BT to invest £1.5bn sterling to fibre 10 million UK and NI homes

15 Jul 2008

BT today revealed plans to roll out fibre-based, super-fast broadband to as many as 10 million homes across the UK and Northern Ireland by 2012.

The £1.5bn sterling programme will deliver a range of services with top speeds of up to 100Mbps, with the potential for speeds of more than 1Gbps in the future.

A spokesperson for BT in Ireland confirmed the rollout will include Northern Ireland.

“Broadband has boosted the UK economy and is now an essential part of our customers’ lives,” said BT chief executive, Ian Livingston.

“We now want to make a step-change in broadband provision which will offer faster speeds than ever before. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in Britain’s broadband story.”

Livingston said a supportive and enduring regulatory environment is essential if this investment is to take place.

“Given this, BT will be discussing with Ofcom the conditions that would be necessary to enable this programme to progress. These include removing current barriers to investment and making sure anyone who chooses to invest in fibre can earn a fair rate of return for their shareholders.”

BT already provides fibre to the premises of more than 120,000 businesses in the UK, and has deployed over 10 million kilometres of fibre in the network.

BT is committed to wholesaling its new services – unlike many other companies and countries – thereby ensuring the UK remains the most competitive broadband market in the world. BT will also be pressing for any other next-generation access network in the UK to be open to other companies.

BT expects its initial investment in the programme will result in around £100m sterling of incremental capital expenditure in each of the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 financial years, taking the total expected capital expenditure in those years to around £3.2bn sterling and £3.1bn sterling, respectively.

The remaining incremental spend of £800m sterling will be spread over the following three financial years. 

Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, agreed that providing the right regulatory environment is crucial. “Firstly, given the potential consumer benefits, regulation needs to provide the right incentives for operators to invest, recognising the inherently risky nature of these investments.

“Secondly, we want to continue to promote a vibrant competitive environment as we enter the next generation of communications services.

“Thirdly, we are already working closely with communications providers, and our wider stakeholders, to ensure there is a concerted dialogue on the regulatory environment to support investment and competition.

“Building on these discussions and our policy work over the last two years, we will be publishing further detailed proposals for the regulatory framework for next-generation access networks in September,” Richards said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years