BT dials up £6bn broadband plan as profits jump

Telecoms giant BT has pledged to spend billions of pounds on ramping up the country’s broadband network as it posted higher annual profits.

It said its Openreach and newly acquired EE businesses will between them spend around £6billion in capital expenditure over the next three years in the first phase of a plan to extend superfast broadband and 4G coverage beyond 95% of the UK by 2020. It said it wanted the UK to remain the leading digital nation in the G20.

As part of the plan ultrafast broadband will be rolled out to a minimum of 10 million homes and businesses in the same period with an “ambition” to reach 12 million. There will be an increased focus on so-called Fibre to the Premises technology bringing speeds of up to 1 Gigabits to 2 million premises in new housing developments, high streets and business parks.

Openreach will hire 1000 new engineers this year to help.

It said it will also focus on improving its often criticised customer service by ensuring that 90% of its customers calls are handled in the UK by March 2017 and halving the number of missed Openreach appointments within a year. BT Consumer is set to reduce the standard time to fix line faults by 24 hours.

BT Group chief executive Gavin Patterson said: “The UK is a digital leader today and it is vital that it remains one in the future. Networks require money and a lot of it. Virgin and BT have both pledged to invest and we will now see if others follow our lead. Infrastructure competition is good for the UK and so is the current Openreach model whereby others can piggyback on our investment should they want to. Customers also want higher standards of service and we are determined to provide them with just that.”

It came as BT reported a 15% rise in full year profits to £3billion on revenues 6% higher at £18.9billion.

It said its TV offering had helped with customer numbers up 28% to 1.5million. BT Sport, helped by its coverage of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, had soared by 45%. Since its launch BT Mobile has gained over 400,000 customers.

Its cyber security division offering expertise to nervous businesses was up 24% over the year.

“This has been a landmark year for BT,” said Patterson. “”The integration of EE is going well and we now see the opportunity to deliver more synergies than we originally expected, and at a lower cost. Customers are benefiting from our investments but we plan to do more when it comes to service, to meet customers’ rising expectations.