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BT pledges ‘ultrafast’ broadband to 10m homes by 2020

BT's Gavin Patterson

BT’s Gavin Patterson

BT has outlined its vision for ‘Britain’s Digital Future’, including a commitment to provide “ultrafast” broadband speeds of 300-500Mbps to 10 million premises by the end of 2020.

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 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.

Patterson said that BT will support the government in delivering a new universal minimum broadband speed of 5-10Mbps in the UK, and claimed the company has a desire to go “further and faster” on fibre broadband by surpassing the government’s current 95% target for fibre availability by one percentage point.

“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. To achieve this, we need a collaborative effort across industry and government,” said Patterson.

Discussing BT’s Openreach division, which is responsible for maintaining the national broadband network, Openreach CEO, Joe Garner, said there was more to do on the service.

Garner said he aimed to exceed by 6% Ofcom’s 2017 minimum standards for delivering new connections on-time, and said that a new service called ‘View My Engineer’ will give customers text progress updates plus their engineer’s name and mobile number should they need to make contact.

He claimed Openreach exceeded all 60 Ofcom service standards in 2014/15, hired 3,000 extra engineers, reduced installation waiting times and fixing faults faster while halving complaints.

The comments come against the backdrop of an Ofcom review into the UK communications market, with one of the topics under consideration being whether BT’s Openreach division should be split from BT’s other businesses.

In an open letter published by the Financial Times yesterday, the chief executives of Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone UK argued that there is an “urgent need for increased competition” in the UK broadband market and called for broadcast regulator Ofcom to ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to “undertake a full market investigation.”

“Only the CMA, with the support of Ofcom, can address the structural barriers to competition that will unlock the next wave of investment in communications infrastructure that the country urgently needs. We cannot afford to wait,” according to the executives.

Paolo Pescatore, director, multiplay and video at CCS Insight said BT’s commitments today mark “the latest tussle between BT and its rivals” in light BT’s planned acquisition of mobile operator EE.

“BT is putting up a strong defence. Its latest pledges will address some of the shortcomings raised by its rivals, notably investment and service quality. However, this is unlikely to satisfy its rivals as they will still call for full separation, lower prices and greater access to BT’s network,” said Pescatore.

The news comes as a KPMG report valued the impact of BT’s future commitments as worth £20 – £30 billion to the UK economy over the next decade.

A separate BT-commissioned report by Analysys Mason claimed yesterday that the UK will “outperform other major European countries on a range of fixed telecoms measures for the next five years, and become one of the best performing countries worldwide by 2020.”