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ISP BT Top 6.28M Broadband Customers as FTTC Passes 10M UK Homes

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 (8:02 am) - Score 2,868

National UK telecoms giant BT has released its latest results to 31st March (Q1-2012), which saw their retail broadband ISP subscriber base add +136,000 customers (down from +146k in Q4-2011) to hit a total of 6,280,000. Elsewhere its FTTC superfast broadband service has now passed 10 million homes and businesses (almost 40% of the country), well ahead of their original Q4-2012 target.

The results represent another strong quarterly growth in broadband subscribers, albeit one that has continued to slow. BT Retail’s share of the superfast broadband (BTInfinity) base increased by +131,000 in Q1-2012 to reach over 550,000 customers, which marks a huge jump from the +95,000 added in Q4-2011 and reflects the growing coverage of their up to 40-80Mbps (Megabits per second) capable FTTC technology.

Meanwhile the BTVision (IPTV) service continued to grow by adding +28,000 new subscribers (total 707,000), which is down once again from +39,000 in Q4-2011 and +44,000 in Q3-2011. This is surprising as the growth in faster broadband connectivity and new content should be having a more positive effect.

Ian Livingston, BT’s Chief Executive, said:

In what remains a challenging environment we have delivered another year of growth in profits and free cash flow. Our financial strength has allowed us to invest in the business, make a £2bn payment into the pension fund, reward employees and deliver double digit growth in shareholder returns.

We have now passed 10m homes and businesses with our fibre roll-out. This is many months ahead of schedule and brings the benefits of super-fast broadband to families and businesses in cities, towns and rural areas across the UK. We remain the leading provider of broadband in the UK and over half a million customers are already taking our fibre-based BTInfinity product. At a time when many of our corporate customers are facing their own challenges, our investments internationally will help those seeking to expand in faster growing economies and this is reflected in £2bn of new orders won by BT Global Services this quarter.

While we will be impacted by economic and regulatory headwinds, we expect to continue to grow profits over the next two years, with normalised free cash flow growing to above £2.4bn in 2014. We will continue to pursue our prudent financial strategy, investing in the long-term future of the business, supporting the pension scheme, paying down debt and enhancing shareholder returns.”

BT also took the opportunity to remind people that it “could” grow the current superfast broadband footprint from almost 40% of the UK today to 90% by 2017 (the current target for their official £2.5bn privately funded rollout is just 66% by 2014), albeit only with a significant (lions share) injection of cash from the governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office. BT inform ISPreview.co.uk that “we would be willing to invest further funds (of around a billion pounds) should we win the public funds on offer” (total £3.5bn).

The operator is also still on track to make its new FTTP-on-Demand service commercially available to all ISPs by Spring 2013, which would effectively make the true fibre optic (up to 330Mbps) speeds of FTTP technology available “wherever we have deployed fibre enabled cabinets” (aka – FTTC). But this service is likely to be more expensive and will be aimed primarily at business consumers.

As a side note, BT Wholesale’s share of broadband lines in the UK market currently stands at 8,543,000, which is actually down by -8,000 lines in the quarter (Q1-2012) and marks a big change from the +41,000 added during Q4-2011. BT suggests that this and a related decline in revenue is “primarily due to the ongoing migration of broadband lines to LLU” ISPs, such as Sky Broadband. Indeed when you exclude BT Retail the Wholesale division only has a total of 2,263,000 broadband lines, which is a quarterly decline of -144,000 in Q1-2012 (compare that with -105,000 in Q4-2011).

UPDATE 12:59pm

Added some more details about BT’s 90% superfast broadband target and a small quote from BT to reflect the addition of an extra £1bn in funding, if applicable.

Leave a Comment
36 Responses
  1. Avatar Onephat

    When is the next set of exchange dates due?

    • Avatar Phil

      I think the next exchange lists will be around September 2012 as I know it so slow as BTW had to completed other FTTC first.

  2. Avatar James

    This is not correct – you’ve reported “passed” to mean the same thing as “can reach”. They are entirely different.

    • IMO that’s just Semantics, the vast majority know what it means without having to be too strict.

    • Avatar DTMark

      I think cable passes about 52% of premises, but, I’ve never actually believed that 52% of all premises in the UK can get cable. However that’s the number that’s usually quoted. Perhaps they can, actually. Though, your point about “can reach” does surely apply to BT’s FTTC in a way that doesn’t apply to cable, since cable is not distance dependent.

      The most inappropriate language I keep seeing used (and it’s not a criticism of this site) is “BT’s superfast broadband rollout” – the correct terminology would be “fibre to the cabinet rollout” since the latter does not necessarily deliver the former. Rather like most peoples’ experience of mobile “broadband”.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @MarkJ
      You may wish to amend the story that has triggered the rash of comments about the definition of “passed”. If you look at the original press release at

      http://www.btplc.com/News/Articles/Showarticle.cfm?ArticleID=E08DEA6E-1FD7-4994-9D52-AD165F907BCE

      it doesn’t use the phrase passed in this context at all! The very top of the press release clearly says available, which renders many of the comments posted obsolete.

      “Fibre broadband now available to ten million premises

      BT today announced it has passed a significant milestone as it revealed its wholesale fibre broadband service is now available to ten million premises across the UK. The company was due to pass that milestone by the end of 2012 so it is several months ahead of schedule. ”

      So no ambiguous phrasing, quite clear on the meaning. Sorry conspiracy theorists for being a party pooper!

  3. Avatar dragoneast

    Just one supplementary observation: a successful British company of international calibre (and there aren’t too many of them about). So, let the carping begin . . .

    • Avatar DTMark

      The Global Services division was reponsible for a massive loss a couple of years ago.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/6111377/BT-ousts-Global-Services-boss-Royston-Hoggarth.html

      “The boss of BT Global Services in the UK has become the latest victim of the company’s purge of senior managers, after the disastrous IT services division dragged the telecoms company to its second ever full-year loss. ”

      “He is the most high profile executive to leave Global Services since BT ousted Francois Barrault, the troubled division’s chief executive, last year, after discovering the division’s managers had grossly overestimated the profitability of key contracts. ”

      “The UK division of Global Services is thought to be responsible for most of the write-downs at the division. One of the biggest was against the division’s contract to upgrade the IT services of the NHS. The UK business accounted for 53pc of Global Services’s £8.8bn revenues last year. The write-downs dragged BT to a £134m annual loss last year, compared to a £2bn profit a year earlier. “

    • Avatar FibreFred

      A good news article about BT always brings out the bashers its a dead cert each time.

      BT GS did indeed make a right mess years back, it was the fools at the top of the organisation telling the city they expect to make a bucket load of cash they couldn’t and as a result failed and effected everyone. GS is in every corner of the globe and does very well these days so yes a British company doing well abroad.

  4. Avatar Kits

    The constant underselling products cannot help the figures, if the market was fair and BT retail paying the same as other ISPs they couldn’t possible supply BT infinity for the price they do. The upgrades to the network in many areas are not BT funded but grants from government. We should not be helping a private business to update the network when they are guilty of underselling their products.

  5. Avatar James

    @MarkJackson

    The vast majority of broadband geeks know the technical definition of “passed” maybe, so about 10 people outside BT. The average English speak would think “reach” means “I can get it now”.

    “Passed” is frankly irrelevant if it’s going to be another 3 years before it’s actually available, which for many it will be.

    @dragoneast

    All credit to BT for what they’re doing, but it doesn’t mean they should issue these sort of misleading statistics. The retail rollout is also well behind schedule, in London at least.

    • Avatar DTMark

      Our local town – Alton, Hants is a good example. FTTC deployment complete, but I can’t locate a single business in the entire town which can get a fibre service.

      That’s because all the cabs that connect businesses appear to have been skipped.

      So if you look at the town from an exchange level, it appears to be well served. If you run a business from some parts of the town you probably can’t even get a broadband service at all, just knackered old phone lines and ADSL – a few meg downstream, nothing to speak of upstream. With some lines “You should be able to have a service which runs at between 8Meg and 17Meg”. Really? Fantastic (rolls eyes)

      Those businesses have been well and truly “passed”, but in a different sense.

  6. Avatar James

    Yes, in the Old Testament sense! Same here – exchange done, but no sign of cabs.

    Well, BT’s press release has achieved its aim of lots of articles in national media lauding its fibre roll out, after most journalists misinterpreted it.

    Shame that ISP Review didn’t call this out – it’s a pretty obvious one.

    • Avatar DTMark

      I’m not sure how anyone other than Openreach really knows, though..

      What was important in the initial rollout, was to try to target the best performing cabs – decent quality short lines – to demonstrate the “potential capabilities” of the service, and I suspect there’s a fair degree of overlap with VM cabled areas to take market share. If a cab has lots of aliminium lines or lines over the magic 650m length, then Openreach might not bother with them, because then BT can’t sell “Infinity”.

      Which is to say that while some areas receive nothing at all, we as taxpayers then help one private company that has shown little or no interest in broadband until last year shaft the only company in the country which has consistently delivered broadband solutions over a far more capable network.

      I’m all for choice, don’t misunderstand. Having a choice of cable + 1 other is great, it gives VM the kicking it needs in some areas to improve their services.

      Doesn’t help anyone else though and cable (cough) only “passes” half the premises.

      Comprehensive market failure, and what’s most depressing – where’s the “action plan” for those missing cabs?

  7. Avatar James

    Surely simple calc?
    Openreach knows cabinets enabled within enabled exchange
    BT retail knows (own) customers for each cabinet
    BT may also know rough % of customers who wouldn’t be able to get fibre for various reasons

    • Avatar DTMark

      Many years ago BT had a prominent banner on its broadband site which said “99% of homes and businesses can already get broadband”

      That wasn’t true then, because ADSL wasn’t, and isn’t available to 99% of homes. BT’s definition of broadband is “an ADSL capable line”.

      Even today with a touted 2Meg minimum broadband speed, only about 86% of BT’s lines can manage that.

      Smoke and mirrors. But then, with the BDUK process, it ought to be the local authority making sure the tender serves the needs of their communities. Making sure the tender specifies that 90% of subscribers can get 25Mbps or better, and not falling for “90% can get fibre to the cabinet”

  8. Avatar James

    It is staggering what statistical trickery goes on in the telco world, and how few commentators call them up on it.

  9. Probably because the Telco’s never like to release that sort of detail and so you can’t tell either way, it becomes a guessing game with only anecdotal style data or estimates to go on.

  10. Avatar Deduction

    A joke story dunno why stuff like this from BT is reported each month.

    Does not take a rocket scientist to look at some of the quoted figures and find flaws. Even an idiot can see this is utter nonsense.

    Lets see shall we…
    BT have a TOTAL of 6,280,000 broadband customers. (well done to them, no disputing that figure).

    Of that customer base 550,000 sub to FTTC. (Or to put it another way unless my maths is wrong, thats less than 9% of their customers).

    The FTTC service is supposed to pass 10,000,000 homes….

    If that is true it ponders the question why are 5,730,000 people still paying the same price for a ADSL service as what they charge for a FTTC service as shown here…
    http://www.productsandservices.bt.com/consumerProducts/displayTopic.do?topicId=25633

    FTTC a product which also runs at least twice as fast and passes *cough, splatter, nonsense,* 10,000,000 homes or almost double what the broadband BT customer base is.

    Yeah im sure that figure is right, 90+% of BTs broadband customer base just wants to pay the same for slower speeds, that must be it.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Deduction
      Your cnspiracy theory is right yet again…

      … oh wait, suppose some of the 5,730,000 are not in the 40% of properties that can get FTTC? Doh!

      Remember that not all ISPs are terribly interested in the more far-flung parts of the country, especially with the new Ofcom advertising rules, given longer lines are more prevalent in more rural areas. So BT market share is likely to be higher in those areas, lower where competition is more intense.

      You also need to factor in inertia, which makes a very big difference. Just ask any bank how often most people change their current account.

      Suggest you read up on rules concerning FTSE companies and public statements, especially those linked to financial results or forecasts. And then look up the rules and penalties that apply for those companies with a US listing too.

      By all means keep nurturing the conspiracy theory if you must, but do bear in mind there are big disincentives in place to discourage company directors of FTSE/NYSE etc companies from misleading deliberately.

    • Avatar DTMark

      A lot of the problem with take-up is to do with peoples expectations being squashed in the past.

      “Up to 8 Meg” which actually then runs at only 4Meg.

      Upgraded to “Up to 20 Meg” which then actually runs at… er… about 4Meg.

      What might “Up to 80 Meg” run at?

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @DTMark
      You forgot “Up to 40 Meg” which actually runs at around 37 Meg (IIRC from Ofcom’s last report)

      Most reports suggest something like 76 Meg for “Up to 80 Meg”.

    • Avatar Darren

      Deduction, you can’t pressume everyone on bt adsl will instantly upgrade to fttc as soon as it’s available.

      What about those who don’t want more speed, those who don’t know it’s available, those who are out of contract and don’t want to start another, those who are on a discounted rate and don’t want to lose that, those who aren’t close enough to the cab to see a big enough speed increase to warant a new contract and extra price.. Surely I’ve missed more examples..

      There figures may or may not be right, what is for certain is you can’t disprove them based on the presumption that everyone will upgrade asap.

      Please think things through before going off on one, you pick holes in BT’s statement yet yours is fataly flawed itself.

  11. Avatar James

    @Deduction

    Nice work. Doesn’t take much to find flaws in their data does it? Conflation of “passed” and “available”, tiny sample sizes used to measure “UK broadband speed”, etc. No data better than one flawed dataset that leads people to the wrong conclusions.

    Where’s the rigorous commentary guys?

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @James
      Actually no conflation of “passed” and “available” at all, just wrong word used when summarising the story here. See above for clarification. Tiny sample size used to measure speeds? Really, Ofcom’s sample size seems pretty robust, certainly bigger than used in most market research.

      Looks like you’ve drawn on dud “data” provided by posters confusing opinion with facts, have drawn your own wrong conclusions as a result. Oh well…

  12. Avatar James

    Ah, @New_Londoner, you’ve rather missed the point!

    For a start, this article has already been amended to use ‘passed’, just like Livingstone did in his quote lower down the release you quoted, and BT has confirmed elsewhere today is what it meant.

    BT means it in the technical sense of passed – that is, for fttc at least, premises able to benefit from a cabinet set to be enabled at some point in the deployment plan. Which ironically is almost the meaning you put on it – that wholesale broadband’s available.

    To reiterate the gripe…this has already been misinterpreted in mainstream media to mean that 10m UK premises can get access to fttc now.

    As for Ofcom’s 1200 sample size (see their last report on broadband – you’ll have to find the footnotes), you reckon this is statistically valid for population of 20m broadband users? Let’s see how The Guardian’s crowdsourced map compares.

    Since when is “most market research” a yardstick to aim for? Most wouldn’t know a Normal distribution from a chi squared test!

    Might want to check the sources next time. And if you’re looking for evidence of quoted telcos playing fast and loose with the facts, look no further than recent adjudications from the ASA…

  13. Avatar Alan

    Yes Gadget – that’s not what it means though. Ask BT if you disagree.

  14. Avatar Deduction

    quote”… oh wait, suppose some of the 5,730,000 are not in the 40% of properties that can get FTTC? Doh!”

    The only doh there is from you BT are claiming 10 Million have access to a FTTC cabinet and thus could take FTTC. They only have 6 odd million customers, so using that logic the majority of them should be able to get FTTC, unless you are saying of the 6 million customers BT have they decided to roll out FTTC in areas that have an addition 4 million customers which are not within BTs userbase.

    Gadgets links shows their ridiculous claim quite nicely in the semi headline in bold.

    That being “Fibre broadband now available to ten million premises”…

    Somehow i dont think so if that were true more than 8.7% (thats 550,000) of BTs 6.2 million userbase would had taken it. Especially considering BT charge the end user the same for ADSL as they do their FTTC product LOL

    Good attempt though at your usual ill thought out comeback.

  15. Avatar Deduction

    Actually the more i think about this the more stupid their claim is.

    According to ofcom data, theres only 18.4 million homes in the uk with residential fixed landline broadband (that includes virgin users and all LLU).

    If FTTC is available to 10 million premises BT are effectively claiming FTTC is available to more than 50% of the UKs current residential fixed line broadband users already. God only knows how much overlap there is if that figure were (which obviously its not) true.

    Theres only something like 20 million residential phone lines (IE Voice service) total in the UK (again including the likes of virgin which in some cases dont even use BT cables).

    BT maths…….. FAIL if it were true come 2014 they would be on target to do far more than 60% coverage or whatever their latest fantasy claim figure is.

    At the current rate if it were true (IE FTTC is available to 10 million premises, and that was done in around 2 years) by 2014 at the continued rate of rollout the country should be 100% covered…… Someone at BT is living a daydream. They really need to resit a GCSE maths exam or something. Sure as BLEEP dont know how the hell to calculate a fraction, percentage, or probably how many zeros there are in a million currently.

  16. Avatar James

    There’s no need to debate whether BT’s claiming FTTC’s currently available to 10m cabinets – BT freely admit that’s not where they’re claiming.

    The announcement means that Openreach has now enabled exchanges which *when all the cabinets in the current deployment plan have been enabled, or fttp laid in the final 25m* will mean 10m premises can get fibre connections.

    The main issue here is that there can be delays of over a year between exchange and cabinet activation. For example, the cabinet programme in London has been delayed nearly everywhere by things like planning permission and the rush to meet exchange targets, leading to numerous partly finished cabinets.

    See these posts for a detailed explanation:

    http://br0kent3l3ph0n3.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/lies-damn-lies-and-broadband-data/
    http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/5223-openreach-consumer-fibre-services-pass-ten-million-homes.html

    The number that really matters is how many people can get fibre right now, but BT is reticent on this point because progress against schedule on this metric is far less rosy. And so in an effort to fill its results announcement with good news we have ‘passed’, a specious word that Peter Mandelson would be proud of.

  17. Avatar Deduction

    @James I wouldnt say they freely admit it, id say they are rushing to correct the goof of what they originally stated 😉

    Also if you have been told a delay to the installation of FTTC is due to BT needing planning permission to place a new cabinet then you have in most cases been misinformed.

    BT do not need planning permission to install new cabinets, the only time they need that is in conservation areas. This in itself has upset a few (EX. See third from last paragraph… http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/07/05/government-mp-slams-outrageous-placement-of-bt-superfast-broadband-cabinets.html)

    Your last paragraph i agree with entirely, they wont give any real figures about who can get the service because its not as rosy as they would like us to believe. Also need to keep quite about the cack job they have done to ensure they still get future public funds.

  18. Avatar dragoneast

    Local take up is surprising. At 650m I’m almost at the end of the cable run from the Cab, but still achieve 38Mbps sync and 38+ downloads almost all the time, yet take-up seems low despite a universal 4Mpbs on ADSL variants. Why? people in contract no doubt, but those I’ve spoken to say they can make do with what they have and don’t want to pay any more.

    BT will behave as the commercial private company they are – they provide separate business services and, of course want to maximise profits, so why should they encourage business users on to a predominantly residential service, they’ll go after subscriber volume surely? I think you can argue some big fails on the responsibility of government and the regulator (but still could they do better for less cost to the public purse?), but I’m not sure that many of the ideas on here would make BT a more profitable company.

  19. Avatar James

    @dragoneast I’m not sure anyone’s gainsaying BT’s profit motive, just its economy with the actualite. As far as I’m concerned its statement, presented without the corresponding cabinet figure, is as deliberately misleading to the non-broadband-geek-ordinary-English-speaker as any of its ads censured by the ASA. As for take up, it’s chicken and egg, but don’t be in any doubt that game-changing applications will emerge soon and I’ll bet from a country with plenty of ftth. Just look at what start-ups the Google 1GB scheme in Kansas is already creating.

    @Deduction I live in a Conservation Area, but if any organisation ought to be able to predict planning delays and estimate timeframes accordingly, it’s BT with its decades of experience of glacial local planning procedures. But no.

  20. Avatar Deduction

    quote”Local take up is surprising. At 650m I’m almost at the end of the cable run from the Cab, but still achieve 38Mbps sync and 38+ downloads almost all the time, yet take-up seems low despite a universal 4Mpbs on ADSL variants. Why? people in contract no doubt, but those I’ve spoken to say they can make do with what they have and don’t want to pay any more.”

    In the case of BT retail customers though which is what a lot of the figures in the story are about that makes little sense. As pointed out FTTC from BT retail is now the same price per month as ADSL from Bt retail. If the amount percentage wise can get FTTC (which using BT maths must be around at least 50% of their userbase) then it boggles the mind why only 550,000 of over 6.2 million have bothered.

    @James…
    Its possible BT have not even requested planning permission for a cabinet in your road (or whereever the cabinet you currently connect to is located, any new cabinet will be located within a few metres of that).

    You can contact your local council with a request to see what planning permission applications have been made in your area and roads surrounding it to see if BT have even bothered, i suspect they probably have not.

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