BT pledges £6bn superfast broadband, 4G spend

BT said on Thursday its broadband and telephone business Openreach and its EE mobile phone network would between them spend £6 billion to extend superfast broadband and 4G coverage “beyond 95%” of the UK by 2020.

Rival provider Sky expressed skepticism about BT’s ambitions, but BT maintained that ultrafast broadband will be supplied to a minimum of 10 million homes and businesses in its plans, subject to regulatory support, with an ambition to reach 12 million.

BT’s rivals claim ownership of Openreach gives BT an unfair advantage and say the business should be split from BT.

“There will be an increased focus on Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology within this plan with the aim being to reach two million premises with the technology, mainly in new housing developments, high streets and business parks,” said BT.

BT group chief executive Gavin Patterson said: “Networks require money and a lot of it.

“Virgin and BT have both pledged to invest and we will now see if others follow our lead.

“Infrastructure competition is good for the UK and so is the current Openreach model whereby others can piggyback on our investment should they want to.”

BT said there would be an increased focus on its “Fibre to the Premises” (FTTP) technology with the aim being to reach two million premises with the technology, mainly in new housing developments, high streets and business parks.

Patterson talked up BT’s “G.fast” technology — a combination of fibre and copper — as enabling BT to “deploy ultrafast broadband at pace and to as many homes as possible.”

“Customers want their broadband to be affordable as well as fast and we will be able to do that using G.fast,” said Patterson.

“FTTP will also play a bigger role going forward and I believe it is particularly well suited to those businesses who may need speeds of up to 1Gbps. My ambition is to roll it out to two million premises and our trials give me confidence we will.”

Rival provider Sky responded by claiming that G.fast technology uses old copper wires and that BT should be investing more in a faster fibre network.

Andrew Griffith, chief financial officer at Sky, said: “Today’s statement shows that BT continues to see copper as the basis of its network for 21st century Britain.

“Despite BT’s claims, it is clearer than ever that their plans for fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband will bypass almost every existing UK home.

“This limited ambition has been dragged out of BT by the threat of regulatory action, demonstrating once again why an independent Openreach, free to raise its own long-term capital, is the best way for the UK to get the fibre network it needs.”

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.