Politicians love a good pledge. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no exception. After dismissing the UK’s current target for 2033, Johnson has a very different plan for how full fibre rollout should look. And it’s ambitious, that’s for sure.
What does Boris want?
That’s a big question. While his inner thoughts are a mystery, Boris Johnson recently let us all in on his plans for the UK’s broadband network. In his weekly column for The Telegraph, Johnson pledged full fibre coverage by 2025.
The original plan was for the UK to have full fibre coverage by 2033. It’s a way off, which makes it much more achievable. Unfortunately, Johnson was quoted in his column stating it is “laughably unambitious”. Yikes. We hope this new pledge was made with some insight into the industry.
Is it unachievable?
It’s a nice idea, but Johnson’s new pledge is controversial.
Telecoms experts have dismissed Johnson’s pledge, suggesting it’s just not possible. At least, not without a massive investment. And there’s no hint of any additional funding, investment or incentives.
Bringing the target forward by eight years creates a huge number of issues. For a start, someone would need to be incentivised to deliver the fibre network. That’s likely to be Openreach, BT’s infrastructure arm.
“There’s no way of knowing whether your town or city will be covered in 2020 or 2025. Or 2033.”
Openreach is making progress with a rollout of BT full fibre, but not at this scale. Right now they’re opening up BT full fibre to 20,000 premises a week. They’d need to quadruple their efforts, if not more, to hit Johnson’s date. That just doesn’t seem likely.
And it’s not just funding infrastructure that’s an issue. Even if incentives are in place, you still need people to do the work. A project this big demands a huge number of engineers. So many in fact that it’s likely we’d need to source candidates from overseas.... Then there’s the reality of buying and stockpiling a massive amount of fibre optic cabling. It’s a logistical and financial migraine.
There’s no disagreement that the UK needs a full fibre network. It’s just that it’s likely to be on the industry’s timeframe, not Boris Johnson’s.
What is full fibre, anyway?
Full fibre is a lot like the internet that we currently use, just faster.
Most of us now have fibre broadband in our homes. We’re used to speeds of around 50-76Mbps – perfect for Netflix and gaming. This type of broadband is known as fibre to the cabinet (FTTC).
With FTTC, fibre optic cables carry the broadband to your local street cabinet. From there it reaches our homes and businesses through older, copper cable. It’s fine for most uses, but speeds are capped around 76Mbps. The existing technology simply can’t provide faster speeds.
Full fibre is a faster, more reliable version of the fibre we’re used to. It’s known as fibre to the premises (FTTP), because that fibre optic cable now runs straight to your home or business. This means your internet is faster – up to 1Gbps. That’s a huge bump in speed.
What would a full fibre network mean for us?
The most noticeable difference would be faster broadband. That’s always a win. There are other bonuses too, like a more reliable service.
So much of what we do now revolves around the internet. Gone are the days where webpages would take forever to load – they now generally load quickly. With full fibre broadband, they’d load instantly. Online gaming is suddenly much easier. You’d notice less slowdown at busy times.
“Currently, seven per cent of UK homes and premises have access to full fibre broadband...”
Full fibre is great news for casual home users, but even better news for businesses. When you have teams of people sharing an internet connection you notice the speed a lot more. Even more so if you run a lot of web-based apps. Or you’re a design agency that’s always uploading and downloading files.
Superfast speeds up to 1Gbps have traditionally only been available with a leased line. They’re great, but they’re an investment. If you’re just starting a business you might want to stick to a more familiar contract. With a full fibre network, faster speeds are much more accessible. You’ve got more options.
Can I get full fibre in my area?
As you’ve probably guessed, full fibre isn’t available everywhere. Currently, seven per cent of UK homes and premises have access to full fibre broadband. That isn’t much, but it’s steadily increasing.
Openreach is contracted to maintain the UK’s broadband network, so BT full fibre is one of the major products available. Other companies like Virgin Media Business and CityFibre also offer full fibre, using Openreach’s network.
“Is your business part of the lucky seven per cent that can already get full fibre?”
Coverage isn’t just dominated by the industry giants, though. Last year, independent networks increased their FTTP coverage by 30 per cent. This means, there’s soon to be a lot of choice for anyone that wants full fibre at home or for their business.
Is your business part of the lucky seven per cent that can already get full fibre? Find out right now with our free FTTP checker.
What if I can’t get full fibre?
Discovered you can’t access full fibre just yet? Don’t worry as 2033 – I mean 2025 – isn’t too far away. Still, you need faster internet and you want it now.
Most providers offer similar speeds, so you’ll find most fibre (FTTC) plans only offer up to 76Mbps download speed. If that just doesn’t cut it any more, a leased line is a brilliant alternative. These connect you directly to the network, so you get faster internet and your own dedicated line.
When am I likely to get full fibre in my area?
Annoyingly, there’s no masterplan for the UK’s full fibre rollout. There’s no way of knowing whether your town or city will be covered in 2020 or 2025. Or 2033.
You’re only likely to find out shortly before full fibre lands in your area. Some providers keep a list of upcoming locations, so check BT’s full fibre rollout list. CityFibre also keeps a list of future Gigabit Cities, so try there too.
We look forward to the day where every UK home and business has access to full fibre. Whether we make it by 2025, 2033 or miss both targets entirely remains to be seen.
Thanks anyway, Boris.