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

Quarterly update on superfast and ultrafast broadband deployments in the UK

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.

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.

Key headlines:

  • As of the end of September 2021, Virgin Media’s gigabit capable Docsis 3.1 footprint covers 11.6m premises, with more than 4 million added in Q3 2021.
  • Openreach added nearly 600K FTTP premises in Q3 2021, down from 650K in Q2 2021.
  • Six local authorities have overlapping networks from three independent fibre network operators, while 67 local authorities have two independent fibre networks intersecting.
  • More than 23% of premises in the London borough of Southwark are covered by two independent fibre networks. Westminster follows with 18%.
  • Some 16,000 residential premises in Tower Hamlets could be an attractive target for ultrafast broadband deployment.

At the end of Q3 2021, the total FTTP coverage including Openreach, Virgin Media RFOG and independent fibre networks was 8.8 million premises (27.9% of the UK premises). Virgin Media O2 passed 36.7% of UK premises with their Docsis 3.1 based Gig1 network. The total FTTP/Docsis 3.1 coverage is however lower than the sum of the two figures as FTTP and Docsis 3.1 networks, as well as various FTTP networks, overlap in some areas.

Openreach network deployment

Openreach full fibre rollout continues at a steady pace. Having added almost 600,000 premises, they increased their FTTP footprint to 5.1 million by the end of Q3 2021. The number of their FTTC and ADSL premises has continued to decline as Openreach are focusing on FTTP deployment, aiming to cover 25 million premises with this technology by the end of 2026. To reach that goal, however, they will have to pass close to a million new premises a quarter between now and 2026.

Table 1. Openreach premises passed, by broadband technology

Openreach technologyPremises passed, Sep 2021Premises passed, Jun 2021Change Jun – Sep 2021
adsl1,666,0501,711,652– 45,602
fttc22,000,83922,567,595– 566,756
gfast2,357,5442,338,45319,091
fttp1,050,3291,002,03948,290
fttp-fttc3,673,1153,128,131544,984
fttp-gfast-fttc64,02762,7301,297
fttponly321,742318,6313,111
any fttp (sum  of 4-7)5,109,213[2]4,511,531 597,682

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

 

Table 2. Top ten local authorities by Openreach FTTP footprint

Local authorityPremises passed, Sep 2021
Birmingham190,714
Leeds177,593
Belfast148,392
Cornwall123,525
City of Edinburgh119,658
Bristol, City of106,031
Wirral103,949
Liverpool86,507
Coventry82,183
Cardiff72,030

 

Smaller local authorities, many of which are located 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

Local authority% premises passed by Openreach FTTP, Sep 2021
Belfast85.3%
Ards and North Down76.1%
Epsom and Ewell70.6%
Lisburn and Castlereagh70.3%
Antrim and Newtownabbey69.9%
Mid and East Antrim69.9%
Derry City and Strabane68.6%
Wirral66.1%
Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon64.5%
Exeter64.5%

 

Premises passed by Openreach’s FTTP network

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

 

 

Virgin Media O2 footprint upgrades

Virgin Media O2 have dramatically accelerated their broadband network rollout compared to the previous quarter. By the end of September 2021, the operator added 4.1 million premises to its Docsis 3.1 based Gig1 footprint to reach the total of 11.6 million.

In addition, with almost a million RFOG premisses passed, Virgin Media O2 remain the second largest FTTP network operator in the UK after Openreach.

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

TechnologyPremises passed, Sep 2021Premises passed, Jun 2021Premises added Jun – Sep 2021Premises added Mar – Jun 2021
Gig111,554,9977,425,2724,129,725107,855
RFOG979,478957,24822,23033,748

According to their recent announcement, CityFibre have also reached a 1 million premises milestone although this is not reflected in our data yet. It is possible that they include premises where the network has been built but is not live yet.

In terms of the percentage of premises covered by Virgin Media O2’s Gig1 network, the top ten list continues to be dominated by London boroughs. This quarter Belfast is out of the top ten, with Worthing and Dudley joining the league (Table 5).


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

Local authority% premises passed by VM Gig1, Sep 2021
Richmond upon Thames92.8%
West Dunbartonshire92.2%
Worthing92.1%
Dudley92.1%
Waltham Forest91.8%
Merton91.3%
Redbridge91.2%
Enfield91.0%
Kingston upon Thames89.8%
Croydon89.6%

 

Compared to the previous quarter, the map of Virgin Media O2’s gigabit network coverage includes many more local authorities, with the footprint expanded in most regions (Figure 2).

 

Premises passed by Virgin Media’s Gig1 network

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

 

 

Independent fibre networks

Independent network operators have also been pushing forward with fibre rollout[3]. CityFibre is leading the way in terms of the FTTP footprint[4]. Hyperoptic has the second largest independent FTTP network approaching 0.6m premises passed, while Community fibre is a strong third. Overall, 2.5 million UK premises are passed by independent fibre networks.

 Independent network fibre footprints

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

Among the larger FTTP network operators, Community Fibre and Gigaclear grew their footprints at the highest rates (15.8% and 14.1% respectively). You Fibre nearly doubled their footprint but it grew from a small base.

Network overlap by independent fibre network operators has increased further. In Q3 2021, six local authorities had overlapping networks from three independent network operators, though the number of premises passed remained modest (Table 6).

Table 6. Local authorities with three independent fibre networks intersecting

Local authorityPremises passed,

Sep 2021

Westminster1,516
Hammersmith and Fulham1,513
Newham82
Islington76
Brent75
Kensington and Chelsea17

Another 67 local authorities had two independent networks overlapping with a total of 109,741 premises passed. The ones with more than 1,000 of premises covered are listed in Table 7. Like in the case of Virgin Media’s gigabit 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 1,000 of premises covered)

Local authorityPremises passed by

2 networks, Sep 2021

% of premises covered by 2 networks, Sep 2021
Southwark                   34,10823.1
Westminster                   15,20411.0
Hammersmith and Fulham                   15,09317.7
Tower Hamlets                   10,4006.9
Brent                     4,1913.5
Horsham                     2,5673.8
Sheffield                     2,2880.8
Camden                     2,2762.2
Bristol City of                     2,2271.1
Richmond upon Thames                     1,7842.0
Kensington and Chelsea                     1,6762.3
Newham                     1,5171.2
Islington                     1,2931.3
Lambeth                     1,2190.9
Greenwich                     1,1000.9

Across the UK, more than 113K premises had access to two or three independent fibre networks at the end of September 2021. This is still less than 1% of total UK premises, so there is plenty of scope for more competition.

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

Independent networksPremises passed,

Sep 2021

2109,741
33,279

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 September 2021 broadband availability dataset, we identified 5,671 LSOAs covering 604K 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. In 2020, it varied from 0.094 in Rother to 2.998 in the London borough of Merton.

This month, we are featuring Tower Hamlets, where we identified 87 LSOAs meeting the above criteria. They contain 250 postcodes with a total of 16,515 households and have an average attractiveness score of 2.32, varying from 2.03 to 2.94.

Tower Hamlets LSOAs with no FTTP, cable or independent network coverage.

Figure 4. Tower Hamlets LSOAs with no FTTP, cable or independent network coverage and the attractiveness score of 2.00 and higher, September 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] This quarter we changed the reporting by aggregating all CityFibre premises rather than reporting them by retail providers using CityFibre network.

[4] See our earlier caveat about their recent announcement of 1m premises passed.