Matt Hancock – we need you to build a full fibre Britain

Speeches are always a difficult balancing act and the latest one from Matt Hancock MP who holds the position of Minister for Digital in the Government has been speaking at another conference, a year on from his original speeches that full fibre is the future delivered 12 months ago. The full transcript is of course available on the DCMS website[1] and carries the title ‘Building a full fibre Britain’. Rather than copy/paste the full speech the closing remarks are perhaps most apt…

So there you have it.

I’ll end by saying this. We all want people to stop badgering us about their broadband. And I want to ensure they don’t have to badger us ever again, whether they are up in space or down here on earth.

We have set these goals. We’ve hired some brilliant people to deliver them. We are clear-eyed in our ambition.

But we can’t do it without you. We can get the ball rolling. We can set the framework.

But it is you, the businesses of Britain, who are going to deliver the connectivity people crave. So take this moment. Rise to the challenge.

And together we will give Britain what it needs to be fit for the future. Matt Hancock MP talking at Broadband Stakeholder 2017 Conference

One new acronym emerged and that is CTTP which is Copper to the Premises which he uses to describe ADSL and VDSL2 services (and we presume DOCSIS with its metal coax counts as well) , we are not sure in which circles FTTC is better known as CTTP but there is not time to attend every conference to catch every new buzzword. The Minister is clear that CTTP is not fit for the future even though important today, though where fits into that is not clear, though if you do corner Openreach they will accept that is a useful way of deploying an ultrafast product very quickly and thus can fill in the gaps while much more FTTP is rolled out.

The 95% superfast coverage of the UK target for the end of 2017 and a confidence in reaching it is re-iterated and since the speech was written superfast coverage has continued to increase with the UK sitting at 94.10% today, or if you take the talking about Britain to heart (thus excluding Northern Ireland) the GB level of superfast coverage is at 94.4%. The broadband Universal Service Obligation is covered including the offer from BT and its clear that the BT offer will only be accepted if BT can convince the Government that universal coverage at over 10 Mbps will result from the proposal and that is by 2020, though precision on whether that is by 1st January 2020 or 31st December 2020 is not given. The progress in separation of Openreach to be its own boss away from BT is welcomed but the gun is clearly loaded and made ready if the pace of this is too slow and investment does not result in significant change and it would be Ofcom that would be directed to take further action if the Government is unhappy.

We will be bold and give some actual targets which the speech was lacking, the UK needs to cruise past the 6% of premises passed by full fibre by Christmas 2018 (i.e. increase from the 2.93% which is just shy of 1 million premises to over 2 million) and to continue to ramp this up in 2019 and 2020 so that a sustained build rate of 3 to 4 million premises a year can be delivered post 2020. INCA which has numerous full fibre providers as members reckons its membership can reach a footprint of 18% of UK premises (i.e. around 5 million premises) in the next 26 months so passing the two million goal should be a walk in the park. If Virgin Media and Openreach also deliver to their plans we could see us talking about full fibre coverage at around 3 out of 10 in 2020 (assuming none of the providers overlap their footprints).

The work at our end of tracking the speeds of the services people are buying across the broad market and also what is actually available to order look set to remain important for the next few years as we track progress to see if everything is being delivered.


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