BT plans to provide high speed internet to 20m UK homes - but will it cost customers more?

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:52 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:52 pm
BT plans to provide high speed internet to 20m UK homes - but will it cost customers more? (Photo: Shutterstock)
BT plans to provide high speed internet to 20m UK homes - but will it cost customers more? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Around 20 million homes are set to get full fibre broadband, as BT has confirmed plans for a £12 billion rollout of the high speed internet service by the end of the decade.

The rollout arrives after the publication of new rules by communications regulator Ofcom, which has decided not to impose price caps on full fibre connections provided by the firm’s Openreach subsidiary.

‘Build like fury’

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The new regulations leave Ofcom open to criticisms that it has given Openreach, which holds a near-monopoly on the market, a generous deal.

The decision could potentially lead to more expensive internet connections for the public than first thought.

Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT, 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.

“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.”

Openreach lays downs and maintains fibre optic cables around the UK, and then sells use of the cabling to internet service providers.

The business has said it can now confirm a plan to build fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections to 20 million homes and offices by the mid- to late-2020s.

Dame Melanie Dawes told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: “It's true we certainly want to make sure that BT can have a fair bet on this investment, but at the core of our approach is that we are trying to get competition into the wholesale network layer, of broadband for the future, really for the first time in quite a new way.

"And the reason we believe in competition is we actually think that's best for the consumer. It gives us all more options to choose from, not just on pricing but also on service quality and reliability."

Switching off copper lines

Price curbs on what Openreach charges internet service providers for its slower, copper-based connections have also been frozen by Ofcom.

This will help reduce the providers’ costs by removing the need to maintain two different systems in tandem.

Ofcom hopes this move will help promote the uptake of faster fibre services. However, the regulator stressed that the switch off must be done “progressively...over a number of years”.