Is BT’s boss about to make his mark with new full-fibre targets?

BT’s new chief executive, Philip Jansen, is to revise Openreach’s targets for its full-fibre broadband network roll-out upwards when he reveals BT’s full-year financial results on Thursday 9 May, according to reports.

According to the Financial Times, which first reported the story citing sources familiar with the plans, Jansen may increase Openreach’s target for homes passed with a full-fibre – also known as fibre-to-the-premises or FTTP – connection by 500,000 to 3.5 million properties by 2020, and by five million to fifteen million by 2025.

The original targets were first set by Openreach CEO Clive Selley in February 2018, when he launched the firm’s Fibre First network build programme, which is now active in almost 40 large towns and cities in the UK, passing 14,000 homes every week.

If true, the revised plans are significant because while Openreach is essentially functionally independent, with its own leadership and board, it is still joined at the hip to BT, which has final sign-off on the network builder’s annual budget.

This means Jansen may have to move cash money from elsewhere in the BT Group to fund the additional works, and, ever with an eye for the shareholder angle, the FT reckons this is stoking concerns that the Group’s dividend to its investors will be cut.

This said, if investors can be or have been convinced that the FTTP roll-out is going to be some kind of golden egg-laying goose for the BT Group, that might not be a problem.

For Openreach to increase its targets could also be very good news for the overall regulatory environment surrounding the national full-fibre roll-out, as pointed out by ISP Review, which hinted that some of Openreach’s conditions for achieving its goals – such as easier access to land for works, changes to wholesale and business rates, and agreement with rival network builders on how to encourage mass consumer migration to FTTP – are being met.

The Full Spectrum approached Openreach for comment but was politely rebuffed. Never mind, we’ll find out tomorrow.

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