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BT Achieves 66% UK Fibre Broadband Rollout Target as Customers Soar

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 (8:22 am) - Score 2,294

BT has today released their latest Q1-2014 (calendar) results, which confirm that their £2.5bn commercial roll-out of superfast capable “fibre broadband” technology (FTTC/P) has now reached its goal ahead of schedule by passing 19 million premises (around 66% of the United Kingdom). Separately, BT’s retail broadband ISP customers topped 7,281,000 (up +170k in the quarter vs +150k during Q4-2013).

The national Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) dominated deployment of “fibre broadband” connectivity is being celebrated by BT after having completed well ahead of its spring 2014 target (note: this period runs to late June), although it’s crucial to point out that the operators original goal was actually the end of 2015 (here); around 21 months ahead of schedule.

But the effort hasn’t all been plain sailing and last year BT confirmed that they’d effectively had to abandon their original plans to make native (not FoD) “ultrafast” 330Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology available to 2.5 million premises by the same target (here), which was partly due to the high cost / slow pace of deployment and complex home installations. FTTP is still being rolled out but at a much slower pace, while the Fibre on Demand (FoD) alternative is about to become far too expensive for home users (here).

It’s also important to remember that BT will be continuing their commercial roll-out and, combined with the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) investment, a recent prediction from BT Wholesale suggested that this will increase their FTTC/P network footprint to around 80% of the United Kingdom by Spring 2015 (here).

BT Statement on BDUK Progress

We continue to make progress with extending the reach of fibre beyond our commercial footprint. We have now started the build phase in all 44 areas of the BDUK contracts we have won. We passed around 315,000 premises in these areas in the quarter, and have now passed more than 630,000 in total.

Take note that BDUK’s semi-separate 90% “superfast broadband” (25Mbps+) coverage goal for the end of 2015, and then 95% by 2017, includes other operators like Virgin Media.

Back to the Quarterly Results

BT’s consumer division has managed to grow its broadband base to 7.28 million and we note that 2.1 million of those are now connecting via FTTC (plus a very tiny minority on FTTP), which equates to a quarterly growth in retail “fibre broadband” subscribers of +249,000 (an improvement on the +228k added in Q4-2013).

In terms of the overall market (including other ISPs), BTWholesale reports that it’s now home to 9,153,000 broadband lines (up strongly by +156k in the quarter vs +36k in Q4-2013). On top of that BTOpenreach has LLU 9,302,000 unbundled lines (+61k, down from the +216k added in Q4-2013), which are mostly with Sky Broadband and TalkTalk.

We note that the total number of FTTC/P lines added in the quarter for all ISPs using BT’s platform was +347,000, which is an improvement on the +339k added in Q4 2013 (total FTTC/P customers of 2.7 million). As a result the total number of broadband (DSL + FTTC/P) lines delivered via BT’s infrastructure (BTW and LLU based) is now 18,455,000.

Gavin Patterson, BT Group’s CEO, said:

We have made strong progress this year. Underlying revenue, adjusted profit before tax and normalised free cash flow have all grown and beaten market expectations.

Our investment in fibre is delivering with 1.3 million more premises taking fibre this year, almost doubling the number of homes and businesses now connected. Our rollout is ahead of schedule with our fibre network passing more than 19 million premises, around two thirds of the UK. But we are not stopping there. All of our BDUK projects are underway and will help take the coverage of all fibre networks to at least 90% of the UK, bringing significant benefits to communities across the nation.

BT Sport has proved very popular and we are delighted the service is now in around five million homes. For BT Consumer it underpinned a record 9% growth in revenue in the fourth quarter and the lowest line losses in over five years. We achieved an excellent 79% share of broadband market net additions in the quarter.”

On the BT TV front it’s worth noting that the operator actually saw a significant slowing of growth in their paid set-top-box (IPTV) platform, which only added +46k in the quarter to total 1,002,000 (slower than the +53k added in Q4-2013).

However the related BTSport TV service / channels managed to attract “around” 3 million direct customers (including BT’s wholesale deals) and the service is said to be “in around 5m homes“, although many of those customers will be taking the content free as existing BT Broadband subscribers. So far BT Sport seems to be helping BT to grow / sustain its broadband base but hasn’t done much for their BT TV product.

On the financial front BT Group’s revenue reached £4,748m in the quarter (up from £4,599m in Q4-2013) and their reported profits before tax topped £747m. Total net debt for the group also declined from £7,640m in Q4-2013 to total £7,028m now.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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