BT is to bring forward its fibre broadband targets by a year, hiring hundreds more engineers
BT is to speed up its rollout of high-speed broadband broadband, saying it will hire an additional 520 engineers and bring forward £300 million of investment in order to do so.
The result should be that two-thirds of the UK will have access to fibre-optic broadband by 2014, one year ahead of schedule, BT said. The high-speed products are intended to deliver 70Mbps to 100Mpbs, around ten times faster than broadband based on copper wiring. Many of the engineers to be hired will be former military personnel, according to BT.
“Our rollout of fibre broadband is one of the fastest in the world and so it is great to be ahead of what was an already challenging schedule,” said chief executive Ian Livingston in a statement. “We are investing when others are merely talking about it.”
BT is competing with rivals including Virgin Media, which offers a 100Mbps broadband product.
Currently about 6 million premises have access to fibre broadband, about one-quarter of the total, BT said. That figure will rise to 10 million by the end of next year and will accelerate in 2013 and 2014, BT said.
The rollout includes both direct fibre connections and copper-based connections to fibre-enabled street cabinets. BT’s overall investment in the upgrade will amount to £2.5 billion.
The company is also competing with companies such as Fujitsu for a pot of £530m that the government has set aside to subsidise the rollout of broadband into rural areas. Fujitsu said in April it will work with Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Cisco to build a fibre network for 5 million premises in rural areas.
Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, echoed previous statements that broadband rollout will help the British economy.
“Superfast broadband is essential for achieving sustainable growth and it is vital that homes and businesses have access to it as soon as possible,” Hunt stated. “This investment means new jobs today, but also allows us to build the digital infrastructure we need for the jobs of tomorrow. “
The government is aiming to give the UK Europe’s best fibre network by 2015. However, the country currently ranks 15th in Europe, with an average of 5Mbps, behind the Netherlands, whose broadband network averages 8.5Mbps.
The UK is 25th in the world rankings, which are topped by South Korea with 13.8Mbps.