UK Leads in Fibre Growth but Faces Challenges in Coverage

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In a significant development for digital infrastructure, the United Kingdom has emerged as a leader in the expansion of full fibre networks across Europe. Recent statistics have highlighted the country’s swift advancement in deploying fibre to homes, surpassing all European counterparts in the annual growth rate. Over the past year until September 2023, the UK has extended its fibre network to an additional 4.7 million households. This expansion has elevated the UK’s total to 17.1 million homes with fibre access, positioning it behind France and Turkey in overall coverage.

France leads with a substantial 26.3 million homes connected, followed by Turkey at 18 million. The UK’s rapid development is mirrored in its percentage growth and new subscriber additions, with a remarkable 38% increase in homes passed and 1.8 million new fibre subscribers within the same period. Despite these achievements, the UK still trails behind in subscriber numbers compared to France, which boasts 20.6 million fibre subscribers.

A critical area of concern for the UK is the uptake rate of full fibre services, standing at just below 30%, significantly lower than the European average. Moreover, fibre coverage in UK households lags at 57%, underscoring the need for enhanced infrastructure development to match the EU average of nearly 70%.

The fibre rollout landscape in Europe is predominantly led by alternative network providers, though traditional incumbents are gradually claiming a larger share of the market. This shift is particularly noted in countries like the UK, where initial sluggishness by major operators has given way to accelerated fibre deployment efforts.

Looking ahead, the FTTH Council anticipates the total number of homes with fibre access in the EU39 to reach 312 million by 2029, with the UK projected to secure a significant portion of this expansion. Despite the current progress, the UK, alongside Germany, faces a considerable challenge in bridging the gap to full coverage, with millions of homes yet to be connected. This ongoing effort underscores the critical role of fibre networks in shaping the future of Europe’s digital landscape.

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