19
Sat, Jun
0 New Articles

BT to speed fibre build-out – looks to form joint venture

News

BT’s semi-detached wholesale access arm, Openreach, raises its FTTP target from 20 million premises passed by December 2026 to 25 million.

Last year BT committed to spend £12 billion installing full fibre lines to replace copper infrastructure, depending on a number of factors.

The firm says its plan can proceed due the regulatory clarity provided by Ofcom’s recent Wholesale Fixed Market Review, the government’s cash tax super-deduction scheme to stimulate investment and the outcome of the recent 5G spectrum auction.

Currently the UK languishes towards third from the bottom of the FTTH Council Europe's ranking of fibre penetration in 39 countries using figures from September 2020.

Internal capacity

Openreach says it has the capacity to reach about 4 million premises a year, having passed 2 million last year.

The acceleration is to start immediately, but BT is looking for outside investment in the form of a joint venture to build out fibre to 5 million premises, which it reckons could create another 7,000 jobs.

It is to explore JV structures over between now and the end of September – the first two quarters of the current financial year.

Nice to have

The company is at pains to stress that BT could fund the accelerated build by itself while delivering other commitments from investing in 5G, its modernisation programme, keeping to a minimum credit rating of BBB flat, support its pension scheme, which has an £8 billion shortfall, and reinstating its dividend during this financial year.

This is despite just reporting that revenue for the year ending in March fell 7% to £21.3 billion while pre-tax profit dropped 23% to £1.8 billion which is blamed on the fallout from Covid-19 and increased investment in fibre.

Philip Jansen, Chief Executive, BT Group said of the intended new JV approach, “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 JV approach to fibre build out is gaining ground in Europe, with examples in the Netherlands and Germany.