Broadband upgrade leaves millions happy …and millions disappointed

More than half of broadband customers in the UK now have access to next-generation fibre speeds up to 1,000Mbps, according to the latest data from ThinkBroadband. That’s a humongous increase. Back in July 2021, ThinkBroadband estimated that around 41.72 percent of broadband users had access to gigabit-capable connections.

That surge from 41.72 to 50.23 percent in the last few weeks is the result of Virgin Media’s upgrade of its existing network. Virgin Media has been busy overhauling its existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) lines, which offer faster speeds than Openreach’s ageing copper cables but can’t quite reach the dizzying heights of full-fibre connections, to fibre-to-the-premises. It’s the latter than can top-out at more than 1,000Mbps.

Virgin Media recently announced that 10 million premises have been upgraded to gigabit-capable connections, with plans on track to reach 14.3 million homes by the end of the year, which should see the percentage of UK homes able to access gigabit download speeds jump again.

The fact that half of all broadband customers can now access download speeds of 1,000Mbps is a huge milestone. For years, average home broadband speeds in the UK have languished behind neighbours in Europe. Earlier this year, the UK Government quietly confirmed plans to water-down its commitment to bring gigabit-capable broadband to the entire country by 2025. The pledge to connect every home in the UK with full-fibre cables was a key part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s manifesto during the last general election.

Boris Johnson’s Government is now committed to bring faster internet speeds to only 85 percent of premises within the next five years. Campaigners have raised concerns that the remaining 15 percent, which are often located in areas that aren’t commercially viable for telecom brands, won’t get the upgrades they desperately need. According to Ofcom, there are around 600,000 homes and businesses in the UK without access to broadband speeds above 10Mbps.

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Speaking about the latest milestone, newly-appointed Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “We’ve passed the halfway point in our national mission to level up the UK with lightning-fast gigabit broadband. Millions of people can now access the fastest, most reliable internet connections, allowing them full advantage of new technologies over the next forty years. Thanks to the work of industry and our record £5 billion investment, we are making phenomenal progress in the Prime Minister’s infrastructure revolution.”

Gigabit-capable connections provide speeds up to 1,000Mbps. Given that Netflix only recommends 5Mbps for High Definition streaming and 25Mbps for 4K quality video, these future-proofed broadband connections are more than enough to handle videoconferencing from home, backing up your photos and data, streaming boxsets and on-demand movies from Sky and other providers, downloading software updates to smartphones, and new games on next-generation consoles. Or all of the above, for those with busy households full of friends and family.

These super-speedy broadband speeds will also become essential as future technologies, including Augmented Reality (AR) apps and 8K video streaming, start to become more mainstream in the coming years. A forecast from Point Topic has recently claimed that the UK can expect to achieve 98 percent coverage of gigabit fibre by 2030.

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