The latest figures from telecoms industry regulator Ofcom have revealed that full fibre is now available to approximately 400,000 more UK properties than in 2018. This works out to be about 8% of all UK premises, equating to a one percentage point gain.
In January this year, Ofcom reported that full fibre connections were available to 7.1% of UK premises, which worked out to be 2,092,302 (2.1 million) homes across the country.
While 8% may not sound like a significant percentage, it's worth noting the formidable engineering and logistical challenge presented with installing full fibre in every home in the UK.
Countries with comparatively high levels of full fibre coverage, such as Japan and South Korea, have much higher population densities, with large proportions of people living in cities and urban areas. This reduces the cost-per-premises of deploying full fibre connections.
Cost estimates from the Government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) and the National Infrastructure Commission were both around the £30 billion mark spent over a 30 year period. This is roughly £11.5 billion more than simply upgrading the existing copper network, and would save the industry £5.1 billion in operating costs between 2020 and 2050.
For starters, fibre broadband is a type of internet connection that is delivered via fibre-optic cables, rather than traditional copper phone lines. The ‘optic’ part comes from optical technology, which essentially converts data into pulses of light. Fibre-optic cables are made of glass or plastic — materials that allow those pulses to travel at light-speed to their destination — making it much faster than standard copper-wire broadband.
However, there is a big difference between fibre broadband and full fibre connections. Fibre broadband cables are used to deliver internet access to your local cabinet (that green box at the end of your street with lots of phone lines plugged into it), with the connection to your home completed with copper wires.
A full fibre connection means fibre optic cables are connected directly to your home, offering dramatically faster and more reliable broadband connections.
Full fibre connections are also cheaper to maintain and operate and will be vital in supporting high-capacity mobile broadband networks, particularly future 5G networks.
Fibre broadband tends to have speeds around 35Mbps to 66Mbps, whereas full fibre connections are capable of delivering speeds of 1Gbps and above (Note: 1 Gbps is equal to 1000 Mbps).
Ofcom mentioned that it expects to see the 8% figure jump dramatically once Scotland’s Reaching 100% (R100) broadband initiative begins. March 2020 will also see the introduction of DCMS's universal service obligation, which means that any household that cannot achieve download speeds of at least 10Mbps and uploads of at least 1Mbps can demand that either BT or KCOM Group provide this service.
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