BT has outlined plans for further investments in ultrafast broadband and 4G network coverage. In brief its plans for ultrafast broadband envisage such services being available to 12 million homes by 2020. It wants to provide over 2 million homes and businesses with FTTP. Furthermore, ultrafast broadband and 4G coverage are both expected to pass 95 per cent.
BT Group Chief Executive Gavin Patterson said that it was necessary to invest "a further six billion pounds" in its UK networks to maintain the UK's position as "a digital leader". The investment will be divided between both wired and wireless networks.
For broadband the investment is expected to bring an ultrafast service to many more people. Ultrafast broadband should be deployed to 10 million people and FTTP tech to a further 2 million by 2020. BT's G.Fast research (using a combo of copper and fibre) is expected to play an important role in boosting customer speeds, as the tech becomes ready for wider roll out. Current G.Fast testers are enjoying speeds of up to 300Mbps and the upper threshold is being pushed to 500Mbps. In the future BT thinks XG-FAST can still make use of this cabling mix to provide speeds of over 5Gbps.
EE says that its 4G footprint will extend from around 60 per cent today to equal the ultrafast broadband goal of 95 per cent by 2020. The parallel plan will provide customers with convenient, flexible connectivity options across the vast majority of the UK.
A range of initiatives were also announced today to tackle service quality. A 24-hour line fault fix standard was proposed and the handling the majority of calls in UK-based call centres was pledged. A thousand new engineers and additional engineer training will help further. Openreach aims to improve its missed appointments numbers by cutting them in half – to 2.5 per cent.
Interestingly the £6bn investment plan is "subject to regulatory certainty", which hints that it requires Ofcom's support of the BT/Openreach status quo. Put simply, the above big investments may not go ahead if the industry regulator Ofcom implements any unfavourable actions, such as making Openreach independent.