Slow broadband? BT just announced its biggest-ever fibre upgrade

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At its latest earnings call, BT revealed progress on its full-fibre broadband rollout. This next-generation infrastructure replaces ageing copper cables, which are considerably slower, have less bandwidth for busy streets, and can have speeds impacted by adverse weather, to provide downloads at 1,000Mbps. For comparison, the average home broadband speed recorded earlier this year was a meagre 71.8Mbps.

While Virgin Media is close to connecting some 16 million homes to its Gig1 network, which offers the same 1,000Mbps download speeds, BT is a little further behind. The telecom’s Openreach brand, which supplies broadband infrastructure for BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and a number of other popular brands, has reached 5.16 million premises in the UK.

In its previous earnings call, BT announced that Openreach’s full-fibre network had reached 4.6 million. So, the company has managed to add 560,000 in the last three months alone. With a number of coronavirus restrictions still in place throughout that period, that’s a pretty impressive feat.

BT currently has 860,000 full-fibre customers nationwide, which is an increase from 753,000 from the previous quarter. Meanwhile, EE has 4 million customers on 5G ready contracts and SIMs, an increase from 3.2 million.

BT has already confirmed plans to invest £15 billion to help rapidly expand Openreach’s full-fibre network to 25 million premises in the UK by December 20206, with at least 6.2 million of those in rural or semi-rural areas. At its peak, the build is tipped to reach 75,000 premises per week.

Despite this vast expansion, there are rumours Sky is looking to move its broadband customers from Openreach’s infrastructure to Virgin Media O2 which, following its multi-billion merger earlier this year, now plans to open its gigabit-capable network to other brands to rival Openreach.

Speaking during the quarterly earnings call, BT Group CEO Philip Jansen said: “We’re powering ahead with our network build programmes: Openreach has now built full-fibre broadband to more than 5m premises with growing customer demand; EE has set out plans for 5G on-demand anywhere in the UK by 2028.

“We’ve also reached a partnership agreement with our largest trade union, the CWU1, allowing us to keep our modernisation plans on track. We continue to invest in new strategic growth areas and have also today announced a strengthened strategic partnership with Microsoft that will see us accelerate co-innovation across all areas of our business, including enterprise voice and cyber security, supporting our growth strategy.

“With trading conditions expected to see some improvement through the year, we have confirmed our outlook and remain confident that BT is on a path to growth.”



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