Technology

Three million homes have access to full-fibre broadband

Fibre optic cables Image copyright Getty Images

Three million homes in the UK can now access full-fibre broadband, offering speeds of up to one gigabit per second.

That's a sharp rise from this time last year when just 1.6 million households could get those speeds.

But there are still 155,000 rural homes that are unable to get a decent internet service, according to Ofcom's latest report.

The government has pledged £5bn to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband to such areas.

It has also indicated that it will introduce laws to accelerate the delivery of full-fibre broadband across the UK, but without a specific timetable.

There are three main types of broadband connection that link the local telephone exchange to your home or office:

  • ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) uses copper cables to a street-level cabinet or junction box and on to the house
  • FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) uses a faster fibre-optic cable to the cabinet, but then copper cable from there to the house
  • FTTP (fibre to the premises or full-fibre) uses a fibre-optic cable to connect to households without using any copper cable

According to Ofcom's Connected Nations report:

  • 95% of homes can access superfast broadband, with speeds of at least 30Mbps (megabits per second)
  • more than half of homes (53%) can get ultrafast broadband, defined as download speeds of at least 300Mbps (megabits per second)
  • around 10% can get full-fibre speeds, up to 1Gbps (gigabits per second)
  • Northern Ireland has the highest full-fibre speeds of any UK nation, with nearly a third of homes able to receive it
  • Currently 155,000 UK properties are unable to get decent broadband, defined as a download speed of at least 10Mbps

Yih-Choung Teh, strategy and research group director at Ofcom, said: "This year we've seen full-fibre broadband grow at its fastest ever rate, and all four mobile networks launch 5G.

"But despite this good progress, there is more to do to bring all parts of the country up to speed - particularly rural areas. So we're working with industry and the government to help bring better services to people who need them."

The average cost of a full-fibre connection is £38.75 per month, according to comparison website uSwitch. This compares to an average of £25 per month for a connection up to 60Mbps, a speed which would be perfectly adequate for most current home use.

Long way to go

"As end-of-term report cards go, this is probably about as good as you can hope for," said Matthew Howett, founder of Assembly Research.

"The leap in the availability of full-fibre shows just how serious operators are in making up for lost time and how, with the right regulatory and political environment, they can go even further.

"Next year will be crucial for determining what that pace of rollout looks like as Ofcom is due to set out the rules for how such networks will be regulated for the next five years."

Comparison pricing site uSwitch said there was still "a long way to go" before one gigabit broadband was available to all.

"We are waiting to see concrete plans for how the government is going to achieve its goal of full-fibre for all, but striking the right balance between rolling it out quickly and keeping the cost to consumers down will be the real challenge.

"While Ofcom reports that 95% of the country can access superfast broadband, only 54% of consumers are currently using a fibre connection."

Millions of consumers that are still using ADSL broadband could upgrade to a superfast connection, it added.

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