The UK government aims to build a full-fibre network connecting 15 million premises by 2025 and to deliver nationwide fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) by 2033.
It plans to do this by promoting investment and encouraging a competitive environment for fibre deployment and infrastructure.
The reason for this is because the UK currently has relatively low uptake of full-fibre networks. According to Globaldata, approximately 8% of UK premises have access to full-fibre connections. Spain and Portugal, on the other hand, have about 71% and 89% respectively, with Germany more similar to the UK.
Full-fibre is needed to support consumers’ growing dependence and demand for data-intensive services such as video content streaming.
Additionally, fibre infrastructure is important for the support of 5G growth. This is because the backhaul (the connection between the mobile mast and core network) is often provided by fibre cables and can help the data-heavy volumes of the 5G network.
The government wishes to avoid a case where data demand outstrips capacity on existing broadband networks. Sky News reported that BT Group and other local broadband players are in talks with the government for a copper broadband switch-off. The final switch-off deadline could potentially take place by 2027 under a staggered approach.
In line with expectations to deliver high-speed fixed broadband, several operators are investing heavily in fibre.
In August this year, Openreach announced it would be accelerating its rollout of FTTP over the next 12 months. This forms part of their ‘fibre first’ programme which aims to achieve coverage for 4 million premises by March 2021.
As part of ‘project lightning’, Virgin Media aims to cover 4 million premises by the end of 2020, although this connection includes a mix of full-fibre and cable broadband lines.
CityFibre aims to deploy full-fibre to 5 million businesses and homes by 2025.
Hyperoptic plans on passing 500,000 premises by the end of 2019 with fibre, in line with their ambition to roll out an additional 1.5 million connections by 2022.
GlobalData expects the UK’s proportion of fibre to grow from 3% in 2019 to 13% by 2024 as shown below: