The latest quarterly results from the BT Group show growth in broadband customer numbers, which in the face of the competition from other providers such as Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and others has to be seen as impressive.
BT Retail who market the BT Total and BT Infinity products, had some 166,000 net additions in the quarter (63% of the total new broadband connections), and this took them past the six million broadband customer milestone. BT Infinity alone added some 88,000 new customers taking the total number of customers to 300,000 and represents a doubling in customer numbers in the last six months. BT Vision the IPTV/Freeview hybrid continues to grow with another 41,000 installations taking the customer base to some 640,000 homes.
BT Wholesale has continued its roll out of the Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) network, which is now providing ADSL2+ on 1,450 exchanges covering 70% of UK households. The Openreach division that look after the local loop actually added 11,000 telephone lines and the fibre to the cabinet (with a small proportion of fibre to the premises) passes some six million homes, with this expanding to 66% of UK homes by 2014.
"We expect to continue to offset the economic headwinds through improved customer service and processes, better efficiency, and investment in the future of the business. This strategy and our financial results allow us to invest when others are merely talking about it. We are accelerating our fibre roll-out programme to cover two-thirds of the UK by the end of 2014 – one year earlier than planned and creating 520 new jobs. With the already announced government support, we believe there is the potential for fibre-based services to reach more than 90% of the UK within a few years thereafter."Ian Livingston, Chief Executive
There are vocal critics of BT and its position as a dominant player in around a third of the country, but we should remember that without its dominance we would probably have a nation where ADSL and ADSL2+ was only available to perhaps 70% of households. Additionally even in areas where BT is dominant there is still a vast area of choice of providers at the retail level who offer varying quality of service, alas the myth that where no LLU is available that all services are equal in terms of peak time performance still persists.
Broadband is the only utility in the UK to have consistently fell in price over its eleven year life span, back in 2000 a half meg service would set you back between £40 to £50. The broadband provider that started the price war Pipex is now just another identity within the TalkTalk group, who in 2006 with their 'free' broadband launch took broadband in the UK to a whole new level. The question now is who is the provider or application that will kick start demand for the superfast broadband products. One possible candidate could be Netflix who if they launch with HD video in the UK that is as good or better quality than broadcast HD content as part of a subscription could lead to households finding a reason to switch to faster services.