BT steps-up ‘superfast’ broadband roll-out as profits rise by 18%

TELECOMS group BT today stepped up the pace of its broadband expansion by promising “ultra-fast” speeds of up to 300Mb by next spring.

Its current broadband speeds are closer to 40Mb (megabits per second), with most of the country seeing a typical speed of 7.6Mb, but it today announced it will make a much faster service available from spring 2013.

The roll-out, through BT’s infrastructure division Openreach, will see faster fibre cables installed between cabinets on streets and homes and businesses, which will also be made available to other providers such as Sky.

BT, which employs more than 3,000 at its Adastral Park research and development park at Martlesham Heath, says the ‘ultra-fast’ service is likely to be most useful for small business and will be available on-demand in parts of the country where BT has already rolled out superfast broadband.

The announcement comes as BT revealed an 18% rise in underlying profits to �628million in the three months to December 31, the third quarter of its financial year, as it continued to keep a tight lid on costs.

More than 250,000 homes and businesses signed up to its broadband network in the quarter, with BT Retail winning 56% of these and competitors such as Sky and TalkTalk accounting for the rest.

Its BT Infinity superfast broadband package added 95,000 customers while BT Vision, its TV on-demand service, added 39,000 new customers, bringing total customers to 680,000.

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BT chief executive Ian Livingston said: “We have delivered another quarter of growth in profits and cash flow despite the economic headwinds.

“Our investment to support our customers and improve our services has resulted in new contract wins around the world, with orders so far this year up over 50% in Asia Pacific and Latin America.

“In the UK, our fibre roll-out has accelerated bringing super-fast broadband within reach of over 7million homes and businesses and we remain the number one broadband retailer with over 6million customers.

“Our fixed-line base has now grown for the last five quarters and our active consumer line loss is at its lowest for five years.”

Meanwhile, BT confirmed plans to double download speeds for its own customers for areas that have superfast broadband to 80Mb by the spring. It had previously said it would happen in coming months.

BT said some seven million businesses and households can now access superfast broadband over its network as it replaces slower copper cables with much faster fibres between its exchanges and cabinets on the street.

But speeds have been limited so far because the cables that connect homes and businesses to the cabinets are typically still copper. It has now offered to run additional fibre to a home or business on demand to speed up the final link in the connection.

The roll-out of its ‘ultra-fast’ broadband service follows a successful trial in St Agnes, Cornwall.

Openreach chief executive Olivia Garfield said the new initiative was “a significant development for broadband Britain”.

She added: “Essentially, it could make our fastest speeds available wherever we deploy fibre.

“This will be welcome news for small businesses who may wish to benefit from the competitive advantage that such speeds provide.”

BT is rapidly expanding its broadband network and recently said that two-thirds of households in the UK will have superfast broadband by the end of 2014.

Rival Virgin Media has also recently announced that customers with speeds of between 10Mb and 50Mb will be able to double their speeds as the fight for broadband customers hots up.