UK passes 2m super-fast broadband lines in service

The UK had more than two million active subscriptions to super-fast broadband services by the beginning of June, meaning that 10 per cent of the country’s broadband lines are now capable of delivering speeds over 25 Mbps, according to a new report from UK research firm Point Topic.

“As Virgin and BT continue to grow their super-fast subscriber numbers they are being joined by other players,” said Oliver Johnson, CEO of Point Topic. “From traditional giants like Sky to the smaller alternative networks, the super-fast technologies are on the way to supremacy in the UK market.”

As the fibre-rich connections which power these services continue to proliferate, older technologies such as copper-based DSL are losing popularity, according to the report: the first half of 2012 saw a tipping point where for the first time, DSL started to lose subscribers overall.

“Copper isn’t finished, it’s still an important part of the UK’s broadband strategy, but the days of sub-superfast are numbered,” added Mr. Johnson. “Super high-bandwidth options – whether delivered over co-axial cable by Virgin Media or over a hybrid copper/fibre network by other players – are now where the consumer sees the future.”

However, there is a long way to go yet: there are still more than 16.3 million subscribers to standard bandwidth products, and they won’t all be persuaded to upgrade their connections anytime soon.

Point Topic’s data shows that the UK now has 21.3 million fixed broadband lines. While just 175,000 connections were added in the second quarter of this year, there were over 600,000 new super-fast subscribers compared to the previous quarter.

Johnson added: “Virgin Media is responsible for the majority of these super-fast gains. They have been upgrading and upselling their customer base very successfully over the last 18 months. BT is now joining the party with 150 thousand new super-fast customers in the quarter, their best yet, and their network is now being used by other players like Sky and TalkTalk to add to the number of high-bandwidth customers in the UK.”

The UK government has set a target of 90 per cent of all homes having access to super-fast broadband connections by 2015, with universal access to speeds of at least 2 Mbps. However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport conceded earlier this week that it is likely to miss the first target due to procurement delays, with rural areas most likely to be affected.

However, despite these delays, the UK appears on track to have super-fast connections available to the vast majority of households by 2015, and universal access to connections of at least 2 Mbps.

A report from the UK’s House of Lords surprised many last week by recommending that the terrestrial television broadcasting system be moved entirely onto broadband networks in order to free up spectrum for mobile operators, and if these suggestions are taken seriously then there is an added incentive for the UK government to ensure universal access to speeds of over 2 Mbps in the mid-term.

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