In the wake of renewed calls from its rivals for the separation of BT and its network arm Openreach, the British fixed line incumbent has laid out what it has termed its ‘vision for Britain’s digital future’. Speaking at BT’s Delivering Britain’s Digital Future conference in London, BT chief executive Gavin Patterson made a number of pledges, including: to tackle slow speeds in hard-to-reach parts of the country; to achieve a ‘step-change in speeds overall’, with the operator aiming to begin the rollout of ultrafast broadband next year; and to improve customer service, through a number of commitments unveiled by Openreach.
With regards to BT’s commitment to delivering a new universal minimum broadband speed of between 5Mbps and 10Mbps, Mr Patterson stressed the need for a supportive regulatory and government policy environment to bring about a commercially viable investment. In order to realise the higher baseline downlink rates for hard-to-reach premises the executive noted that new technologies – including ‘wireless to the cabinet’ and ‘long reach VDSL’ – are currently being developed at BT’s laboratories. Further, Patterson also revealed that BT aims to introduce a satellite broadband service for some of the UK’s more remote premises by the end of the year. In terms of extending fibre broadband beyond the existing plans to pass 95% of the UK’s premises, meanwhile, Mr Patterson said that BT would explore innovative funding and technical solutions, with a co-funding of GBP130 million (USD201 million) already being released to potentially boost fibre availability to 96% of the population.
The CEO confirmed that the operator is now aiming to have some ten million homes and smaller businesses able to connect at downlink speeds of between 300Mbps and 500Mbps by the end of 2020; such speeds will reportedly be achieved using a combination of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) and G.fast technologies.