UPDATE 1-Under fire from rivals, BT vows to improve broadband network

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 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 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. 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”. Patterson, speaking at BT’s Delivering Britain’s Digital Future conference in London, pledged to tackle slow speeds in hard-to-reach parts of the country, begin rolling out ultrafast broadband from next year and improve customer service at its Openreach business. 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. He also announced plans to supply fibre broadband for all new housing developments, either through BT’s own efforts or in co-operation with developers. “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.

Patterson said new technologies developed at BT’s Adastral Park research laboratories “should help boost slow speeds for many hard-to-reach premises”. 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.

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