BT hits the broadband million

Trigger levels are cut, as the telco celebrates Ben Verwaayen's faith in BT's ability to make broadband a top priority

BT has achieved its target of reaching one million ADSL connections by this summer.

To celebrate the feat, the telco is making significant reductions in the trigger levels it set for local telephone exchanges that are not yet broadband-enabled. This move should further speed up the rollout of ADSL across the UK.

BT announced on Monday that the goal, set by chief executive Ben Verwaayen shortly after he took office, has been hit.

At the time, it was generally seen as an ambitious goal, given the feeble state of the UK's broadband market in early 2002. After two rounds of price cuts, plus the introduction of BT's broadband pre-registration scheme, Verwaayen's confidence has been rewarded.

"In February last year I set the challenging target of one million DSL broadband connections by summer 2003. Well, we are there by early summer and it is a great achievement," said Verwaayen in a statement.

According to some in the industry, the credit should also go to the many ISPs that resell BT Wholesale's ADSL products. "BT must be delighted with themselves, but er... can you remind me just how many ISPs it takes to reach a million ADSL customers?" one insider commented.

Verwaayen, though, sees the feat as a positive sign. "The UK is one of the most competitive broadband environments in the world and this is shown by the fact that more than 100 service providers supply broadband over our phone lines to one million customers," he said.

Around 30 percent of homes cannot access BT's broadband network because their local exchange has not been upgraded. To address this problem BT introduced trigger levels -- a calculation of how many local residents need to register their interest in getting broadband before it make economic sense for the necessary equipment to be installed.

There has been criticism that some of these were set unreasonably high -- a charge BT has previously denied by insisting that as a commercial organisation it could not justify rolling out its ADSL network in places where there wasn't sufficient demand.

Despite this, the company announced on Monday that every one of its trigger levels has been cut by 50 registrations. This means that an extra 69 exchanges have now hit their triggers, and will be added to BT's ADSL rollout programme.

A BT spokesman told ZDNet UK on Monday that it could afford to make this cut because of the UK's ongoing broadband boom.

"Thanks to the fantastic efforts of local campaign groups, broadband awareness, take up and growth rates have all risen steeply. This growth is higher than BT originally anticipated hence we can now afford to take more of a risk," the BT spokesman explained.


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