UK ISP BT today released their latest bi-annual review of progress in delivering the 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which reveals they have so far built a USO connection to over 4,600 premises, with over 2,300 additional construction underway.
The USO officially went live in March 2020. The requirement was for those who cannot yet receive a 10Mbps+ broadband capable and are not currently expected to get one within the next 12 months. Ofcom reports that 123,000 premises in the UK (0.4%) currently fall within this gap (i.e. those not covered by both fixed line, fixed wireless and proper 4G mobile coverage), but much of that is still too expensive, even for the USO.
REMARK: For many of these extremely remote areas, the cost of a USO connection will far exceed the industry contribution of £3,400 (end users have the option of paying the excess costs or opting out of the USO solution).
In 2020 we reported various examples (here) where people were hit with quotes for excess costs ranging from tens of thousands of pounds up to £1-2 million. Since then, various improvements have been made to the USO (here), but it is undeniable that some properties will not be economically viable to reach via landline or 4G solutions under the USO.
The government is still currently studying how to reach those who live in these so-called “Very difficult to reach” (here) – also known as c.0.3% locals final – and the outcome of this is expected soon, but for now we’ll focus on what the USO was able to achieve. Meanwhile, the USO gap continues to slowly narrow, thanks to 4G coverage expansion (SRN) and rural gigabit coupons (Project Gigabit) etc.
The USO report (May 2022)
Overall, by the end of March 2022, BT had built a USO connection to over 4,600 premises, with over 2,300 more being built. The number of applications for the universal service obligation has risen sharply since the end of last year, although after verification a significant proportion of them often turn out to be ineligible for the obligation (for example, only in March 2022, there were 695 universal service obligation applications, but well over half of these are often deemed ineligible).
As for confirmed orders, it’s worth noting that BT has usually delivered them in just over 12 months (Ofcom allows up to 24 months for full construction completion). But about 2% of provisioned lines have experienced outages, and outage repair times for these tend to range between about 30 and 100 hours.
The current report only covers the period between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, but you can check last year’s report for data that goes back further (here). Other than that, the latest report doesn’t say much and is largely just a broad statistical update on the USO’s progress – see below: