We’re on the right lines to boost broadband speeds, says BT chief

Gavin Patterson
Gavin Patterson

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson has unveiled proposals which he says will give broadband speeds in the North East a major boost.

Speaking at BT’s Delivering Britain’s Digital Future conference in London in December, Patterson announced a range of pledges.

He said BT also aimed to tackle slow speeds in hard-to-reach parts of the country; achieve a step-change in speeds overall, with ultrafast roll-out starting next year; and improve customer service, through a number of commitments unveiled by Openreach.

Mr Patterson said: “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.

“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.”

Simon Roberson, regional partnership director for BT in the North East, said: “These proposals will have a major impact on the future success and prosperity of the North East. BT is already leading the way with nearly 900,000 households and businesses in the region having access to high-speed fibre broadband – and that number continues to grow each week.

“Now we are preparing to push ahead with the ultrafast broadband revolution and ensure that even people in the most challenging locations can get broadband capable of delivering sophisticated services, such as high-definition video.

“In an increasingly competitive world, this further major investment will be another vital boost for our region. Nobody is doing more than BT to ensure that the North East has world -class broadband communications.”

Ninety per cent of UK premises can already access fibre broadband, putting the UK top of the EU’s largest countries, according to regulator Ofcom.

Mr Patterson committed BT to supporting government in delivering a new universal minimum broadband speed of 5Mpbs to 10Mbps, enough for everyone in the UK to enjoy popular internet services like high-definition video.

He emphasised the need for a supportive regulatory and government policy environment to bring about a commercially-viable investment.

He also cited new technologies developed at BT’s Adastral Park research laboratories, which should help boost slow speeds for many hard-to-reach premises. Industry-leading research there includes tests on promising new technologies such as ‘wireless to the cabinet’ and ‘long reach VDSL’, to help bring higher-speed broadband to hard-to-reach communities.

Patterson also pledged the company would introduce a satellite broadband service for some of the UK’s more remote premises by the end of the year.

Patterson announced BT’s desire to go ‘further and faster’ on fibre broadband.

He made clear BT would ‘never say no’ to providing faster broadband to communities, promising the company would instead explore innovative funding and technical solutions. He said 90 communities in the UK were already benefitting from this approach.

The BT chief executive said the UK would go beyond government’s current 95 per cent target for fibre availability, thanks to ‘success dividend’ clauses in contracts covering rollout co-funded 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. A sum of £130million is already being released and is potentially available to get the UK towards having fibre available at 96 per cent of premises. A greater proportion will have access to fibre broadband than mains gas.

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

Mr Patterson stressed the potential benefit to homes and smaller businesses from ultrafast broadband technology. These services will sit beside ‘ethernet’ broadband services, which already offer ultrafast speeds to larger businesses and organisations which can pay for bespoke dedicated lines. He went beyond his January statement on ultrafast broadband, to say BT’s new services of 300-500Mbps would reach 10m UK homes and smaller businesses by the end of 2020.