The number of homes and businesses in the UK that are able to access full fibre broadband has risen to 2.5 million, with the country adding a further 400,000 premises to this technology since the last official figures were released in the spring.
This is according to Ofcom’s latest interim Connected Nations report, which noted that this equates to eight per cent of properties and means some 1.1 million premises have been connected in the last year.
Ofcom stated: “There is now growing competition in the full fibre market with a range
of larger and smaller full fibre providers rolling out networks in various parts of the country. The increase in availability shows these commercial roll-outs are now building at the fastest ever rate for full fibre in the UK.”
Overall, the proportion of UK homes and businesses that can access superfast broadband services – those offering download speeds of at least 30Mbps – has remained steady at around 95 per cent. Ultrafast broadband, which is defined as speeds of at least 300Mbps, is also broadly stable at 54 per cent of premises.
While full fibre is the primary method of delivering gigabit-cable broadband, Ofcom noted that this is not the only solution, as there are other technologies that can deliver a comparable service.
It stated, for instance, that the rollout of 5G mobile services around the UK could help bring these speeds to rural parts of the UK that are hard to reach with fibre cables, using technologies such as Fixed Wireless Access.
Ofcom highlighted Vodafone’s Gigacube product as one example of operators looking to take advantage of 5G to increase the coverage of ultrafast broadband services.
However, commentators have suggested that if the UK is to meet ambitious targets to bring gigabit speeds to the whole of the UK by the end of 2025 – as proposed by prime minister Boris Johnson earlier this year – full fibre will have to be the focus of investment.
Fiona Vanier, from consultant firm CCS Insight, told the BBC: “[Deployment of] fibre will need to grow at a faster rate if it is to reach the 100 per cent target in the next six years … While 5G can be used for Fixed Wireless Access, coverage is limited and as such it will not be able to compete with full fibre in the short or medium term.”