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By: Nigel Barnett
Published: 13th Feb 2014
BT Openreach will invest a further £50m in fibre broadband for customers in more than 30 cities over the next three years as part of the British telecoms group’s plans to connect two-thirds of the UK with fast internet services.
More than 400,000 further premises will be able to sign up to high-speed broadband in the cities in an extension to BT’s commercial fibre broadband strategy.
These include some areas that were not part of BT’s original commercial plans owing to technical challenges or local planning restrictions, while the telecoms group will also provide fibre to cabinets near apartment blocks and to building sites.
BT is already spending £2.5bn on deploying fibre broadband to two-thirds of the UK – or 19m premises – by spring this year. The group has now reached more than 18 million homes and businesses.
The fibre network is open for other companies to use on a wholesale basis, although rivals such as TalkTalk complain that BT is charging too much for access. BT’s Openreach division manages the fibre rollout and the commercial relationship with rivals for use of the network.
Mike Galvin, managing director of network investment at Openreach, said: “Some city areas have proved challenging in the past but we are returning to those and will pass hundreds of thousands of additional premises with fibre.”
BT said that it was too early to say which cities, given the need for more planning and surveying of the areas expected to be featured.
While the lack of coverage of rural broadband has been given prominence, there are still large urban areas with poor broadband coverage. BT’s plans will bolster the government’s £100m voucher scheme initiative to help companies connect to better broadband.
The scheme allows businesses to apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to cover the costs of installing better broadband. Fewer businesses may need to apply for government support given the additional connections.
BT is in line to win all of the funds being offered by the government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, which means that £530m of state subsidies will be added to its own investment to extend coverage to about 90 per cent of the UK by late 2015 or early 2016.
The government will also commit an extra £250m to reach 95 per cent of premises by 2017, although it has yet to decide how best to allocate the funds given criticism that the first tender gave the money entirely to BT.