UK fibre connections overtake copper for first time, Ofcom finds

Openreach unveils plans for next stage of FTTP rollout
The use of FTTC connectivity has overtaken ADSL in the UK for the first time, according to Ofcom.

A new study by Ofcom has revealed the number of fibre-based internet connections in use in the UK has exceeded the number of ADSL copper lines for the first time.

The regulator’s latest Communications Market Report revealed the majority of these use fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, meaning there is still a long way to go before targets to connect every home and business to full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections are to be met.

However, progress is being made on this front. Ofcom notes seven per cent of properties in the UK now have access to full fibre technology, up from just three per cent a year earlier, although only a small number of these actually take advantage of these capabilities.

Overall, the number of connections that can access superfast broadband – defined as download speeds of at least 30Mbps – increased by 17 per cent in 2018 as more users upgraded from standard copper services.

In total, there are now 11.26 million FTTC connections, compared with 6.55 million ADSL lines. Meanwhile, a further 5.22 million properties are connected with cable, while there are 510,000 FTTP users.

The report also examined mobile usage, and found nearly three-quarters of connections (72 per cent) used 4G as of the end of 2018, up from 66 per cent in 2017. This has helped drive a significant increase in the amount of mobile data used, with the average connection now using 2.9GB of data per month, a rise of 25 per cent year-on-year.

“Widespread smartphone take-up means consumers have access to other forms of communication, such as email, web-based messaging services (e.g. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) and social networking sites,” Ofcom noted.

The regulator said this contributed to a continued decline in the use of SMS and MMS messages in 2018, with five billion fewer messages sent via these services in 2018 compared with the previous year.

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