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BT brings forward fibre rollout end date again

The telco now says it will have covered two-thirds of the UK with fibre connectivity by the spring of 2014, not the end of 2014 as it said a year ago, and not the end of 2015 as was the original plan.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT has sped up its fibre broadband rollout plans for a second time, saying it will be offering super-fast connectivity to two-thirds of the UK by the spring of 2014.

BT has brought forward the date of completion of its fibre rollout. Image: BT

The original target for the £2.5bn deployment was late 2015, a deadline that BT brought forward to the end of 2014 a year ago. The new completion date was announced on Thursday, alongside BT's latest financial results.

The results also showed that BT now has 950,000 subscriptions for its fibre network, both directly through BT Retail and through other ISPs that resell BT's connectivity.

In total, BT's fibre network passes 12 million premises. BT says the two-thirds target will take that up to 19 million premises homes and businesses. Beyond that, BT is also involved in a largely publicly funded 'final third' rollout.

The 'final third' refers to the mainly rural parts of the country that major ISPs such as BT will not touch without public funds, as they don't see them as profitable enough. Few service providers have bid against BT for this rollout, and none have yet won any contracts against the former incumbent.

"We plan to step up our efforts yet again to complete our commercial fibre rollout early as this will allow us to focus even further on the next exciting stage of our fibre broadband strategy," BT chief Ian Livingston said in a statement. "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."

Report card

As for BT's quarterly results, these showed a nine percent year-on-year drop in revenues, to £4.47bn, but a seven percent rise in pre-tax profits.

BT said its revenues were being hit by "the tough conditions in Europe and the financial services sector", as well as regulatory price reductions and the inexorable decline in voice revenues.

The big regulatory impacts came from two decisions. One was Ofcom forcing BT to adopt new caps on its wholesale and unbundled line rental charges.

The other was a Court of Appeal ruling on so-called 'wholesale ladder termination pricing'. This affects 0845, 0800 and 0870 numbers that are hosted by BT — the telco wanted to charge mobile operators more for connecting their customers to such numbers, where the operators charge their own customers a higher retail price for doing so.

The mobile operators complained to Ofcom and the regulator backed them up. BT complained to the Competition Appeal Tribunal and won, but the operators then won their Court of Appeal ruling. BT now wants to appeal that ruling.

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