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BT Outlines UK Broadband Progress
By: MarkJ - 11 November, 2003 (9:06 AM)

Making a somewhat pre-emptive strike before the start of today’s select committee meeting on the progress of broadband, BT has talked up the positive side and called for softer regulation. The operator states that more than 80% of the country can now get broadband:


BT today announced it had submitted evidence to the Trade and Industry Select Committee demonstrating the huge progress made to date with broadband and setting out the next steps that need to be taken.

BT's evidence to the committee highlights the UK success story in many ways. It shows the UK is now the second largest broadband market in Europe as well as the fastest growing one by a significant margin. It also shows that prices are among the most competitive in Europe and that the availability of broadband is higher than in many other countries.

All of these factors demonstrate the success of Broadband Britain and the key role that BT is playing. The European Commission recently described the UK market as the "most dynamic" in the EU but BT still believes there is more that can done.

The evidence also proves that Stephen Timms MP, Minister of State at the DTI, was correct in asserting that the UK broadband market is "more competitive than its European G7 neighbours and more competitive now than the USA".

Key to this is evidence that BT has approximately 50% of the wholesale market for broadband with cable competing strongly for the other 50%. At the retail level, BT has 25% market share with more than 150 service providers also competing strongly. This 25% market share compares with an equivalent figure of over 90% for Deutsche Telekom and well over 50% for several other ex-incumbents across Europe. In fact, the highly competitive nature of the UK market is demonstrated by the fact that BT has the lowest share of the retail broadband market of any ex-incumbent.

This degree of competition is absolutely unknown in most of Europe.

BT's submission also illustrates the wide availability of broadband. This now stands at over 80% in the UK as a result of BT's roll out programme and is greater than that in the USA, France and Italy. The expectation is that BT's demand registration scheme will take the number of households connected to DSL-enabled exchanges to 90% during 2004 which will be a world leading figure for a large country with a sizeable rural population.

BT is calling for a more pro-active approach from the public sector. Partnerships have already been flourishing across the UK but much more could be done in this area to drive broadband expansion and availability into more rural areas. BT also believes that the government's plans for public sector aggregation can also have a positive effect if implemented efficiently.

Finally, and most importantly, BT's submission calls for a different regulatory environment going forward. The creation of Broadband Britain has required huge investment from BT and more will be required to create even more dynamic platforms going forward. BT believes that the arrival of Ofcom offers an opportunity for a new approach that will encourage the necessary investment and innovation by allowing those willing to take the risk to enjoy the rewards. This has not always been the case to date.

Such a flexible and light-touch approach, which is fully compatible with a competitive market, would benefit the UK economy by encouraging BT's investors to support the creation of a 21st Century Network. This network would help the UK to develop the type of "knowledge economy" that is essential if the UK is to remain competitive in the future.

It's unlikely that BT will succeed in its call for softer regulation, especially when almost everybody else is asking for the opposite.

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