Ireland has increased to a third of its broadband base, up from 21 per cent a year ago.

These players and others represent the 3,749,000 Openreach fibre-based lines being resold on the infrastructure builder’s network by non-BT communications providers. Non-BT service provider additions are now at 66 per cent, up from 64 per cent the previous quarter and 48 per cent year-on-year. In total Openreach added 601,000 FTTx lines during Q4 2017 (BT Group KPIs lists 600,000), its highest ever quarterly additions. Details can be seen in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Non-BT service providers’ share of Openreach FTTx connections 2014-2017

Get access to full report and statistics

The latest broadband subscriber numbers by technology, ISP market shares and emerging trends can all be found in our Excel spreadsheets, UK Broadband Market Statistics Q4 2017 and UK ISP Market Shares Q4 2017, and accompanying PDF analysis report. These are available to subscribers of Point Topic’s UK Plus service. To find out more, please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail simona@point-topic.com

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