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The State of the Altnets in 2024

Image of report coverINCA has launched it's annual 'State of the Altnets' report for 2024 today at the Connected North conference in Manchester. With the full title 'Metrics for the UK Independent Network Sector' the report, produced in partnership with Point Topic, sets out a series of key figures which illustrate the continuing growth and successes of the sector, alongside some of the central concerns occupying the minds of Altnet leaders over the last year.

The report covers the state of play with respect to premises passed, customers connected, the current state of investment into the Altnet sector and the expectations and aspirations of Altnet operators.

Our data shows that at the end of the 2023 2 million customers across the country were connected to Altnet fibre. The collective Altnet footprint (premises passed) reached 12.9 million premises, or 35% of all UK premises. Interestingly this is greater than the estimated number of premises passed by Openreach fibre, a substantial achievement by any measure in such a short space of time. The expectation is that this figure will reach 16.7 million by the end of 2024, with 3 million live connections anticipated.

This represents year-on-year growth in terms of premises passed of 57%, illustrating that despite economic headwinds the Altnets have continued to deploy their networks at an impressive pace. More than half of premises in London can now get a fibre connection from at least one Altnet, with other regions – including Yorkshire & The Humber, and the South East following very closely behind. Interestingly nearly 7 million UK premises which have access to a fibre connection can only get that fibre from an Altnet currently.

Despite Ofcom's assertion that premises in some parts of the country (known 'Area 3') would be unlikely to be served by any operator other than Openreach, Altnets have deployed their fibre past 3 million Area 3 premises, approximately 32% – or nearly one third – of all Area 3 premises. And our analysis shows that Altnet fibre will pass around 4.5 million premises – 46% of Area 3 – by the end of 2025. In comparison, Openreach fibre passed 3.7 million Area 3  premises (39%). Again, this highlights the ambition and capability of the highly resilient Altnet operators.

Looking at live connections, almost half a million customers chose to use Altnet services in 2023, resulting in 2 million live connections in total – a year-on-year growth rate of 33%. And independent review sites like Trustpilot and Google Reviews consistently show that consumers rate Altnet providers much more highly than the mainstream national retailers, as highlighted in our 2023 report 'Securing long term benefits for broadband customers'.

In terms of investment, new capital continued to flow into the sector over 2023 despite adverse conditions, with an estimated £7 billion committed over the year.