Half of UK premises now have access to gigabit broadband

The UK could reach 65% to 68% gigabit coverage by early 2022, according to ThinkBroadband

Half of all premises in the UK now have access to ultra-fast gigabit-capable broadband

That's according to new figures from ThinkBroadband, which found that 50.2% of UK homes and businesses are able to reach download speeds of 1,000Mbps, up from only 6% in 2019.

Virgin Media O2 is “the main driver” behind the achievement, Enders analyst James Barford told IT Pro. The newly-merged telecom giant recently expanded its gigabit network to cover more than 10 million premises across the UK, with areas of Stourbridge, West Dunbartonshire, and Solihull seeing the most significant increases in gigabit coverage, according to DCMS.

“People who didn’t have great speeds are now leaping up to gigabit capability,” said Barford.

Speaking at the Connected Britain conference, Virgin Media O2 Lutz Schüler said that by the end 2021, 16 million homes will be “completely gigabit enabled” as part of the company’s plans to connect the “entire network to gigabit speeds by the end of the year”.

“We are looking for ways to accelerate our rollout,” he told attendees at the event. “The government has pledged 85% of the country with gigabit connectivity by 2025. Two-thirds of that [will be] delivered by the end of this year.”

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The UK could reach 65% to 68% gigabit coverage in early 2022, according to ThinkBroadband editor Andrew Ferguson, under the condition that “existing plans from providers come to fruition”.

Virgin Media O2 is planning to “play the leading role in delivering most of the government’s broadband target ahead of schedule and boosting the UK up the global broadband league tables”.

The latest findings place the UK at 43rd place in worldwide broadband speeds, with an average of 51.48Mbps. However, Schüler told attendees of Connected Britain that Virgin Media O2’s broadband speeds are almost four times faster than the national average, at 195Mbps.

Despite the UK passing the 50% gigabit coverage milestone, Barford said there’s still “a lot of work to do”.

“The challenges [are] in the coverage targets, once you get beyond the Virgin Media Network,” he told IT Pro. Rolling out gigabit broadband in rural parts of the UK has proven to be a costly investment, causing the government to consider routing fibre optic cables through the existing water pipe network.

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