BT said today (May 13th, 2021) it would extend its full-fibre broadband network to 25m premises by the end of 2026. The provider aims to fund the remaining 5m homes and businesses through a joint venture with other parties.
It is thought the move, which could cost up to £50bn, will lead to as many as 7,000 new jobs.
BT, Britain’s biggest broadband and mobile provider, set the new target as it reported a 7% fall in revenue and a 6% fall in adjusted earnings for the year to end-March, reflecting the impact of COVID-19.
Chief Executive Philip Jansen said changes in regulation and tax, along with a new agreement on the company’s pension payments had cleared the way to raise its fibre ambitions.
“After a number of years of tough work, and as we look to build back better from the pandemic, we’re now pivoting to consistent and predictable growth,” he said.
“The right thing to do is take the short-term cash hit, which will, of course, affect us, in order to grow,” CEO Philip Jansen said.
“I am sure the share price will follow the progress of the business and I am very optimistic about it.”
Added Phil Sorsky, Senior Vice President International at CommScope:
“Today’s announcement from BT, setting more ambitious targets for fibre broadband rollout, is a promising step forwards for connectivity in the most remote parts of the UK. We believe all homes and businesses should be on a level playing field in terms of connectivity – regardless of location. As we upgrade our networks, we must ensure no areas are left behind and have the necessary network infrastructure to enable greater growth throughout the UK.
“Such connectivity could be the difference between success and failure in these areas, particularly for smaller, home-based businesses, as it enables them to reach a global audience. And with the lines between “home” and “office” increasingly blurred due to the rise of remote working, having access to reliable connectivity is crucial so that local economies and communities can truly thrive.”
Following the announcement, shares in BT dropped 3.3 per cent as markets opened.
The BT news today followed yesterday’s from Ofcom that one in five homes can now connect to full-fibre broadband, also available from companies such as Virgin Media. That’s twice as many as this time last year, according to Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations data.
As of January 2021, around six million UK homes (21 per cent) were able to get full-fibre broadband – up from 18 per cent in September 2020. Broadband delivered over full-fibre networks is faster and more reliable than the decades-old copper connections that most people still use for high-speed internet access.