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ARTICLE: 2023 'State of Fibre' update

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Our last ‘State of Fibre’ update was published in June 2022. Since then, it has been remarkable to witness fibre investment in the UK reach new levels and fibre build gather pace. This latest update is based on Think Broadband January 2023 data and presents the best performing council areas by fibre availability across the four nations including in London. In addition, we consider the ‘rising stars’ which are areas with the greatest increase in absolute full fibre availability. We also reveal our ‘Gold Star’ for the Council with the greatest overall increase in full fibre availability since June 2022.

As of January 2023, the number of UK premises with access to full fibre broadband was 41 percent. This is an increase of eight percent from June 2022 when the number of premises with access to fibre coverage was 33 percent. Kingston upon Hull remains as the most fibre connected place in the UK with near one-hundred percent coverage as shown below.

Figure 1 – Intelligens Consulting Fibre Tracker. Source: Think Broadband, 03 January 2023.

Scotland still lags the UK

From a regional perspective, Scotland has fallen further behind the UK average than six months ago.

Fibre coverage in Scotland has increased from 29 percent to 36 percent. This puts Scotland five percent behind the UK average whereas it was only four percent behind the UK in June 2022.

Aberdeen still holds Scotland’s top spot with 77 percent of premises with access to full fibre broadband. Edinburgh and Midlothian remain in the top five with Aberdeen which are now joined by Clackmannanshire and Renfrewshire.

Renfrewshire is one of Scotland’s best performing areas

In 2020, Intelligens Consulting pioneered a landmark fibre intervention in Renfrewshire which has helped the region accelerate to third place with 69 percent fibre availability.

This is up from 47 percent in June 2022 making it Scotland’s second highest performing region, increasing its full fibre availability by 22 percent in only six months.

However, the greatest increase in fibre availability was in Dundee which has enabled an additional 30 percent of premises since June 2022. Rising stars Renfrewshire and

Dundee are joined by Clackmannanshire, Glasgow, and Midlothian. The increase in fibre availability across these areas ranges from 12 to 30 percent since June 2022. These increases mean Stirling and East Ayrshire are no longer in the top five.

The pace picked up in England and our ‘Gold Star’ goes to…

The question is whether the build pace has slowed down in Scotland or whether the rest of the UK has picked up pace.

Fibre coverage in England has increased to an average of 40 percent, which is an increase of eight percent since June 2022, and is the fastest increase of the four nations.

This compared to an increase of seven percent in Scotland and suggests a greater build pace in England, which we believe is partly spurred by greater investor interest in England and the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Project Gigabit which has started to gather pace in England.

Kingston upon Hull remains in England’s top place with near 100 percent full fibre availability. Peterborough, Coventry, and Milton Keynes all remain in the top five which are now joined by Worthing replacing East Riding of Yorkshire.

England’s rising stars are Eastbourne, Wolverhampton, Lancaster, Bracknell, and Ipswich. Fibre availability by premises passed has increased in these areas ranging from 29 and 36 percent within the last six months.

Our Gold Star goes to Eastbourne Council

Our Gold Star for the greatest increase in fibre coverage out of all UK council areas goes to Eastbourne which has increased fibre availability by 36 percent since June 2022. Eastbourne has benefitted from significant private investment increasing its fibre availability.

Wales remains ahead of the UK average, but only just

The build pace in England has helped it catchup with Wales and data suggests England could overtake Wales by the end of 2023.

Fibre availability in Wales is currently 42 percent which is two percent ahead of England and only one percent ahead of the UK average. Wales was three percent ahead of

England in June 2022 suggesting England is closing the gap.

The top five council areas in Wales remain unchanged although the top spot is now held by the Vale of Glamorgan with a fibre availability of 72 percent – one of top five fastest growth areas in Wales – followed by Denbighshire, Flintshire, Cardiff, and Merthyr Tydfil.

Growth in Wales is below the growth seen by rising stars in Scotland and England

The other rising stars in addition to Glamorgan include Conwy, Newport, Bridgend, and Pembrokeshire. The increase in fibre availability across these areas ranges from 10 to 18 percent. This growth is well below the growth in fibre availability of the rising stars in Scotland and England.

London demonstrates strong performance

Average fibre availability in London has increased from 43 percent in June 2022 to 50 percent, which is in line with the increase in Scotland and Wales although slightly behind England as a whole.

There is no surprise that Fibre availability is strongest in the central London boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, City of Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Camden.

Although, readers may be surprised to learn that fibre availability in these top five boroughs is not as high as some parts of England or Northern Ireland.

Fibre availability in the London boroughs lags parts of the UK

However, the difference in fibre availability between the top-five London boroughs is only seven percent which compares to a 15 percent difference between the top five in Scotland, 16 percent difference in England and 11 percent difference in Wales. This suggests a more cohesive build strategy in London owing to its dense demographic.

London’s rising stars are the boroughs of Sutton, Waltham Forrest, Redbridge, Greenwich and Bexley. The increase in fibre availability across these areas ranges from 11 to 23 percent of premises passed since June 2022.

Northern Ireland tops the lot

Northern Ireland remains the UK’s front runner with full fibre availability up from 83 percent in June 2022 to 87 percent, as of January 2023. Consequently, the build rate is lower than that of other UK regions as it becomes more challenging to extend fibre coverage to less populous areas.

Northern Ireland’s growth rate is the lowest of all UK regions

The top five council areas in Northern Ireland remain unchanged from June 2022 comprising Belfast, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Derry and Strabane, and Ards and North Down.

The rising stars are Fermanagh and Omagh, Mourne and Down, Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon, Mid Ulster, Causeway Coast and Glens. The increase in fibre availability across these areas ranges from two to eight percent of premises passed since June 2022. This growth rate is the lowest of all UK regions which is to be expected as it becomes more challenging to extend fibre coverage to less populous areas.

About Intelligens Consulting

Intelligens Consulting is a telecoms and smart city management consultant to investors, operators and public bodies with a global client base. Our expert and senior team is experienced in networks, strategy, economics, procurement, and financing. We provide, strategic, technical and commercial advice. Please contact me on should you wish to discuss anything discussed in this thought piece.

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