BT seeks JV partners to increase UK fibre rollout

BT seeks JV partners to increase UK fibre rollout

13 May 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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BT is looking for external parties to form joint ventures to expand the fibre network being built by its Openreach last-mile subsidiary.

The UK company, which today announced its full-year results showing revenue down 7% year-on-year, did not specify whether it is looking for other telcos or non-telco investment partners to boost Openreach’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network.

BT CEO Philip Jansen said: “BT is already building more full fibre broadband to homes and businesses than anyone else in the UK. Today we are increasing our FTTP target from 20 million to 25 million homes and businesses to deliver further value to our shareholders and support the Government’s full fibre ambitions.”

Openreach, which is a carrier-neutral wholesale provider that serves all telcos in the UK, has 4.6 million premises connected to FTTP at the moment.

But the group added: “BT believes it could deliver further shareholder value by funding the additional 5m premises through a joint venture with external parties and will explore joint venture structures over the first half of the current financial year.”

The company said that “in the last year Openreach passed a record two million premises with FTTP. Openreach now believes that it has the capability to reach around four million premises a year. … BT has decided that the conditions are right to increase and accelerate its total FTTP build from 20m to 25m premises by December 2026.”

Jensen said: “This has three massive benefits: it allows us to go faster, beefing up our capacity to build fibre to households and businesses; it allows us to go further, getting fibre to more people including in rural communities, and; it will help fuel UK economic recovery, with better connectivity and up to 7,000 new jobs.”

It’s clear that BT is still in the exploratory stage of its ideas, in a world where rival FTTP companies, such as CityFibre, Gigaclear, Community Fibre and others are building fast.

Openreach CEO Clive Selley welcomed the move to speed up fibre rollout. “We’re … encouraged by the demand we’re seeing — having just connected our one millionth customer,” he said.

“Allied to our experience and innovation in scaling up the build, this gives us confidence that we can reach 25 million premises by December 2026 at world-class cost points.”