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Without action from Government and Ofcom, up to a third of Britons will be left out of Full Fibre revolution

  • Government rollout ambitions at risk without immediate action and ‘Full Fibre First’ approach
  • Up to 33% of consumers will not take up full fibre connectivity unless changes are made
  • Government should introduce Take Up Target, ministerial accountability and new Cross-Government Body, ‘Gigabit UK’
  • Ofcom should set copper switch off framework and put the consumer first in FTTP policy
  • Industry should be clearer on marketing terminology and work with civil society

A new report commissioned by TalkTalk released today finds that up to a third of households face being left out of the full fibre revolution unless the Government and Ofcom take action to get them connected.

The findings from Frontier Economics show that even once full fibre roll-out has reached the whole of the UK, there will remain a significant number who do not take up the new technology as they are not currently motivated to do so and too many barriers currently exist. The report cites international examples and finds that European countries with more extensive FTTP rollouts are also experiencing a short fall in FTTP take-up.

The risks of non-action for the country and consumers:

Without a full fibre first approach from Government, Ofcom and industry, the country faces falling behind the rest of the world and individuals face losing out on the many benefits it brings.

Tristia Harrison, CEO of TalkTalk, said:

“It’s time to put the consumer first when it comes to the full fibre revolution. It has never been more important for the whole country to have access to fast reliable and affordable connectivity and without action, up to a third will be left behind.

“Collaboration between industry, government and Ofcom on Project Gigabit has seen huge progress on the full fibre rollout. However, building technology doesn’t mean people will adopt it. As this research shows, poor consumer adoption could see that very roll-out put at risk and see many left behind from the huge benefits it could bring and heighten the digital divide.

“Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken by us in industry, by the Government and Ofcom to increase understanding and incentives, so that the full benefits are realised.

“It’s in all our interests – government, ISPs and network operators – for consumers to migrate quickly and smoothly. We look forward to working with industry, policymakers and regulators to ensure that fast, reliable, affordable connectivity is a reality for everyone.”

Frontier conclude:

“Policymakers cannot assume that the successful rollout of FTTP will lead to the full socioeconomic benefits that FTTP is expected to deliver. The risk of a persistent FTTP take-up gap should not be ignored and warrants proactive approach to stimulating FTTP migration.”

“Slow FTTP migration will cause the UK to miss out on a valuable opportunity to boost productivity, grow the workforce, deliver more ‘digitally native’ public services, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase digital inclusion. Slow migration may also reduce the future pace and extent of FTTP rollout by undermining the business case for investment.”

National benefits at risk:

  • Government’s rollout ambitions could be at risk as investor confidence falls on poor adoption.
  • Economic benefit of nationwide full fibre deployment by 2025 is estimated at £59bn1 which would be lessened by a lower adoption rate.
  • Environmental benefits of FTTP mean that up to 80% less energy is used in the full fibre network compared to copper (TT research); and in terms of raw materials and manufacture, fibre produces 0.001% of the emissions in comparison to the extraction of copper
  • Increased employment with up to 1 million people brought back into the workforce due to remote working options.

Individual benefits at risk:

  • Fewer faults, more reliable faster speed enabling increased productivity and access to future home technologies.
  • The possibilities of at-home healthcare mean that ongoing treatment and assessment is far more possible using FTTP at home, reducing the burden on hospitals.

Action now could also prevent a repeat of the slow adoption of Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC), which saw customers unaware and unwilling to switch - despite the technology being available – until a major push from the Government, Ofcom and industry to incentivise switching. Frontier warns that the pace for FTTP migration is set to be slower than FTTC migration due to different and more complex barriers affecting this transition.

The Barriers to Switching

The research found that there are four main reasons that consumers are reluctant to switch to full fibre products today:

  • REWARD: Migration does not create a 'feel good factor'
  • LOSS AVERSION: Consumers avoid risking what they have
  • EASE: Consumers avoid thinking about migration
  • SOCIAL PROOF: Consumers don't see others migrations

Accountability and Action needed from Government, Ofcom and Industry

The report suggests there is now a “strong case for government to pivot its focus from FTTP rollout to FTTP migration (while maintaining its pro-FTTP rollout policies).” Based on these findings, TalkTalk is recommending some immediate actions which the Government, Ofcom and industry can all take to ensure consumers are well informed and incentivised to switch.

Government:

  • Set and track Take Up target alongside roll-out target to create shared ambition and momentum
  • New ‘Gigabit UK’ cross-government taskforce to coordinate consumer migration and monitor progress on adoption

Ofcom:

  • Support better consumer understanding of FTTP e.g. promoting benefits of new product and establish clarity on terminology
  • Set a framework for copper switch-off to aid industry discussions and support customer awareness at the appropriate time
  • Reset regulatory approach to put the consumer at the heart of FTTP policy

Industry:

  • An ‘FTTP first’ mindset
  • Clearer and consistent marketing of FTTP to build consumer awareness
  • Closer co-ordination with civil society on migration of customers.

1. For more information please contact: press.office@talktalkplc.com

2. The full report can be downloaded by clicking the 'download release' button at the top of this page.

3. The full list of recommendations from Frontier Economics are:

Government:

  • Create a right for FTTP for tenants
  • Require property listings to show if a property is FTTP enabled
  • Introduce an FTTP employee benefit scheme
  • Run an information campaign on FTTP benefits
  • Co-ordinate FTTP migration competitions

Ofcom

  • Set and publicise expected copper switch off date
  • Publish data on consumers’ FTTP broadband experience
  • Update marketing guidelines to focus on reliability
  • Require social tariffs to be provided via FTTP where possible

Industry

  • Openreach to commit to higher level of service for FTTP fault repair than FTTC or ADSL fault repair
  • Industry to set up dedicated support channels for elderly customers and other vulnerable groups.