BT pledges improved broadband for entire UK

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Telecoms provider announces its desire to go “further and faster” as it looks to cement the UK as the G20’s leading digital economy

BT has unveiled a number of plans to bring improved broadband to every UK premises, with a pledge to go “further and faster”.

The announcement was made by BT chief executive Gavin Patterson, who was speaking today at the company’s ‘Delivering Britain’s Digital Future’ conference in London.

Patterson pledged to tackle low speeds in hard-to-reach areas; achieve a step-change in speeds overall, with ultrafast rollout starting next year; and improve customer service through a number of commitments unveiled by Openreach.

A report by consultants KPMG has valued the impact of BT’s future commitments as worth £20-£30 billion to the UK economy over the next decade.

“For the past five years, the UK has been the largest digital economy in the G20, by percentage of GDP. We think the UK has an even brighter future ahead if we make the right decisions today,” he 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. To achieve this, we need a collaborative effort across industry and government.”

Patterson revealed a plan for a new universal minimum broadband speed of 5-10Mbps for every home and business, subject to regulatory support. He cited new technologies developed at BT’s Adastral Park research laboratories, which would help boost slow speeds for many hard-to-reach premises.

“Further and faster”

BT’s boss also announced the company’s desire to go “further and faster” on fibre broadband by extending coverage of this beyond the government’s 95 per cent premises target, thanks to “success dividend clauses in contracts covering rollout co-founded by BT, Whitehall and local councils.

The clauses mean BT has to reinvest or return money if take-up exceeds certain levels in areas where public funds have been used. BT said a sum of £130 million is already being released and is potentially available to get the UK towards having 96 per cent of premises, adding a greater proportion of premises will have access to fibre broadband than can access mains gas.

Patterson also announced plans to supply fibre broadband for all new housing developments, either through BT’s own efforts or in cooperation with developers.

Ultrafast 2020 promise

He went on to say that BT’s new ultrafast broadband services, achieving speeds of 300-500Mbps, would reach 10 million homes and smaller businesses by the end of 2020, and the majority of premises within a decade.

A 1Gbps service will be provided for those that want faster speeds. The connection would be a combination of Fibre-to-the-Premises technology, as well as new G.fast technology, which used Fibre-to-the-Cabinet technology.

BT chief executive joe Garner said the firm exceeded all 60 Ofcom service standards in 2014/15, which saw it hire 3,000 additional engineers that have reduced installation waiting times, fixed faults faster and halved complaints. He made clear his ambition to exceed Ofcom’s 2017 minimum standards for delivering new connection on-time by six per cent.

Garner cited ‘View My Engineer’ as a key step forward, which provides customers with text progress updates plus their engineer’s name and mobile number should they need to make contact.

He also highlighted issues that arise when customers can’t deal direct with Openreach and only with their retail broadband provider. He declared he was is open to Openreach dealing directly with end customers, subject to consulting Ofcom and telecom providers.

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