They call it the “Gigaboom.” Gigabit internet service is now available to more than half of properties in the United Kingdom, the U.K. government announced last week. The milestone was achieved after broadband internet service provider Virgin Media O2 turned on its DOCSIS 3.1 network for a further 1.7 million U.K. premises. Gigabit internet coverage was just 26.9 percent a year ago and was 6 percent at the beginning of 2019. It was helped by $6.83 billion investment by the government.
“The increase has been the result of the various full fiber roll-outs we are tracking including Openreach, Swish Fibre, Netomnia, CityFibre, Hyperoptic, Community Fibre, toob, FWNetworks and others,” the U.K. government said. The achievement is a major step toward the U.K.’s goal of 85 percent gigabit coverage by the end of 2025.
“In the race to 85 percent [gigabit coverage] the U.K. still has more fairly easy wins in terms of areas where Virgin Media is still to switch on its Gig1 service,” said U.K. Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries. “If no more FTTP is built and just Gig1 is made available the U.K. would jump to 65.6 percent gigabit availability overnight, this means if Virgin Media O2 completes its roll-out by end of 2021, we should see Gigabit coverage rise to around 68 percent.” Currently Virgin Media O2 serves a total of 10 million premises with access speeds of 1,130 Mbps down and 52 Mbps up.
Passing 50 percent national coverage means more than 15 million properties can access a broadband connection capable of download speeds of one gigabit per second.
In some areas, the change has been even more dramatic. For example, Stourbridge in Worcestershire saw gigabit broadband availability jump from zero percent in January 2020 to 96 percent today, while it grew in Solihull in the West Midlands, from 3 percent in January 2019 to 91.5 percent today. Further, Blackpool’s gigabit broadband coverage jumped from 2 percent in January 2019 to nearly 85 percent today.
By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor