BT to 'build like fury' connecting millions of homes after new Ofcom rules

Telecoms giant BT has outlined plans to “build like fury” and spend billions of pounds rolling out full-fibre broadband to 20 million homes in the UK no later than the end of the decade.

A long-awaited decision by industry regulator Ofcom will allow the firm to secure the returns on investment bosses had been hoping for and provide clarity over pricing for the next ten years, BT added.

Officials at BT hoped the £12 billion investment would allow them to make a profit margin of 12 per cent and, although Ofcom did not specify a percentage, the company said the rules would allow the rollout to commence.

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BT chief executive Philip Jansen said: “This is good news for all fibre providers in the UK. For us, it is the green light we’ve been waiting for to get on and build like fury.

BT chief executive Philip Jansen: 'Full-fibre broadband will be the foundation of a strong BT for decades to come and a shot in the arm for the UK as we build back better from this pandemic.' Picture: Jeff Holmes

“Full-fibre broadband will be the foundation of a strong BT for decades to come and a shot in the arm for the UK as we build back better from this pandemic.”

BT’s wholesale division, Openreach, will see no regulation or price caps on its new fibre services but will be able to increase prices on its older copper networks in line with inflation for the next ten years.

The increase in costs on the older networks will encourage customers to switch to the new full-fibre services and the extra cash will go towards the rollout and get investors the returns they were expecting.

Openreach boss Clive Selley said: “We’ve now passed almost 4.5 million premises and are building faster, at lower cost and higher quality than anyone else in the UK.

“Today’s regulation will allow us to ramp up to three million premises per year providing vital next generation connectivity for homes and business right across the UK.”

Ofcom said its new rules would lead to properties in around 70 per cent of the UK having a choice of networks from competitive commercial rollout.

Openreach said it had committed to deploy full fibre to a further 3.2 million properties (10 per cent) in more rural areas. The UK government plans to cover the remaining 20 per cent of the country through public funding, to “help ensure nobody gets left behind”, Ofcom added.

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Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “Over the past year, being connected has never mattered more. But millions of homes are still using the copper lines that were first laid over 100 years ago.

“Now it’s time to ramp up the rollout of better broadband across the UK. We’re playing our part - setting the right conditions for companies to step up and invest in the country’s full-fibre future.”

Virgin Media chief executive Lutz Schuler said: “Ofcom’s focus is in the right place, and we urge the regulator to maintain this trajectory so that more of the country can benefit from competing gigabit networks that deliver long-lasting economic, societal and environmental benefits.”

CityFibre boss Greg Mesch added: “This regulation will promote and protect the infrastructure competition that is enabling Britain to go full speed ahead for full fibre.”

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