A report has revealed that the UK’s independent network providers (altnets) increased their full-fibre coverage by 50 per cent in 2019, up from 23 per cent growth in 2018, to pass 1.2 million premises.
Compiled for the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) by Point Topic using data provided by independent network operators, the report – Metrics for the UK independent network sector – shows strong continued investment – with financial-related announcements up by £936 million – and growth in network deployment by altnets. Rural fixed wireless connections remain stable.
There has been a significant push by the Government in recent years to provide full-fibre for all, and this is reflected in the industry as it aims to reach 2.4 million premises with full-fibre at the end of 2020 and 15.7 million premises by end-2025. Being able to achieve this is dependent on a number of factors listed in the report, including delivery times for services from Openreach or other operators, and getting wayleaves.
“The substantial increase from last year is very promising,” said Malcolm Corbett, CEO at INCA. “These impressive results are reflected in the scale of investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure. We calculate that a commitment of £6.6 billion has been announced for the independent operators. Coronavirus has demonstrated clearly the reliance we all have on connectivity. We look forward to seeing Government continuing to prioritise renewal of the UK’s digital infrastructure, both fixed-line and wireless.”
At the forefront of everybody’s minds is the Covid-19 pandemic. As noted in the report, this is having a serious impact on the telecommunications sector along with the rest of society. However, the report notes that many of the operators’ other concerns are being addressed. Planning and street work delays and/or costs, which was last year’s top issue has moved down the list, suggesting that work done by Government and local authorities is starting to pay-off.
In its assessment of 2019, the report gathered evidence suggesting that the UK’s independent network operators passed 1.2 million homes with fixed superfast or ultrafast broadband. The majority of these use ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premises or home (FTTP/H) and Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) technology. Fixed wireless networks can address up to 2.3 million premises, though this is more challenging to assess accurately. The research shows that connections to WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers) remain stable at around 110,000. Independent full-fibre providers now have 366,000 live connections, up 23 per cent since last year.
“The independent network operator sector has seen some fantastic growth from last year,” notes Annelise Berendt, Principal Associate at Point Topic. “It is clear from the report that independent operators are playing a significant role in helping the UK Government reach their full-fibre targets.”