Senior Associate Director, Land Management
The government has recently announced plans to expand full-fibre broadband to the entire country by 2033. In response to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport initiative, some have recommended that all new homes built in the UK be fitted with full-fibre broadband connectivity as a standard feature. What are the implications for housebuilders?
What is driving the push for standard broadband in new construction?
According to the new national telecom strategy from the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the UK ranks 35th in high-speed internet access globally and lags behind 25 other European nations. Government statistics indicate that only 4% of UK residential properties have full-fibre broadband internet.
To combat the issue and boost the UK’s connectivity, the DCMS has promised that the entire nation will be covered by full-fibre broadband by 2033.
However, the time, resources and physical labour involved in the process of replacing existing copper wire networks with full-fibre poses a significant threat to this initiative. Rural areas will face particular challenges, especially when most residents there are able to access the internet fairly reliably with cable broadband or VDSL2 connections. There may be little incentive to make the dramatic and costly switch to full-fibre in these hard-to-reach areas.
Officials believe that education will be the key to encouraging residential property owners all over the UK to embrace faster, more reliable full-fibre broadband. Another important element is to pre-install full-fibre broadband connections in new home construction, even in places where the technology is not yet available.
Implications for homebuilders
Advocates say that installing full-fibre broadband connections in new construction simply makes sense. There are fewer obstacles to installation in new builds compared to retrofitting existing structures: street works are not necessary, it is easy to bury cables at a construction site and time-consuming permit policies can usually be avoided. Yet less than 50% of new homes built in the UK so far this year have been outfitted with full-fibre capabilities.
Data suggests improvement, though. Driving factors include:
• Clarification in government regulations
• Partnerships between builders and network providers
• Development of hybrid broadband technology
• Recent UK adoption of EU standards for connectivity in all new construction
• Increasing support from local planning councils
Ministers remain hopeful that continued improvement in educational initiatives and clarity in government regulations will encourage homebuilders to include full-fibre broadband access in their projects.
Given the constraints on time, resource and labour, is there a quick solution to laying down new full-fibre cabling and retro-fitting rural property to maintain market appeal?
Certain parts of the country are establishing long range private wi-fi networks which could provide an immediate or short-term solution for reasonable broadband speeds. Other over-the-air technologies such as the forthcoming 5G network and the likely availability of more mainstream satellite broadband might be alternative options for remote areas or where topography, existing landscape or infrastructure features, or economics may be long-term barriers to fibre rollout.
Our pick of the best-connected full-fibre broadband homes
Aberdeenshire is one of the named targets for the government’s full-fibre network trials and Whitehills Farm is a well-situated 6-bedroom, 4-bath residential property offering seclusion and ample space for equestrian pursuits. The home offers comfortable and spacious family accommodation with an open plan kitchen, dining room and sitting area with panoramic valley views.
Another of the government’s full-fibre broadband trial locations, West Sussex is home this beautiful family home in highly-desirable Bolney. The main house has been sympathetically extended over the years, and is accessed via three electric gates. The property features a spacious 9-bedroom, 6-bath accommodation, custom kitchen, oak flooring and Chilstone stone terrace with glass balustrade.