BT Boosts Broadband Plans as U.K. Regulator Considers Split

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

BT Boosts Broadband Plans as U.K. Regulator Considers Split.

BT Group Plc, the U.K. phone company facing calls for a breakup from competitors, promised to expand the speed and reach of its network ahead of the communications regulator’s decision about its future. The chief executive of telecoms giant BT says the company will “never say no” to providing faster broadband for rural communities though rollout is “subject to regulatory support”.The UK’s ultrafast broadband situation isn’t particularly inspiring, but BT chief executive Gavin Patterson has promised that that’s going to change – and fairly quickly.Speaking at BT’s Delivering Britain’s Digital Future conference in London, BT CEO Gavin Patterson reiterated the company’s earlier pledge to provide Ultrafast broadband to “the majority of premises within a decade” and said that BT would provide a 1Gbps service to homes and small businesses that want even faster speeds. The company said on Tuesday it will go beyond the government’s goal of 95 percent coverage for high-speed fiber Internet service and will offer “ultrafast” service with 300 megabits to 500 megabits per second to 10 million homes by the end of 2020.

The group said it will “explore innovative funding and technical solutions” to deliver broadband to rural areas and claims 90 communities in the UK are “already benefiting from this approach”. The announcement also contained not-so-subtle hints about the positive impact that BT’s network investments will have on the United Kingdom economy and the fact that these investments have been made possible thanks to a supportive regulatory environment, something that the telco has warned could change if regulators force a full separation of its Openreach infrastructure arm.

The BT chief said the UK would “go beyond government’s current 95 per cent target for fibre availability, thanks to ‘success dividend’ clauses in contracts covering rollout co-funded by BT, Whitehall and local councils”. “A sum of £130 million is already being released and is potentially available to get the UK towards having fibre available at 96 per cent of premises. BT secured all £490 million of state subsidies in the £1.2 billion rural broadband procurement programme, Broadband UK (BDUK) spread across 44 local bodies across the UK. Mr Patterson said: “We want to forge an ultrafast future for Britain and stand ready to help government deliver the broadband speeds necessary for every property to enjoy modern day internet services, such as high-definition TV streaming and cloud computing. Chief Executive Officer Gavin Patterson said Tuesday that BT’s ability to meet the new coverage goals will depend on government support for the company, which has been called too powerful by rivals including Vodafone Group Plc and TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc. “We need Ofcom to focus its regulation toward making long-term commitments and to leave the markets to operate,” Patterson said at a press event in London. The Scottish Government pledged a further £2.5 million support in 2014 to help bring broadband to remote areas in Scotland, taking the total investment in the Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) programme to £7.5 million and extending the scheme until “at least March 2018”.

The company wants to introduce a new minimum broadband speed, making 5-10Mbps broadband available to every home and business in the country (whether or not it can depends on regulatory approval). It also has plans to make its hitherto limited fibre service available to 95 percent of UK premises, which means that almost everyone will have access to speeds well above that minimum. BT’s statements come at a time when it’s coming under increasing pressure from commercial rivals such as Sky and Virgin, who want the main part of the company broken away from its Openreach offshoot, which they believe is anti-competitive. Today’s big broadband promises may be the first part of a push to convince the UK that BT and Openreach are acting with the country’s economic wellbeing in mind.

The rollout of Ultrafast broadband is due to start next year, while BT also announced plans to tackle slow internet speeds in hard-to-reach parts of the country. Competitors that rely on Openreach to offer their own service have complained that BT is slow to repair faults and that its control over the market has resulted in poor network performance. Patterson said new technologies developed at BT’s Adastral Park research laboratories “should help boost slow speeds for many hard-to-reach premises”.

In the period between 2014 and 2015 BT exceeded all 60 Ofcom service standards and hired 3,000 extra engineers in a bid to cut installation waiting times and fix faults faster. “Customers can receive text updates on progress of the engineers and the name and mobile number of the engineer”, explained BT Openreach chief executive Joe Garner. BT picked up all 44 regional contracts awarded under the scheme, with PAC chair Margaret Hodge accusing the government of failing to deliver “meaningful competition” in the procurement of the programme. Additionally, Garner highlighted the issue that customers often can not directly deal with Openreach, only their retail broadband provider, said he is open to Openreach dealing directly with end-customers, subject to consultation with Ofcom and telecom providers.

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