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BT puts faith in fibre broadband network

Telecoms giant posts strong financials for the year on back of fibre broadband growth
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

The UK's largest telecoms provider, BT, says it is starting to see the rewards from its sustained investment in the UK's fibre infrastructure.

The company has reported its results for the fourth quarter of 2014 and the full year, the headline figures including a four percent rise in the number of consumer customers, the first full-year rise in 10 years. Earnings for the whole group were flat at £6.1bn when compared to 2013 following heavy investment in Premier League football, but earnings in its Global Services unit were up by 12 percent.

BT made it clear in its earnings statement that it believes that its strategy of investing more than £3bn to roll-out of a fibre network has been vindicated. As of the end of its fourth quarter (31 March), BT said that more than 19 million homes across the UK now have access to fibre broadband.

"Our investment in fibre is delivering with 1.3 million more premises taking fibre this year, almost doubling the number of homes and businesses now connected," said BT chief executive Gavin Patterson.

This year according to the company BT has added 826,000 new customers for its broadband services (copper or fibre) through its Openreach service. Some 217,000 of these were added in the fourth quarter. BT says that it now had some 18.4m users in the UK.

In contrast, again according to BT's figures, Sky signed up 70,000 new customers in the fourth quarter while EE signed 20,000.

According to BT, this year, around 1.3m new customers signed up to a fibre service from Openreach, with 347,000 of these joining in the fourth quarter, January and March 2014. BT says that this is up around 28 percent on the 270,000 added during Q4 last year.

Gartner analyst Katja Ruud said there is a very positive outlook for BT. "After some of the issues the company has had it is a relief to see that the revenue is quite flat."

Faster growth, when it comes, will come from the consumer market, she thinks. "BT is in a very competitive business, one of the most competitive to be in," she said.

Ruud said that when that is taken into context, it is doing well in the competition with US giants like Verizon and AT&T.

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