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Major fibre spines in over a hundred towns and cities

Last updated: 09:40pm 3 December 2019

…and by 2022 we will have major fibre spines in over a hundred towns and cities, with ten million premises connected to full fibre and a clear path to national coverage over the next decade.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.78

Our verdict

A full-fibre broadband connection can deliver speeds in excess of 1 gigabit per second. This technology is also referred to as ‘gigabit-capable’, a term which can include high speed cable broadband and potential future 5G connections. The current design for internet provision is fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), where fibre cables run to the street cabinet and older copper cables carry the data to the premises, with speeds dropping the further away from the cabinet the data travels. Full-fibre networks, also referred to as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), will replace FTTC technology with fibre-optic cables transmitting data via light, enabling them to carry more data at faster speeds and with less signal loss than copper cables.

This is a pledge to deliver major fibre spines (a bit like major roads for data, connecting one exchange to another) in over a hundred towns and cities by 2022.

In 2018, the government announced investment in this pledge under the Local Full-Fibre Networks programme, with a further £200 million to set up full-fibre in rural areas also drawn from the National Productivity Investment Fund. The July 2018 Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review laid out plans to encourage further investment in full-fibre networks.

In June 2019, Ofcom reported that about 8% of UK premises had full-fibre connections. The government  aims to have 15 million homes FTTP capable by 2025, and hopes to achieve this by encouraging a competitive market to build infrastructure, recently endorsed by BT and Virgin.

The government has launched funding initiatives, and published a strategy related to the roll-out of major fibre spines. Nevertheless, implementation of the plans is at an early stage, and only 8% of UK premises currently benefit from full-fibre connectivity. As a result, this policy will remain ‘in progress’.

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