Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's Group Director, Network and Communications:
Full-fibre internet will reach half of UK homes next month, Ofcom has announced, as construction of the country’s new broadband backbone continues
Full-fibre broadband is better broadband. It’s more reliable, and many times faster than the average ‘superfast’ connections people have largely used in recent years.
Just five years ago, only 6% of homes could get full fibre. But thanks to competition and investment from network builders, that had reached 42% by September last year.
Based on our current data, Ofcom now expects the 50% threshold to be passed in March, and to reach more than 80% within the next two years. There’s still a lot of work to do to bring faster connections to all parts of the country, but progress in recent years has been rapid.
Why competition matters
When firms compete to build better networks, that leads to more investment and innovation. So Ofcom has set rules for the wholesale broadband market designed to boost competition, and ensure a level playing field among operators like Openreach, Virgin Media and a range of smaller, ‘alternative’ network providers.
The numbers speak for themselves. These challenger firms are doubling their collective footprint each year, and together they expect to reach 11.5m homes by the end of this year. Investment in independent broadband builders is strong, and expected to reach £17bn by 2025.
For Ofcom, the alternative networks to Openreach provide a vital part of our strategy for better broadband. They help form the engine room of the UK’s digital infrastructure.
Healthy, effective competition also means keeping a close eye on the biggest network firm, Openreach, to ensure it doesn’t use its market position to distort competition in the market. At the moment, we’re examining a new pricing plan from Openreach. We have invited views from across industry on this, and will announce our decision by the end of March.
Alongside that, we are gathering information on whether regular pricing changes, like those announced by Openreach this year, are making it harder for other firms to compete fairly. And in June, we’ll publish our latest report on whether Openreach is sticking to our rules.
If we see evidence of any company acting in a way that distorts or prevents competition, we won’t hesitate to step in. Competition is the force that is driving better broadband for everyone. By promoting it, and keeping it fair and effective, we can help secure the UK’s digital future.
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