BT to Invest Billions More on Fiber, 4G and Customer Service

  • BT
  • Openreach
DURHAM, UK — BT announced a further wave of investment with an emphasis on fiber to the premises (FTTP) technology. Its Openreach and EE businesses will between them spend around six billion pounds in capital expenditure over the next three years in the first phase of a plan to extend superfast broadband and 4G coverage beyond 95 percent of the country by 2020.

Increased Focus on FTTP Technology
Ultrafast broadband will be deployed to a minimum of 10 million homes and businesses in the same period, subject to regulatory support, with an ambition to reach 12 million. There will be an increased focus on fiber to the premises 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.

“The UK is a digital leader today and it is vital that it remains one in the future," said BT Group Chief Executive Gavin Patterson. "That is why we are announcing a further $8.6 billion investment in our UK networks, subject to regulatory certainty. 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.

“ is an important technology that will enable us 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 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 1 Gbps. My ambition is to roll it out to 2 million premises and our trials give me confidence we will."

Broader Coverage
The UK is the leading digital economy in the G20 with the highest superfast broadband coverage and take up in the EU "big five." More than 90 percent of UK premises can access superfast broadband across all fixed networks and that is set to rise to 95 percent by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, more than 15 million people are using 4G via the EE network, the highest number for any operator in Europe.

BT’s next wave of investment will help Openreach take UK superfast broadband coverage beyond 95 percent and the business also stands ready to address slow speeds in the final few percent of the country should there be regulatory support for its plans. Long Reach VDSL has been identified as a potential solution and Openreach is set to run technical trials in the coming months.

EE meanwhile has said that it will extend its geographic 4G footprint from around 60 percent today to 95 percent by 2020. These parallel plans will ensure the UK is one of the best served countries in the world when it comes to superfast fixed and mobile services.

Ultrafast Broadband
Ultrafast broadband will be a major area of focus for Openreach, which said it has an ambition to reach twelve million premises with ultrafast services by 2020, two million more than previously announced. The business has the largest FTTP network in the UK and it has been conducting further trials of this technology to prove it can reduce the cost of deployment, improve the customer experience and make it quicker to install. The trials are going well and the business believes it may be able to pass two million premises with this technology by 2020 helping to take overall ultrafast availability to twelve million.

FTTP is likely to be deployed to hundreds of thousands of SMEs in high streets and business parks — should there be demand — providing them with a service that offers speeds of up to 1 Gbps without the need for a dedicated business grade line. The updated service will be developed by Openreach in the coming months taking the views of its communication provider customers into account.

FTTP will also be deployed to consumers in new property developments with Openreach announcing it would deploy the service for free at sites where there are more than 100 homes. It may also play a role in serving apartment blocks and some rural areas where it may provide the most appropriate solution.

While some consumers will receive their ultrafast broadband via FTTP, most will receive it via, a technology which transforms the speeds customers can receive over a mix of fiber and copper. Customers taking part in the trials are currently receiving speeds of up to 300 Mbps and these will reach up to 500 Mbps in the next few years as the technology is deployed. Laboratory tests of XG-FAST, a future variant, have also shown that speeds of more than 5 Gbps are possible over short copper lines demonstrating that copper has a role to play for many years yet.


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