It has been a year since our last update on the progress of fibre connectivity in Scotland. We track the winners and losers and highlight the ones to watch.
Source: Think Broadband, February 2021
On average 16.89% of UK households are estimated to have fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) availability which compares to an average of 15% in 2020. This is good news and we note that ten Scottish local authority areas appear above the UK average compared to only six last year.
It is noticeable that five of the top ten local authorities are in areas where CityFibre has made FTTP investments, including Stirling which tops the pack, followed by Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Mid and West Lothian. However, it should also be noted that the increase in FTTP is also down to Openreach's GBP 12 billion investment in full fibre infrastructure to connect 20 million premises (circa 72% of premises) across the UK including in hard to reach areas. For example, East Ayrshire has the greatest growth in FTTP availability compared to last year. East Ayrshire is not a CityFibre region and we put this down to the Scottish Government’s broadband intervention driving the rollout of Openreach FTTP.
It is of no surprise that all three island authorities still fare the lowest in terms of fibre availability and have not changed significantly from last year. However, some notable outliers include Dundee and West Dunbartonshire are also in the bottom ten.
The one to watch is Renfrewshire which announced a GBP 40 million private investment from CityFibre in 2020 to bring FTTP to its residential and business premises. Intelligens Consulting was lead advisor to Renfrewshire Council on the intervention. Another one to watch is East Lothian, where fixed wireless operator Lothian Broadband has recently announced plans to serve some 50,000 properties with fibre connectivity. It will also be interesting to observe the impact of the Scottish Government's R100 programme and the UK Government's 'Final 20' programme upon FTTP availability in rural and hard to reach areas.
It is worth noting that this analysis ignores any progress being made by Virgin Media to upgrade their network to DOCSIS 3.1, however, Virgin Media is also looking at a full fibre future particularly in regions outside their current footprint.
Currently the UK currently ranks third bottom in Europe in terms of fibre availability. Full fibre and gigabit availability are essential building blocks to securing our place in the digital economy ensuring the UK remains an attractive prospect for foreign investment. This even more important in a post Brexit and post Pandemic era as we shift to an online model for living, learning and working. Last year the Scottish Government published a full fibre charter to extend full fibre broadband access across Scotland.
Intelligens Consulting is an award winning telecoms advisor with a global client base providing investors, operators and policy makers with technical, strategic and commercial advice. Our founder, Iqbal Singh Bedi has advised the Prime Minister and Scotland’s First Minister on telecoms policy and our landmark research has been used to inform the House of Commons and the Scottish Government on 5G policy.