10.8 million UK homes now have access to gigabit-capable broadband, with much of the legwork done by Virgin Media

That's 37% of the country covered, and BT is expected to pick up the pace too


A new Ofcom report shows the number of UK homes with access to gigabit-capable broadband hit 10.8 million in January, representing 37 per cent of households.

The figures were part of Ofcom's Interim Connected Nations report [PDF] and covered September 2020 to January 2021.

Overall, the number of gigabit-capable lines increased by 37 per cent against August's figure [PDF] of 7.9 million.

Ofcom claimed this growth was largely driven by Virgin Media's rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 tech to 2.8 million premises. Virgin Media has pursued an expansion strategy, dubbed Project Lightning, resulting in 2.6 million new premises added to its footprint since 2015.

The company has also sought to upgrade existing customers, shifting its entire footprint in Northern Ireland and London to DOCSIS 3.1 during the second half of last year.

Full-fibre coverage hit 6 million homes, or 21 per cent of the country. This represents an increase of 0.9 million against August's numbers of 5.1 million, and was driven primarily by larger providers like Openreach, with smaller vendors like Community Fibre also playing an important role.

The cumulative figure of new full-fibre and DOCSIS 3.1 installs is significantly higher than the number of newly gigabit-capable homes, suggesting a significant degree of overlap, with many premises able to access services via both technologies.

Full-fibre will likely catch up in the coming years, given the promise of BT Group CEO Phillip Jensen to "build like fury" following the publication of Ofcom's most recent Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review.

This rulebook has eliminated virtually all price caps on full-fibre products during the rollout, allowing infrastructure providers to recoup their initial investment costs in a shorter time frame.

It also helps that, for the next two years, Openreach will pay virtually no corporation tax thanks to the introduction of a new "super deduction".

Conceived as a way to boost business investment in the wake of the pandemic, this tax break allows firms to write off up to 130 per cent of their capital cost between the 2021 and 2023 tax years.

Earlier this week, BT Group said it would increase its full-fibre build pace from 3 million to 4 million premises, and aims to wire up 25 million premises by the end of 2026. ®

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