BT has promised to support universal minimum broadband speeds of 5-10 megabits per second for every home and business across the UK, as well as extending the reach of its superfast fibre networks.
The telecoms company has detailed plans to surpass broadband requirements laid out by the government in terms of both speeds and reach, amid calls from its rivals to split off from Openreach, the national broadband network that it owns and operates. BT says it can extend fibre broadband coverage to more than 95 percent of UK premises, which is a major target set out by the government.
"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," said CEO Gavin Patterson. "To achieve this, we need a collaborative effort across industry and government."
BT has been criticised for limiting competitor access to its network and for setting its prices too high. The timing of BT's announcement shows that it is trying to appease its rivals, which are calling for the regulator Ofcom and the UK's Competitions and Markets Authority to insist Openreach in spun out from BT. Commentators have welcomed the announcement from BT, but have also recognised that its promises are the company's attempt to placate its rivals.
"A guarantee of 5-10Mbps opens up a new range of Internet services for many, especially those who were at risk of being left behind by crippling speeds or a non-existent broadband connection," said Ewan Taylor-Gibson, a broadband expert for uSwitch. "Openreach still has more to do to improve its service record, so its ambition to exceed service targets could provide some welcome relief to consumers and businesses left helpless by faulty broadband."
In addition to today's announcements, a report published yesterday by Analysys Mason and commissioned by BT said the UK will outperform other European countries and will be one of the leading countries worldwide for broadband by 2020. The publication of the report appears to be another attempt by BT to garner support for its proposals
"BT is putting up a strong defence," said Paolo Pescatore, director of multiplay and video at CCS Insight. "Its latest pledges will address some of the shortcomings raised by its rivals, notably investment and service quality. However, this is unlikely to satisfy its rivals as they will still call for full separation, lower prices and greater access to BT's network. While there are merits of BT's acquisition of EE and retention of Openreach, regulators will be duty bound to listen to the comments of their competitors who will feel less positive about the transaction and the increasing monopolisation of the telecoms sector."
Ofcom was not immediately available to provide comment but says it is examining BT's proposals, which will be reliant upon both government and regulator support.