BT announced a further acceleration of its commercial fibre roll-out, stating it will pass two thirds of UK premises during Spring 2014. This is at least 18 months ahead of its original target of the end of 2015.
The news has been welcomed by the Government, as the early completion of this footprint will enable BT to focus further on working with the public sector to extend fibre to the ‘final third’ of the country, in areas where it has won BDUK contracts. This work will help the UK to continue its climb up the broadband league tables, in line with the Government’s vision of having the best superfast broadband network amongst major European countries by 2015.
Secretary of State for Culture Maria Miller said: “Our broadband programme is a key element of our growth and investment agenda and a real priority. Fibre technology is a major driver of economic growth and I am delighted to see BT make such good progress in helping to get the UK connected. Connectivity is a key issue for people across the country whether in rural or urban areas and I now look forward to seeing rapid progress in the Government-backed projects to connect hard to reach areas.”
This is the second time that BT has accelerated the programme, having previously brought forward the completion date from the end of 2015 to the end of 2014. Openreach, the part of BT that is rolling out the technology, is succeeding in delivering its target well ahead of schedule as a result of learning lessons along the way and improving its processes. The business is also recruiting additional engineers to help with fibre installations, with volumes expected to increase in line with the footprint expansion.
When complete, BT’s commercial fibre footprint will be the largest in the UK by some margin, covering around 19 million homes and businesses. BT has passed more than 12 million premises with the technology to date and will overtake Virgin Media’s cable footprint in the coming months.
The accelerated schedule was announced at BT’s Q2 financial results, where the company revealed it now has more than 950,000 premises connected to fibre broadband over its network. More than 70 communications providers are now active in the fibre market with all of them having access to BT’s network on equivalent terms. BT had previously announced a wholesale customer base of around 750,000 fibre customers at the end of July.
Ian Livingston, BT chief executive said: “Fibre is at the heart of our broadband plans for both town and country. We plan to step up our efforts yet again to complete our commercial fibre roll-out early as this will allow us to focus even further on the next exciting stage of our fibre broadband strategy. This will see BT working hand in hand with the public sector to extend
fibre broadband to UK homes and businesses in the ‘final third’ of the country that are harder to reach.”
Liv Garfield, Openreach chief executive added: “The fact we are able to set an earlier target for the completion of our commercial roll-out is a fantastic testament to the ongoing hard work of our engineers. We look forward to welcoming many more engineers to Openreach over the coming months as we step up our recruitment drive to help connect fibre to more homes and businesses across the UK.”
As well as providing an update on its fibre connections, BT also gave an update on the total number of broadband connections – both fibre and copper – over its network. This total broadband customer base increased by 174,000 during the quarter to stand at more than 17 million for the first time.