Independent modelling has revealed that 4.3 million UK homes and businesses now have the option of subscribing to gigabit broadband.
Thinkbroadband has found that availability of gigabit connections—those delivering speeds in excess of 1 Gbps or 1000Mbps—now stands at 14.32%.
The majority of gigabit coverage is delivered by full-fibre networks. Openreach and a range of alternative network providers, such as Hyperoptic, CityFibre and Gigaclear, have connected 3.7 million premises, or 12.4%, to FTTP networks thus far.
The remainder of gigabit connections are delivered by Virgin Media, which is rapidly upgrading its existing cable network to support speeds of more than 1Gbps. By the end of 2019, Virgin’s 1.1Gbps-capable Gig1 service had reached one million households. Virgin anticipates it will reach 15 million premises with the service by the end of 2021, which alone will take national gigabit coverage to around 50%.
Gigabit broadband availability is highest in Hull, where KCOM’s full-fibre rollout has reached nearly 99% of premises. But Reading, Southampton and Bolton—the first cities to benefit from Virgin’s network upgrade— are all enjoying gigabit coverage nearing or exceeding 80%, with full-fibre connections which remain below average.
The government has pledged to connect all UK premises to gigabit broadband by 2025, after walking back Boris Johnson’s leadership election promise to deliver universal full-fibre coverage by that date. However, broadband watcher ISPreview has predicted that the private sector alone will only reach between 60% to 70% of premises by that date.
The government itself has committed £5 billion to connect the hardest to reach 20% of households, mostly in rural areas. Openreach has previously forecast that the hardest to reach 10% of households may cost as much as £4,000 per premise to connect to full-fibre.
However, the government’s commitment to deliver gigabit speeds rather than full-fibre will allow it to use alternative technologies to achieve its goal, including 5G and Fixed Wire Access (FWA). Virgin Media has previously estimated the using wireless radio links can reduce the cost of building fibre networks in remote regions by as much as 90%.
Last week, Thinkbroadband revealed that 60% of UK households can access ultrafast broadband, with speeds exceeding 100Mbps, from full-fibre networks, Virgin Media cable or G.fast connections.