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BT to speed up next-gen broadband rollout

The telco will look for a way to deliver fibre-based 100Mbps broadband to more than a million locations by next year, twice as fast as it had planned
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

BT is planning to double the pace of its forthcoming next-generation broadband fibre rollout, bringing up to 100Mbps broadband within reach of more than a million premises next year.

The move comes after the telco reported tough financials and announced a further 15,000 job cuts. Chief executive Ian Livingston said a faster fibre rollout would help it safeguard jobs.

Last year, BT announced it would spend £1.5bn by 2012 to fund a fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) rollout aimed at hooking up 40 percent of UK homes and businesses, some 10 million premises.

But in a statement following its Q4 financial report yesterday, Livingston said the company would look at ways of speeding up this rollout.

He said: "We will examine doubling the pace of the rollout of super-fast broadband next year within existing capital expenditure plans, bringing fibre-based services within the reach of more than a million homes and businesses and securing the jobs of 1,000 BT people."

Livingston blamed "unacceptable" performance at IT services division, BT Global Services, which reported a £198m operating loss, for overshadowing good performance in other part of the company. BT Retail and its local-loop unbundling division, Openreach, reported operating profits of £324m and £296m respectively.

"With a recovery programme for BT Global Services in place and our heightened focus on costs and customer service, we now want to accelerate our plans for our future networks," he added.

Earlier this year, the telco named the first 29 exchanges which would get FTTC — bringing next-gen broadband within the reach of 500,000 homes and businesses.

A spokeswoman for BT confirmed more than 29 exchanges will now be included in this spring 2010 FTTC rollout — in order to bring the number of enabled lines up to a million. These additional 'first wave' FTTC exchanges will be announced in the autumn, she added.

"We can't be clear yet on the number of exchanges or where they are because we'll be working with regional development authorities and the like to assess interest in other parts of the country to receive the FTTC solution," she explained.

The spokeswoman added that BT jobs will be safeguarded as more staff will be moved over to the FTTC programme to speed up the rollout. "We will be increasing the number of people working on the programme," she said. "We are adding about 500 engineers to the programme, so we can deploy fibre faster."

"It's good for the UK in that we can obviously bring FTTC to a wider footprint of customers quicker than we originally anticipated," she added.

The incumbent has previously been criticised for dragging its feet over fibre and preferring to concentrate on delivering services via its legacy copper network — meaning UK average broadband speeds have been left lagging nations that have moved to deploy fibre more quickly.

The telco's first FTTC pilots — in London and Wales — are due to start this summer.

Cable broadband purveyor Virgin Media recently announced it is in the midst of trialling a 200Mbps broadband service in Ashford, Kent.

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