BT forges on with fibre roll-out but customer uptake weak

BT rolls out fibre optic broadband across the UK at a steady pace but only 15% of fibre-ready premises sign up for the superfast internet service

BT is rolling out fibre optic broadband across the UK at a steady pace, but only 15% of fibre-ready premises have signed up for the superfast internet service.

BT now offers fibre optic broadband to over 20 million premises in the UK. In the company’s annual operating results, BT said it had added 341,000 premises to the fibre-optic broadband network over the quarter ending 30 June 2014. This was an increase of 29% on the amount the company added last year.

But only 15% (3 million) of the homes and businesses eligible for BT fibre have signed up to the network. This last quarter the company added 226,000 customers to its network.

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT, said the company had made a good start to the year.

“Our fibre broadband network now covers more than twenty million premises. We are passing over 70,000 additional premises each week and demand is strong with more than three million already signed up. We have announced a further 2,500 new jobs in recent months to support our strategic investments in fibre and customer service.”

BT revenues decline

Meanwhile, BT’s revenues fell 2% this quarter, compared to the same period the year before, to £4.4bn. Pre-tax profits rose 7% to £638m.

BT Global Services, BT Business and BT Wholesale all declined in revenue, while its consumer business grew 10% to £1bn partly due to its popular BT Sport TV offering. The company said it now has 19,000 pubs, clubs, hotels and other commercial premises signed up to the TV channel.

Revenues from BT Global Services declined 6% to £1.6bn, BT Business 3% to £762m, while turnover in its wholesale division dropped 18% to £525m.

From its business division it saw a 2% drop in revenue from IT services, which it said was driven by lower hardware sales. Meanwhile, SME and corporate voice revenues decreased 4%, while the number of business telephone lines decreased 8%, reflecting the business uptake of internet calls and VoIP services.

Last month, thousands of BT customers across the country were left without internet access on the morning of Saturday 28 June 2014 after a mystery “network incident” brought down its service in many parts of the country.

Users complained of being unable to access most major websites, including social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as Amazon and eBay, and online banking services. Many turned to 3G and 4G mobile internet services to vent their anger.

Rural broadband

BT is at the centre of some controversy over the roll-out of superfast broadband in rural areas.

The government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, run by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has the goal of bringing superfast broadband to 95% of the population by 2017. It has split the country into 44 areas and the relevant local authorities are working with the one provider accredited for rolling out the technology, BT, to figure out their plans.

By the end of July 2013, 29 councils had already signed contracts with the telecoms firm and BDUK, BT and the local authority have details of where the fibre would reach – and where it would not.

However, little of the information about these locations has been published, keeping residents and businesses in the dark over whether they will have access and delaying smaller, local providers from deploying their own networks to bring superfast broadband to areas left out of the BDUK project.

But research by thinkbroadband.com warned that the government is likely to miss the 2017 deadline.

The organisation listed the Shetland Islands, Herefordshire, Aberdeenshire and Moray as just some of the areas that are still expected to receive poor broadband speeds by 2017. Meanwhile, just 23.1% of the City of London is expected to be superfast, which is a lot lower than the 99.2% of the Borough of Merton in south London.

Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Brighton and Hove will be among the 10 best parts of the UK for superfast coverage.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of thinkbroadband.com said: “Rural districts will not feature in the top 10 best broadband locations. These rural places will still be the poorer cousins to the bigger cities and this will undoubtedly have an impact on the growth of small businesses within these areas.”

“Many people have seen the repeated announcements about rural broadband investment. In reality, the pressure to ensure value for money and the limited pot of funding means the improvements are going on in areas where it is cheapest to provide the upgrades, rather than starting with the hardest and slowest areas.”

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Fibre or VDSL? BT appears to have hamstrung pricing of the former so that it doesn't cannibalise leased line sales.

VDSL has issues as noted below.

If BT really have withdrawn in Ewhurst this is even greater cause for concern than may be first realised, as BT originally announced *DSL in the area was uneconomic, then cynically killed EU funding for a community-driven high speed rollout in that village by announcing they would install *DSL services a couple of weeks before groundwork was due to start. They then took over 2 years to begin work and for the first year of actual operation only one cabinet was active.

This is monopolistic activity on par with what telcos in the USA have routinely pulled and needs regulator attention.

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At that distance you should be getting at least 16down 1up (standard DSL speeds). Your line is very clearly suffering from impairment - which the majors won't touch. I switched to a smaller ISP and they kept banging at OpenBletch until the lazy sods actually fixed it.

The problem with using 4G is that it's capped (byebye netflix!). You also get to share it with whoever else is using your local mast, so as popularity increases you can expect throughput to suffer.

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Yeah, the sticky tape approach is normal telco business as usual, but they are supposed to evaluate repated faults and replace cables if they can't be repaired.

If you've been keeping a record of the faults then you have a good start on getting them fixed. I went with the phone.coop and they were very good. After 7 _years_ of getting nowhere with TalkTalk and BT, my lines were finally fixed in a few weeks.

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BT have repeatedly denied having any paper-insulated cables and aluminium wiring left in their network - which ofcom have taken at face value (and refuse to accept submissions showing the contrary).

"The government" (the regulator) has a cozy arrangement and what you propose would rock the boat - bear in mind that regulators come from the industry and end up going back into the industry, which has resulted for the most part in regulatory capture.

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I suspect the headline is sereously misleading and simply means that only 15% of exchange lines capable of receiving a BT Infinity service are currently being used. i.e. it does not allow for those with more than one line and/or business lines (for which the service was not actively promoted until very recently) or who take their broadband from others - e.g. Virgin, Talk Talk, Sky or a mobile operator.

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