UK led European full fibre rollout in 2023 but lags in uptake

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The UK added 4.7 million homes to its full fibre broadband footprint in the year leading up to September 2023, outpacing every other European country.

According to the latest market report from the FTTH Council Europe, this rapid expansion brought the UK’s total fibre homes passed to 17.1 million—ranking it third in Europe behind France (26.3 million) and Turkey (18 million).

Given the UK’s population size and need to catch up on fibre deployment, its leading position for new fibre rollout is perhaps unsurprising.

Despite the torrid fibre build pace, the UK still has ground to make up in achieving widespread coverage and adoption. Its fibre take-up rate of 30 percent ranks a lowly 32nd out of 39 European countries studied. The European average take-up rate is nearly 50 percent.

Additionally, just 57 percent of UK households had access to full fibre broadband as of September, compared to a 70 percent average across the 39 European markets analysed. Several countries – like Romania, Portugal, and Sweden – have already exceeded 90 percent fibre coverage.

The FTTH Council identified the UK as having 12.9 million homes still requiring fibre build, the second highest in Europe behind Germany at 24.4 million. Analysts suggest the UK’s delayed fibre journey, with incumbent BT slow to prioritise full fibre until alternative networks spurred action, contributed to its coverage gap.

However, the outlook remains bright as fibre momentum accelerates. The FTTH Council forecasts the UK will have 29.6 million fibre homes passed by 2029, trailing only Germany and France across broader European rankings.

“By September 2023, the EU39 FTTH/B take-up rate raised to 49.6 percent (up by 1,1 percentage point from the previous year). A clear indication that, despite the progress being made, there is still a huge gap between fibre coverage and adoption,” explained the FTTH Council Europe.

“Nevertheless, progress has been made in the EU27+UK area, where the take-up rate grew by 1.3 percentage points compared to 2022, reaching 52.7 in 2023.”

(Photo by Christian Lue)

See also: UK Government urges more telecoms infrastructure sharing

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