Procurement · 15 June 2016

BT prioritises small businesses with new Openreach fibre rollout

Openreach has undergone structural change in the last six months
Openreach has undergone structural change in the last six months

Telecoms business BT has lifted the lid on new fibre internet connection investments, announcing which cities will benefit first and declaring one million businesses will have ultrafast broadband by 2020.

In a statement, BT said that deployment will be focused on small and medium-sized businesses found on high streets, science and business parks and clusters of businesses that don’t already have access to fibre  broadband.

Bath, Bradford, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Salford are the first to benefit, BT said, accompanied by the London areas of Westminster, Holborn and the City.

In February, despite calls for BT to spin out its Openreach division, Ofcom stipulated it must open up its network to competitors and reform Openreach. This came after Ofcom’s “Strategic Review of Digital Communications” – described as a “once-in-a-decade” review of the telecoms market.

Openreach operates as an organisation that builds and maintain’s the UK’s copper and fibre network, but has repeatedly faced criticism for poor performance. The new ruling effectively means the network will be run at “arm’s length”, separating people making decisions on its budget, investment and strategy. This will: “remove the incentive and ability to discriminate against competing providers,” Ofcom said.

One of the big changes comes in the form of shifting businesses from dedicated ultrafast lines to a new FTTP product, which reportedly provides “ultrafast speeds at a lower price point”.

Commenting on BT’s new plans, Openreach CEO Clive Selley said: “SMEs have told us they want an alternative to dedicated lines and that is what we are going to give them.

“Hundreds of thousands of consumers will also benefit of the next few years as we continue our work to plug any remaining fibre broadband gaps. This targeted approach will help to deliver the ambition we share with government to improve broadband speeds in the final five per cent of the country.”

According to BT statistics, in excess of 300,000 homes and businesses already have access to its Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) product. On top of opening this up to more users, BT says it will increase the top speeds on offer to businesses from 330Mbps to 1Gbps.

One of the big changes comes in the form of shifting businesses from dedicated ultrafast lines to a new FTTP product, which reportedly provides “ultrafast speeds at a lower price point”.

Openreach confirmed it will “seek feedback from the industry” relating to the product and pricing of new services, as well as where demand is most likely to originate from. This, it added, will allow it to identify areas that may not have access to its existing fibre services.

Discover how Virgin Media Business trialling free small business broadband installation scheme.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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