Britain’s BT has announced what it calls a ’wave of investment to help the UK remain the leading digital nation in the G20’, revealing that Openreach, which oversees the group’s fixed line infrastructure, and newly-acquired mobile network operator EE will between them spend approximately GBP6 billion (USD8.6 billion) over the next three years. The investment is expected to support the first phase of a plan to extend superfast broadband and 4G coverage beyond 95% of the country by 2020.
BT has said that ultrafast broadband will be a major area of focus for Openreach, which is aiming to pass twelve million premises with such services by 2020, two million more than previously targeted. The company has been conducting trials of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) in which it has examined ways to both reduce the cost of deploying the technology and speed up the installation process, and Openreach has now suggested it may be able to pass two million of those premises with FTTP. In terms of likely rollout locations, FTTP will predominantly be deployed in high streets, business parks, and new property developments. Openreach has noted that it will deploy the technology for free at new property development sites where there are more than 100 homes. In those areas where FTTP is not being deployed, faster speeds are expected via the introduction of G.fast, with BT noting that customers taking part in trials of this technology are currently receiving speeds of up to 300Mbps. Looking ahead, it has said downlink rates could climb to 500Mbps via G.fast in the future, while laboratory tests of XG-FAST, a future variant, are said to have shown that speeds of more than 5Gbps are possible over short copper lines.
Commenting on the company’s investment plans, BT Group chief executive Gavin Patterson said: ‘The UK is a digital leader today and it is vital that it remains one in the future. That is why we are announcing a further GBP6 billion of investment in our UK networks, subject to regulatory certainty … Networks require money and a lot of it. Virgin and BT have both pledged to invest and we will now see if others follow our lead. Infrastructure competition is good for the UK and so is the current Openreach model whereby others can piggyback on our investment should they want to.’