Coronavirus and the UK full fibre roll back

Posted in Coronavirus on 9 June 2020

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At the beginning of the year, the rollout of full fibre across the UK was booming. The UK government’ s target to deliver gigabit-speed broadband to the entire UK within a few years seemed on track. Then, the unfortunate outbreak of coronavirus happened, along with the lockdown restrictions that followed. Since the pandemic, the rate of fibre rollout has declined and will continue to do so over the coming months. This is disappointing but inevitable considering the current situation. However the UK race to build full fibre  networks is still on.

This blog will outline the targets for full fibre that were set for the UK, how coronavirus has affected the fibre rollout and how operators are reacting to get back in the race.


Government fibre targets

There is no doubt of a huge digital divide between urban and rural areas, with rural areas being hit with poor broadband and mobile coverage. In October 2019, only around 8% of the UK had access to full-fibre broadband. With this in mind, as part of his government pledge , UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson put a target in place to deliver full-fibre broadband to every home and business by 2025.

This target aims to increase internet speeds for all, particularly these rural areas. The government quickly realised that this was unrealistic, and reshaped their target. Ministers are now seeking to roll out ‘gigabit-capable’ speeds to the entire UK but with no specific end date.

Since then, operators across the UK have been working hard get the fibre ball rolling.  Major progress has been seen by the telecoms firm KCOM. They successfully made full-fibre available to everyone in the UK city of Hull in late 2019.  Along with this, major players are ramping up investments and plans into fibre.


Coronavirus setbacks

The coronavirus has created a load of setbacks where many sectors have been affected. Main problems occur from global supply and support chains issues. Whether this being the halt to equipment being shipped or personnel being off work. In addition, lockdown restrictions have  slowed field work for operators and their network solutions partners.  Although telecommunications is designated under the “key worker” category by the government, there are some restrictions to work. For example, access to buildings has become tricky due to the appropriate safety instructions in place. Above all it is imperative for all workers to do the right thing in line with government advice to stay home where possible, stay alert and protect the safety of others.


How are operators reacting?

Despite the circumstances, operators are still working to develop their networks during this trying time. As a result of the lockdown restrictions, many workers have switched to focus on maintenance and critical repairs rather than installations for customers. This means they can continue to work on fibre projects but leaving the final lead-in to homes until a later date.

Major UK operators are continuing to keep up the momentum of hitting the full fibre target. For example, BT is in talks of selling off Openreach to raise money for its £12 billion FTTP (fibre to the premises) project. While  

Ultimately it is clear that the journey towards full fibre is still on. Companies such as Openreach are slowly beginning to resume in-home work again, including FTTH installations, following gradual lockdown relaxation. According to Think Broadband, the UK reached 14% full fibre coverage across the UK just before the end of May 2020, showing that a good effort of fibre work has been carried out this year. They also forecasted that approximately 50% of the UK will have access to FTTP options in the middle of 2030. We will continue to keep at the edge of our seats to see when the UK will finally meet the ‘full fibre for everyone’ target.



Since you’re here…

You may be interested to read our latest guide on the best practices for cleaning your optical transceivers. Check out our maintenance tips to optimise performance and prevent damage to your network.