UK worst in Europe for superfast FTTH broadband

The UK has failed to catch up with other European countries for roll out of high speed fibre to the home broadband, according to a new report.

The FTTH Council Europe has released figures showing the 22 countries with more than 1 percent of households accessing FTTH broadband, with a 16.4 percent increase in subscribers across Europe.  By mid 2012 there were more than 32 million homes in Europe with FTTH, and 5.95 million subscribers.

The UK was absent from the rankings however, due to its low FTTH penetration.  According to the report, the UK has just 0.05 percent of subscribers accessing despite the government aiming to have the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015.

According to the FTTH Council the UK has “missed the opportunity” offered by the Broadband Delivery (BDUK) project.

As well as increases to speed, FTTH would also mean a more stable connection, as radio interference would no longer present a problem, while latency would be less of a problem with just an extension of fibre all the way from the datacentre to the home. This will mean benefits for cloud services for example.

One of the biggest benefits would be for content creators, with uploading times significantly improved.

“Key countries absent from the ranking may miss out on their chance to build a sustainable future for their citizens”, said Hartwig Tauber, Director General of FTTH Council Europe.

“The decision to invest in FTTH – the only future-proof solution – needs to be made today.”
Andrew Ferguson at Thinkbroadband agrees that the UK is “late to the party”, though it is not totally off the radar for FTTH uptake, and has at least some FTTH 175,000 homes passed as of June, and 13,000 subscriptions. 

“The problem has been that most developments so far are small scale,” Ferguson says, “so while high in numbers, their impact on the national picture is small.

One of the major problems with rollout in the UK is that broadband operators such as BT Openreach have been concentrating on getting fibre to the cabinet networks, rather than fibre to the premise or house.

“Openreach has talked about getting its FTTP service to perhaps 10 percent of UK homes, but at present many areas are only partially built, with them concentrating on the headline-grabbing figures of 11 million homes able to get the FTTC service.” 

“We are assured that this figure is still a target, but priorities in the roll-out have shifted.”
Ferguson also says that the government meanwhile has been slowed by a desire to provide more comprehensive FTTH coverage than in other European nations.

“The UK has also focused on ubiquity of access, where as there are many countries in Europe with better FTTH deployments now tackling the same sort of digital divide.” 

“It is very likely that the desire for ubiquitous access has held back some projects that could have made the UK look better.