BT has pledged to ensure every home in the UK has access to a minimum standard of internet access and to accelerate its rollout of faster fibre connections in an effort to head off criticism over its dominance of the UK broadband market.
Gavin Patterson, the chief executive of BT, called for a “collaborative effort across industry and government” and a supportive regulatory and policy environment to help provide faster and more comprehensive internet coverage.
BT has come under mounting pressure over its dominance of broadband infrastructure in the UK from competitors such as Sky and TalkTalk, which provide services over its network of cables.
The communications regulator, Ofcom, is carrying out a review into whether the company’s Openreach division, which operates the cable network, should be spun off.
Patterson said BT would provide every household in the UK with connections of at least 5-10Mbps – fast enough to use popular internet services such as high-definition video – and offer 10m homes and small businesses “ultrafast” speeds of between 300Mbps and 500Mbps by 2020.
He also said BT would supply fibre broadband to all new housing developments and begin offering satellite broadband coverage for remote premises later this year.
“We want to forge an ultrafast future for Britain and stand ready to help government deliver the broadband speeds necessary for every property to enjoy modern day internet services, such as high-definition TV streaming and cloud computing,” said Patterson. “To achieve this, we need a collaborative effort across industry and government.”
Ofcom’s job has become more complex as BT and Sky have also begun competing with each other in the pay TV market. BT’s pending £12.5bn acquisition of the UK’s largest mobile operator, EE, which is awaiting regulatory approval, would open up a further battleground between the two companies as Sky also offers mobile contracts via O2.
A Sky spokesperson said: “For years, BT has been under-investing and delivering poor quality service for customers. What the British broadband market urgently needs is radical reform, not calculated manoeuvring and caveats to protect BT’s self-interest. Only a truly independent Openreach will unlock the investment, innovation and competition required to deliver the digital connectivity of the future.”
BT is the main beneficiary of the more than £1bn the government is spending to encourage broadband rollout across the UK. However, the company has committed to return some of the funds in areas where fibre broadband take-up exceeds 20% and says it has already paid back £129m.
Data published by Ofcom on Tuesday showed that BT is no longer the most complained about company for pay TV. EE, which was fined £1m in July for mistakes in complaints handling, generates the most landline complaints. Vodafone is the most criticised mobile phone operator.
• This article was amended on 23 September 2015 to remove Virgin from the list of competitors objecting to BT’s position in the broadband market.