Alternative providers connect 1m to full fibre broadband

Nearly one million premises in the UK can now receive ‘ultrafast’ broadband speeds of more than 1Gbps from alternative network (altnet) providers.

The figures, released by the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) highlight the scale of fibre to the premise (FTTP) rollout from altnets, which are establishing themselves as the third biggest investors in full fibre, behind BT Openreach and Virgin Media.

Companies such as CityFibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear have built networks in both urban and rural parts of the country, hoping to serve underserved communities, businesses, and consumers seeking faster speeds. It is also estimated that a further two million premises in rural areas can be connected by fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband.

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By 2019, it is estimated that 1.92 million properties will be covered by altnets with 554,700 live connections. At present, there are 207,000 live fixed connections and 100,000 FWA connections and it is expected that by 2025, coverage will have expanded to 14.25 million homes and businesses – more than half of the UK population – with 4.8 million live connections.

INCA said more than £2.5 billion in private investment and a supportive regulatory environment, driven by the government’s full fibre ambitions for the UK.

“This report shows that the altnets are making great progress in both urban and rural areas,” said INCA’s CEO Malcolm Corbett. “They are delivering the future-proofed digital infrastructure the country needs for long-term prosperity. The investment and competitive dynamic these companies have introduced mean that we will get ultrafast full fibre networks and high-speed wireless broadband much faster than simply relying on the incumbent.

“Government support for the sector is tremendously helpful and with continued support altnets can speed up the deployment of new networks and services.”

“It's fantastic to see the growth of the new companies building fibre and wireless networks,” added Digital Minister Margot James. “We're creating the right environment to stimulate industry investment, and I'm delighted by the altnets' ambitious plans to reach millions more homes and businesses over the next few years.”

Only a small percentage of UK broadband connections are delivered via fibre to the premise (FTTP), with the overwhelming majority making use of copper for the final few hundred metres of the connection. In addition to the altnet investments, both Openreach and Virgin Media are investing in FTTP infrastructure. Mobile operators are keen for more fibre deployments as this helps support their networks, most notably in the area of backhaul.

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