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BT pledges £6 billion for superfast broadband and 4G upgrades

Engadget Engadget 5/05/2016 Matt Brian
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In its first set of financial results since it absorbed EE, the UK's biggest mobile operator, BT has made a fresh commitment to improving broadband and 4G connectivity across Britain. The company says it is to spend £6 billion on improving its services, which will include extending its superfast broadband coverage to 12 million homes and covering 95 percent of the UK by 2020.

If you feel like you've heard these upgrade promises before, you're not wrong. Last September, BT CEO Gavin Patterson promised to offer minimum broadband speeds of at least 24Mbps to 95 percent of the population by 2017. BT is getting there -- it's recently begun upgrading entry-level Infinity fibre broadband customers to 52Mbps -- but with Virgin now delivering speeds of up to 200Mbps, the UK's biggest telecoms provider is still playing catch-up.

With G.Fast technology -- a mixture of fibre and copper -- BT is on target to offer up to 300Mbps speeds to 10 million homes and businesses. However, it also plans to broaden its Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) infrastructure to 2 million additional premises -- mostly new build houses, high streets and business parks in urban areas -- where speeds can reach up to 1Gbps.

The announcement comes shortly after UK communications watchdog Ofcom said it won't split BT and its Openreach broadband arm. The regulator said the company must improve the speed of its fibre broadband rollout and provide more opportunities for its broadband rivals, which are forced to lease Openreach lines, to deploy their own connections on telegraph poles and in underground ducts.

Sky was quick to blast Ofcom's decision not to break up BT and Openreach and is now attacking its rival's updated plans: "Today's statement shows that BT continues to see copper as the basis of its network for 21st century Britain. Despite BT's claims, it is clearer than ever that their plans for fibre to the premise broadband will bypass almost every existing UK home," said Sky Group Chief Operating Officer Andrew Griffith.

"This limited ambition has been dragged out of BT by the threat of regulatory action, demonstrating once again why an independent Openreach, free to raise its own long-term capital, is the best way for the UK to get the fibre network it needs."


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