The race to full fibre — who are the real winners/losers?

19 May 2023

This is a critical moment in the evolution of the telecommunications industry, as we transition from legacy copper networks to faster, more reliable fibre networks. However, as with any major shift, there will be winners and losers. So who stands to benefit the most from the race to full fibre, and who may be left behind?

Who are the winners?

According to Ofcom’s report on the telecoms market, there are clear benefits for broadband providers, consumers, businesses and the UK economy as a whole. Full fibre networks offer significantly faster and more reliable connections than traditional copper networks, which means that consumers can enjoy faster downloads, smoother streaming, and better online gaming experiences.

For businesses, full fibre networks offer symmetrical upload and download speeds that are faster, which is critical for video conferencing and other collaborative tools. This increased connectivity can also enable businesses to work more efficiently and productively, which can translate into greater economic growth and job creation.

At the same time, broadband providers are able to benefit from increased investment and a cap on Openreach’s monopoly over the market.

According to Ofcom, only 6% of homes could access full fibre broadband five years ago. But this reached 42% by September 2022. Although this jump in numbers signifies progress, it has still been slow in the UK. There is still a lot of work to be done, but a combination of investment, regulatory incentives and market competition will boost the UK’s standing in the race to full fibre.

Who are the losers?

However, there are still significant challenges to overcome. Although consumers and businesses, no doubt, benefit from access to full fibre networks and better quality services, they still face price rises mid-contract. This is due to the cost of rolling out fibre networks, which can be expensive in some areas.

This is particularly true in rural areas, where the population density is lower and the cost of laying new infrastructure is higher. As a result, there is a risk that some areas will be left behind, which could exacerbate the digital divide and limit economic growth in those regions.

Another challenge is the potential impact of competition in such a crowded market, as evidenced by the rumoured consolidation of 100+ Altnets. While competition can be a powerful motivator for providers to invest in their technology to offer the best quality services, it can lead to fragmentation and inefficiency.

This is particularly true in areas where there are multiple providers operating, as each provider may be reluctant to invest in new infrastructure if they think that their competitors will reap the benefits.

What do we think?

We believe that the key to overcoming these challenges is collaboration to ensure resources and efforts are not wasted. Whilst regulatory incentives can help reduce the cost of rolling out fibre networks, particularly in rural areas, market competition also drives innovation and efficiency in the industry.

Ultimately, the race to full fibre is an opportunity for the UK to position itself as a leader in the telecommunications industry, with faster and more reliable networks that can support economic growth and innovation. However, to ensure that all areas of the UK benefit from full fibre networks, we must continue to work together as an industry and with regulatory bodies, like Ofcom, to address the challenges and ensure a level playing field for all providers.

If you’re interested in our  full fibre packages, enter your postcode to check if BeFibre is available in your area, here.

All references to how many times faster our broadband service is, depends on you being able to access ‘superfast’ type broadband services of 70Mbps (or less) and selecting one of our packages at the advertised speed. Speeds shown may be affected based on the placement of the router in your property or the device you are using.

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