BT has increased its full fibre rollout target by five million premises and now hopes to reach 25 million homes and businesses by December 2026.
The company says its network subsidiary Openreach is expanding its fibre network, which is used by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and others to deliver broadband services to customers, at a rate of 43,000 homes and businesses a week and now reaches 4.6 million premises.
BT had previously said it was willing to go even further, but only if there was a favourable regulatory environment that allowed it to make a fair return.
BT fibre target
Ofcom’s indication that it won’t impose price caps on Openreach’s fastest wholesale products for a decade, coupled with a positive outcome of the recent 5G spectrum auction, the UK government’s tax super-deduction, and a reduction in BT’s pension deficit of £4 billion, means the firm now considers the conditions to be agreeable.
The expansion of the fibre build, along with the ongoing rollout of 5G, could create an additional 7,000 jobs.
BT has also said it is considering the possibility of a joint-venture for the final five million, meaning another provider or third party could get involved. Telecoms infrastructure, such as fibre networks and mobile masts, has proved to be a popular investment for private equity firms in recent times because of the predictable, long-term revenues.
“A number of uncertainties have now been removed … today we are increasing and accelerating our FTTP target to 25m homes and businesses by December 2026 to deliver further value to our shareholders and support the Government’s full fibre ambitions,” said BT CEO Philip Jansen.
“This has three massive benefits: it allows us to go faster, beefing up our capacity to build fibre to households and businesses; it allows us to go further, getting fibre to more people including in rural communities, and; it will help fuel UK economic recovery, with better connectivity and up to 7,000 new jobs.”
The greater availability of fibre will also make it easier to provide the backhaul connections necessary for 5G networks.
The announcement coincides with the publication of BT’s annual results, which the company said were in line with expectations. Revenues were down by 7% to £21.3 billion, mainly due to the impact of the pandemic, while net profit fell by 23% to £1.8 billion.
“BT comes out of this challenging year as a stronger business with an even greater sense of purpose,” added Jansen. “Our fantastic colleagues have shown the true colours of BT – delivering resilient connectivity, supporting families and businesses and helping to underpin the heroism of the NHS.
“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. We are building a better BT for our customers, for the country and for those who work for this great company – now and in the future.”
Openreach is one of several firms building fibre to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure across the UK, along with CityFibre, Virgin Media and others.