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Report: Full-fibre tops 17m UK homes

December 19, 2023

By Colin Mann

A record 17 million UK homes have access to full-fibre broadband, with 4.6 million now taking it up, according to regulator Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report.

For the first time, full-fibre broadband is available to over half of homes in all four of the UK nations. Northern Ireland leads the way, with over nine in 10 homes (91 per cent) able to get full fibre.

Overall, 28 per cent of homes and businesses that can access full-fibre have taken it up, with 4.6 million premises now connected. Take-up in rural areas is nearly double that of urban homes (49 per cent vs. 25 per cent).

“The rapid rise in availability of full-fibre broadband is good news for people and businesses across the UK, with millions more able to benefit from fast, reliable and future-proof Internet,” says Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director. “When the time comes to take out a new broadband contract, we encourage people to shop around and find out what options are available to make sure they are on the best package for their needs.”

There’s been a further reduction in the number of homes and businesses unable to access ‘decent’ broadband in the last year, decreasing by over a quarter (27 per cent) to 61,000 premises. We estimate that around 11,000 of these will be connected via publicly funded schemes by next year, showing more progress to come as the nation becomes increasingly connected.

Additionally, more homes are taking up satellite broadband, with around 42,000 UK customers connected to Starlink’s satellite service (up from 13,000 last year) – the majority in rural areas.

The availability of 5G continues to grow rapidly, with estimated coverage provided outside of UK premises by at least one operator of over 85 per cent [3] – a rise on last year’s 67 per cent. 5G traffic has shown around 140 per cent growth, representing around 17 per cent of total mobile traffic.

The majority of mobile traffic continues to be carried over 4G, accounting for over four fifths (81 per cent) of total data traffic. Widely accessible across the UK, 4G coverage is available from all operators outside more than 98 per cent of UK premises.

Mobile network operators are starting to switch off their 3G networks, with EE, Vodafone and Three planning on doing so next year followed by Virgin Media O2 in 2025. Ofcom data shows that there are around 2.4 million devices still reliant on 2G or 3G networks, which has more than halved from last year’s estimated 5.5 million. Of all network data traffic, just 3 per cent is used by 3G, which has decreased by over two fifths (44 per cent) year on year.

Ofcom continues its work to ensure consumers are treated fairly and that disruption is minimised during the 3G switch-off process.

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