UK economy to get £30bn boost as BT pledge to ramp up broadband speeds


BT has pledged to ramp up broadband speeds and coverage for UK businesses and households to add £30bn to the economy.

Chief executive Gavin Patterson, speaking at BT’s Delivering Britain’s Digital Future conference in London, pledged to tackle slow speeds in hard-to-reach parts of the UK, achieve a step-change in speeds overall with ultra-fast broadband rolling out next year and to improve customer service through its Openreach division.

Regarding speeds Patterson committed BT to delivering a new universal minimum broadband speed of 5-10Mbps.

He also cited new technologies developed at BT’s Adastral Park research laboratories, which should help boost slow speeds for many hard-to-reach premises. Research there includes tests on new technologies such as “wireless to the cabinet” and “long reach VDSL”.

He also pledged to introduce a satellite broadband service for some of the UK’s more remote premises by the end of the year.

The BT boss also said the UK would go beyond the government’s current 95 per cent target for fibre availability and stressed the potential benefit to homes and smaller businesses from ultrafast broadband technology.

These services will sit beside “ethernet” broadband services which already offer ultra-fast speeds to larger businesses and organisations which can pay for bespoke dedicated lines.

Patterson said BT’s new 300-500Mbps services would reach ten million homes and smaller businesses by the end of 2020, and the majority of premises within a decade. A 1Gbps service will be provided for those that want even faster speeds.

Joe Garner, the chief executive of Openreach, which has been much criticised for poor service by rivals such as Sky and TalkTalk, said it planned to improve its performance.

This included a new service called “View My Engineer” giving customers text progress updates plus their engineer’s name and mobile number should they need to make contact.

He highlighted an issue which arises because customers often cannot deal direct with Openreach, but can only deal with their retail broadband provider. Garner declared he is open to having Openreach deal directly with end-customers, subject to consulting Ofcom and telecom providers.

At the conference, a new report was also unveiled by consultants KPMG, valuing the impact of BT’s future commitments as worth £20-£30bn to the UK economy over the next decade.

Patterson said: “For the past five years, the UK has been the largest digital economy in the G20, by percentage of GDP. We think the UK has an even brighter future ahead if we make the right decisions today.

“We want to forge an ultrafast future for Britain and stand ready to help government deliver the broadband speeds necessary for every property to enjoy modern day internet services, such as high definition TV streaming and cloud computing. To achieve this, we need a collaborative effort across industry and government.”