Superfast and ultrafast broadband deployments in the UK: March – June 2021

This is our quarterly update on superfast and ultrafast broadband deployments in the UK.

The analysis is based on the ThinkPoint broadband availability dataset which includes 1.7m postcodes.

Key headlines:

  • Openreach added nearly 650K FTTP premises in Q2 2021, up from 575K in Q1 2021.
  • Virgin Media’s combined Docsis 3.1 / FTTP footprint covers 8.4m premises
  • Five local authorities have overlapping networks from three independent fibre network operators, while twenty local authorities have two independent fibre networks intersecting.
  • More than 20% of premises in the London borough of Southwark are covered by two independent fibre networks.
  • Some 8,000 premises in Cornwall could be an attractive target for ultrafast broadband investment.

This is our quarterly update on superfast and ultrafast broadband deployments in the UK. The analysis is based on the ThinkPoint broadband availability dataset which includes 1.7m postcodes[1]. More granular, monthly potscode level broadband availability updates by ISP and technology, are available to ThinkPoint customers.


Openreach network deployment

Openreach are speeding up their full fibre rollout. With a total standing at 4.5 million, they added nearly 650K FTTP premises between the end of March and the end of June 2021, up from 575K in Q1 2021. At the same time, the number of FTTC and ADSL premises has been declining and the Gfast rollout has been suspended as Openreach are focusing on FTTP deployment, aiming to cover 25 million premises with this technology by the end of 2026.

Premises Passed

Table 1. Openreach premises passed, by broadband technology

 

Table 2. Top ten local authorities by Openreach FTTP footprint

Table 2. Top ten local authorities by Openreach FTTP footprint

 

The largest Openreach FTTP footprints are in the large cities and in the regions outside London and the South East.

At the same time, smaller local authorities, located largely in Northern Ireland, dominate the top ten list by the percentage of premises covered with Openreach’s FTTP network.

 

Table 3. Top ten local authorities by % of premises passed by Openreach FTTP

Table 3. Top ten local authorities by % of premises passed by Openreach FTTP

 

Figure 1. Premises passed by Openreach’s FTTP network, by local authority (June 2021). 

Figure 1. Premises passed by Openreach’s FTTP network, by local authority (June 2021).

 

Virgin Media footprint upgrades

In Q2 2021, Virgin Media also accelerated their broadband network rollout compared to the previous quarter. The operator added 108,000 premises to its Docsis 3.1 based Gig1 footprint and covered 34,000 additional premises with RFOG (FTTP).

As of the end of June 2021, Virgin Media’s combined Docsis 3.1 / FTTP footprint covered 8.4m premises. Although, their RFOG network is significantly smaller than Gig1, Virgin Media remain the second largest FTTP network operator in the UK after Openreach.

Table 4. Virgin Media premises passed by Gig1 and RFOG broadband technologies

Table 4. Virgin Media premises passed by Gig1 and RFOG broadband technologies

In terms of the percentage of premises covered by Virgin Media’s Gig1 network, as before the top ten list is dominated by London boroughs, with West Scotland and Northern Ireland also featuring in the ranking (Table 5).

Table 5. Top ten local authorities by premises passed by Virgin Media’s Gig1 broadband network

Table 5. Top ten local authorities by premises passed by Virgin Media’s Gig1 broadband network

Other areas with high Gig1 coverage rates are scattered in the Midlands, the South East, South Wales, the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber (Figure 2). 

 

Figure 2. Premises passed by Virgin Media’s Gig1 network, by local authority (June 2021)

Figure 2. Premises passed by Virgin Media’s Gig1 network, by local authority (June 2021)

Independent network rollouts

Independent network operators have also been driving forward fibre rollout, with Hyperoptic retaining the largest retail FTTP footprint at more than 0.5m premises passed. Vodafone, using CityFibre’s network, is the second largest provider by FTTP premises passed, with Community fibre being a strong third. Overall, more than 2.5 million UK premises are covered by independent fibre networks.

Figure 3. Independent network fibre footprints (retail ISPs with more than 50K premises)

Figure 3. Independent network fibre footprints (retail ISPs with more than 50K premises)

As independent network operators proceed with the expansion of their fibre footprints, network overbuild gets more widespread. As of the end of June 2021, five local authorities had overlapping networks from three independent network operators, though the number of premises passed was rather modest (Table 6).

Table 6. Local authorities with three independent fibre networks intersecting

Table 6. Local authorities with three independent fibre networks intersecting

Another 20 local authorities had two independent networks intersecting[3]. The ones with more than 2,000 of premises covered by two overlapping networks are listed below. Like in the case of Virgin Media’s Gig1 network, the independent fibre providers are also largely focusing their presence on London boroughs and larger cities.

 

Table 7. Local authorities with two independent fibre networks intersecting (with more than 2,000 of premises covered)

Table 7. Local authorities with two independent fibre networks intersecting (with more than 2,000 of premises covered)

 

 Nationwide, more than 100K premises had access to two or three independent fibre networks at the end of June 2021. This is less than 1% of total UK premises, so there is plenty of scope for improving consumer choice.

 

Table 8. Premises covered by two and three independent fibre networks

Table 8. Premises covered by two and three independent fibre networks

Ultrafast broadband rollout target area of the month

There are still many pockets across the country with low broadband competition in terms of operators and technologies, which are being overlooked despite potential high demand for ultrafast speeds. In our June 2021 broadband availability dataset, we identified 5,905 LSOAs covering 632K households which could be an attractive target for deploying ultrafast broadband. We define such ‘attractive’ LSOAs as follows:

  • They are not covered by FTTP or cable broadband networks.
  • They have no independent network operators present.
  • Each of such LSOAs contains postcodes with at least 50 households.
  • Their ‘attractiveness’ score is 2 or higher. The attractiveness score, used in our Broadband Availability Forecasts, combines affordability and Digital Deprivation Index, population density, and time since last network upgrade. In2020, it varied from 0.094 in Rother to 2.998 in the London borough of Merton.

This month, we are featuring Cornwall, where we identified 78 LSOAs meeting the above criteria. They contain 137 postcodes with a total of 8,412 premises and have an average attractiveness score of 2.2, varying from 2.00 to 2.57.

Figure 4. Cornwall LSOAs with no FTTP, cable or independent network coverage and the attractiveness score of 2.00 and higher, June 2021.

Figure 4. Cornwall LSOAs with no FTTP, cable or independent network coverage and the attractiveness score of 2.00 and higher, June 2021.


The complete dataset used to produce this analysis is part of our ThinkPoint service which involves UK Broadband Mapping at postcode level. For more information check our ThinkPoint page.

To find out more you can contact us on 020 3301 3303 or e-mail oliver.johnson@point-topic.com 


[1] There will be generally a lag to the operator announcements for premises passed at the time since it takes us time to properly track and audit any new deployments, unless the operators tell us about them.

[2] We are slightly behind the figure reported by Thinkbroadband due to the differences in our methodologies for counting premises

[3] Differently from our previous updates, we do not report CityFibre and its reseller ISPs as separate networks in a specific area any more to avoid duplication.