New players in the high-speed broadband market will boost connections in the UK by 70 percent over the next five years, according to new research.

IHS has forecast that connection numbers will grow from around nine million at the end of 2015 to more than 15.5 million by the end of 2020.

Analyst Fiona Vanier said: “While BT is working on expanding superfast services using VDSL (FTTC) and G.Fast, alternative operators have entered the market using FTTP to increase their coverage.”

She cited CityFibre and Gigaclear, in particular, with the former described as “a viable alternative” to Openreach.

CityFibre, which has 36 networks across the UK, this morning signed a deal with Updata Infrastructure, part of Capita IT Enterprise Services, that sees Updata offer CityFibre’s infrastructure to its customers.

It is working with a number of other providers, notably Sky and TalkTalk in York, and acquired network assets from Kcom last December.

The news comes just a few weeks after the UK regulator decided against splitting up BT and Openreach, at least in the short term.

Instead, it called for Openreach to open its broadband network to competitors and take future decisions about budget and strategy in consultation with them.

As competitors queued to up to lambast the incumbent for its approach to date, Mark Shurmer, Group Director of Regulatory Affairs at BT, said he was “frustrated” that people portray BT as being against FTTH.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

[Read more: BT defends FTTC strategy, as industry rounds on it for hobbling UK broadband]

BT maintains that the UK ranks well against other European markets for broadband access, performance and market competitiveness.

Around 5.5 million homes and businesses are connected to its FTTx broadband network.

The UK again failed to make the FTTH Council Europe’s annual ranking, however.

The industry body lists those countries in which the number of FTTH subscribers equals at least one percent of households passed.

Just 26,000 subscribers signed up for FTTH services in the first nine months of 2015.

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