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More homes to get ultrafast broadband

Fast fibre broadband set to get cheaper and easier, says regulator

Currently, only 3% of UK homes and offices have the fastest full-fibre broadband. But new rules announced by watchdog Ofcom mean that more of the UK may get access to faster broadband connections. 

The average UK broadband speed is currently 44Mbps, according to Ofcom. This is much slower than top full-fibre speeds, and slower than broadband in 19 other European countries. Many homes lag behind, too, with some rural areas still having sporadic or non-existent connections.

The good news is that broadband companies hope to provide full-fibre to up to six million premises by 2020. Along with the promise of faster mobile connections in the form of 5G, it looks like the UK is set to get faster.

Read on to find out how soon you might get ultrafast broadband or find out your current speed with our broadband speed checker.

New rules to cut broadband costs

That’s where the new measures, currently in draft stage, come in. They could halve the cost of building ultrafast fibre broadband networks, and BT will be forced to share its poles and infrastructure with competitors.

This will mean enough space for extra fibre cables on telegraph poles, leaving room for other suppliers to create their own fibre networks. To encourage more competition, BT will also be banned from wholesale price cuts in areas where rivals are building fibre networks.

To protect broadband customers from high bills, the rules will also cut the wholesale price BT can charge for basic superfast broadband. This could bring down the price that broadband companies charge you, according to the proposals.

Some providers, including Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk, offer ultrafast broadband already. So if you don’t want to wait it could be worth switching to another broadband provider.

Broadband companies’ plans

BT owns the majority of the UK’s broadband infrastructure in the UK. This means that most other companies are reliant on BT’s existing cables and coverage.

Today’s announcement from Ofcom comes as other companies are working towards more full-fibre broadband coverage. BT’s biggest competitor, Virgin Media, plans to reach a further four million premises, half of which will be full-fibre.

Full-fibre-only company Gigaclear aims to reach 150,000 rural homes by 2020. TalkTalk aims to cover three million premises with full-fibre. CityFibre, in partnership with Vodafone, aims to roll out full-fibre to up to five million homes by 2025.

If these plans go ahead, 20% of UK homes and offices would have full fibre broadband.

What Which? thinks

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: ‘It’s unacceptable that the UK is lagging so far behind other countries on  the fastest connections, with only 3% of British homes having access to full-fibre, compared with almost 80% in Spain.

‘Consumers are crying out for better broadband, with many telling us they have experienced a problem with their broadband in the last year, so steps to ensure more investment in this vital service can’t come soon enough.’

Improving broadband service

Ofcom says that the transition to full-fibre broadband will take a while, so in the meantime it will be working with BT Openreach (the company responsible for the broadband infrastructure) to make sure the existing network works well.

Openreach will be required to:

  • complete at least 88% of fault repairs within one or two working days of being notified,
  • complete at least 97% of repairs within seven working days,
  • install 95% of connections on the date agreed between Openreach and the provider.

These targets must be met by 2020/21 and are part of more measures that Ofcom is planning to help improve broadband service. This includes automated compensation for customers experiencing problems. Ofcom’s final rules are due to be published next month.

Broadband problem? Find out what to do if your broadband doesn’t work properly and steps you can take to improve it.

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