The UK government had hoped that 95% of households across the UK would be covered by superfast broadband by the end of 2017, and it appears that target has finally been reached. That means 27.1 million homes across the UK will now be able to access broadband speeds in excess of 24Mbps, although that isn’t quite a reality for all communities.
Openreach, BT’s broadband infrastructure division, was in charge of ensuring 95% of the UK had access to superfast broadband, but it’s clear that some communities were more important than others. Areas such as Epson and Ewell, Tamworth, Worthing, and Watford, all reported over 99% of superfast coverage, whereas the City of London boasted just 50.3%.
The government spent considerable cash in order to get BT to roll-out superfast broadband to 95% of the country. This funding came despite criticism from many that public funds were being used to further BT’s monopoly over broadband infrastructure. Former Public Accounts Committee head, Margaret Hodge, noted that the deal between the government and BT represented ‘extremely poor value for money’ for the taxpayer.
Despite the source of funds, BT has achieved the goals set out by the government, and will have to pay back some of the money if its customer base soars. The government has already clawed back £440m, although it has spent far more, with the contracts worth an estimated £1.7bn.
With the roll-out of superfast broadband to more people than ever before, it’s now believed that if everyone signed up for the fastest package available to them, then the UK’s average broadband speed would be around 188.6mbps. That far surpasses the current number one country, South Korea, which boasts an average speed of just 28.6mbps.
A mammoth task
Openreach has spent the last 12 months connecting an additional 774,000 premises to the superfast broadband network, with 5,600 engineers having been given the mammoth task.
Commenting on Openreach’s role, Clive Selley, notes: “Everyone at Openreach is determined to deliver decent broadband speeds to every home and business in Britain. That is our mission, and we won’t be happy until every property from Land’s End to John O’Groats has access to decent speeds. But today represents an important milestone in this mission, and it’s important for me to recognise the huge contribution of our engineers and planners in what has been a titanic and complex engineering project.
“More than 27 million homes have been upgraded since 2009, and the UK now enjoys faster speeds, and broader coverage than all of the major EU economies. I’m proud that Openreach people have played the leading role in one of Britain’s great engineering achievements.”
Even faster broadband is coming
The UK government is not yet content with the superfast speeds that are being offered to 95% of the population, however. The Department of Culture, Media & Sport are investing a further £1bn in the faster roll-out of full fibre optic networks, with the government hoping to give homeowners and businesses access to speeds up to 1gbps.
Openreach already has 390,000 UK premises that are connected to its G.fast broadband network, which promises speeds up to 330mbps, although there isn’t a single major ISP that is taking advantage of those high speeds. The roll-out is also limited to just a few towns and cities across the UK, including Bath, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Swansea, and Gillingham in Kent.
There are also companies building their own networks to make ultrafast broadband a reality. That includes the likes of Hyperoptic, which is offering gigabit broadband in around 28 towns and cities across the UK, equating to roughly 350,000 homes and businesses. The provider isn’t stopping there, however. Last year it secured an additional £100m in investment, which should make gigabit broadband speeds available to even more consumers.