BT has today been named the UK’s major Universal Service Obligation (USO) provider by Ofcom. This will increase BT’s already pivotal role in connecting the UK more quickly and more cost-effectively than ever before and help transform some of the most remote communities in the UK.
The Government introduced the Broadband USO with the ambition to give people the legal right to request a connection to broadband with speeds of 10Mbps, no matter where they lived. Initial estimates showed that 600,000 premises were eligible to request broadband under the USO.
As part of BT’s work with Ofcom over the past year, we have demonstrated that over 75 per cent of the 600,000 consumers and businesses without access to broadband speeds of 10Mbps can quickly and easily be connected to speeds of around 30Mbps using Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technology.4G EE Home, EE’s FWA solution, launched in early 2018 and is already transforming connectivity in rural areas.
As a result, BT - through Openreach - will now be able to focus on the more manageable task of connecting the remaining 25 per cent of premises as part of the Broadband USO. Based on current estimates, approximately 40,000 premises fall within the cost threshold of £3,400 per connection set by Government. BT will initially fund the rollout for these premises, with Ofcom planning to consult industry on cost recovery mechanisms for the USO later this year.
To ensure that no one is left behind, BT is keen to work with Government, Ofcom and industry to examine alternative funding mechanisms to connect the remaining premises, currently estimated at around 110,000, as quickly as possible.
FromMarch 2020, customers will be able to ring BT’s dedicated customer service teams to find out whether they’re within the USO area, how best to get online, when by, and at what cost.
Chief Executive Philip Jansen said: “BT is very pleased to have been chosen by Ofcom to deliver the Government’s promise to connect the UK. It’s great news that the majority of homes and businesses in rural areas can choose a fixed wireless service from EE to solve the problem of slow broadband and get speeds way faster than 10Mbps.
“Through Openreach we are now extending our fibre broadband network to reach an additional 40,000 premises within the USO area for whom FWA is not the answer. We’ll continue to drive discussions with Ofcom, Government and industry to explore alternative options to connect up every property in the country and ensure no-one is left behind.”
John Lamont MP, Chair of the All-Party Broadband and Communication Group, said: “Connecting the UK with decent broadband is absolutely key to ensuring that Britain’s digital infrastructure is fit for the future. Fixed Wireless Access is already transforming people’s lives, providing a fast and reliable service that means they can do everything from everyday online tasks like banking or shopping to streaming films or playing games. There’s still lots more to be done, but this is a positive step forward in the right direction.”
Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance, said: “A lack of decent broadband is a major issue for everyday life at home – students rely on the internet for research and to stay in touch with their friends, parents want to work from home, or bank online - and thousands of rural families want to enjoy a wealth of on-demand entertainment. Fixed Wireless Access has made a huge difference to our communities by bringing people closer together, and making life so much easier.”
BT supports Ofcom’s objective to make decent and affordable broadband available to all households and businesses across the UK and has committed to offering, where there is no other connection from another provider, at least one fixed or mobile broadband service at no more than £45 a month.
1.BT estimates that 110,000 premises will be difficult to reach and costly to serve. These will not be eligible for a USO service unless consumers contribute to fund part of the roll out cost [above the £3,400 cost threshold set out in the legislation].
2.EE’s 4G Fixed Wireless Technology uses a powerful external antenna and EE’s 4GEE Home Router to deliver broadband speeds of around 30Mbps where traditional fixed broadband coverage is identified as poor. The 4G Home Broadband service launched in early 2018 and is transforming connectivity in rural areas. Customers in the Northern Fells in Cumbria, an area of dramatic topography, have experienced speeds of over 100Mbps.
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