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BT to invest £6bn in fibre broadband and 4G networks

Thursday, May 5th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

BT has announced a £6bn investment to improve its broadband and mobile networks.

The company, which bought mobile operator EE in January, made the announcement as it revealed a 15% rise in profits.

It said the investment will be made by its Openreach and EE businesses over the next three years to extend superfast broadband and 4G coverage beyond 95% of the country by 2020.

The rollout will take what BT describes as "ultrafast" broadband to a minimum of 10m – and possibly as many as 12m – homes and businesses by 2020.

Two million properties, mainly in new developments, high streets and business parks, will get fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections, BT said.

Chief executive Gavin Patterson said: “The UK is a digital leader today and it is vital that it remains one in the future.

“That is why we are announcing a further £6bn of investment in our UK networks, subject to regulatory certainty.

“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.”

Mr Patterson championed BT’s G.fast technology, which he said would allow the company to roll out ultrafast broadband “at pace”, but said FTTP will play an increasingly important role.

Announcing its plans, the telecoms giant also revealed efforts to improve its customer service.

They include aims by BT Consumer to reduce the time to fix line faults by 24 hours, and a pledge to handle 90% of its customers’ calls in the UK by March 2017.

'Missed appointments'

EE has also recently announced plans to handle 100% of its customers’ calls in the UK by the end of this year.

Openreach is aiming to halve missed appointments to 2.5% within a year with an ambition to reduce them even further after that.

It is also setting up a team whose job will be to resolve problems for customers who have experienced two or more missed or unsuccessful appointments.

“Customers are benefiting from our investments but we plan to do more when it comes to service, to meet customers’ rising expectations," said Mr Patterson.

“That’s why Openreach is tackling missed appointments, why BT Consumer will be upgrading service levels to next day repair and why we’ve hired 900 engineers.

"We’ve also recruited more than 900 extra contact centre staff. This will enable us to return EE and BT Consumer contact centre work to the UK."

BT’s investment plans were announced as the company announced a 15% rise in profits in the year ending 31 March 2016.

Mr Patterson said the acquisition of EE and the passing of more than 25m by fibre-based broadband had made it a “landmark year” for BT.

“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," he said. "And we’re reorganising our business to better serve customers both in the UK and internationally.

“We’ve invested across the business and are seeing good results. Our BT Sport audiences are up 45% this year following the launch of UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League content.

“BT Mobile has done well since its launch, building a customer base of over 400,000.

In February, telecoms regulator Ofcom stopped short of splitting Openreach from BT in its Strategic Review of Digital Communications, instead announcing an 'overhaul' of the infrastructure company.

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