BT announces £6B investment for 4G and fibre expansion

BT provided more clarity on the cost of EE's plan to cover 95 per cent of the UK's landmass with 4G by 2020, saying that it would spend a total of £6 billion (€7.6 billion/$8.7 billion) in the first phase of a plan to extend fibre and 4G coverage beyond 95 per cent of the country by 2020.

EE said in April that its ambition is to increase its 4G coverage from 60 per cent of the UK landmass today, "taking 4G to the very edges of the UK" by filling in outdoor not spots in current 4G areas and expanding 4G coverage by constructing 750 new sites. That would go beyond government targets for operators to provide voice and text coverage to 90 per cent of UK landmass by the end of 2017.

BT, which also announced its annual and fourth-quarter results on Thursday, added that it would focus on technology to exploit existing copper networks and fibre to achieve its fixed broadband targets. The company's fibre plans were broadly regarded as a measure to appease regulator Ofcom and rivals following calls for improvements to the former incumbent's access network managed by Openreach.

Meanwhile EE, which BT acquired in January, is already proving its worth to the company. The mobile business contributed £261 million to BT's total adjusted EBITDA of £6.58 billion in its fiscal year 2016, which runs to end March. BT's fiscal 2016 adjusted EBITDA was some 5 per cent higher than in fiscal 2015.

EE also contributed just over £1 billion of external revenue to BT Group in the two months since it was acquired. Total reported group revenue for fiscal 2016 was £19 billion, up 6 per cent year-on-year, while adjusted revenue before specific items was £18.9 billion -- also up 6 per cent.

BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson said the 12 months to end-March had been a "landmark year", in part thanks to the acquisition of EE. He said the integration of EE "is going well and we now see the opportunity to deliver more synergies than we originally expected, and at a lower cost."

EE now has a customer base of 30.6 million, with 15.1 million 4G customers. BT Mobile -- the group's existing mobile business -- has over 400,000 customers and is still included within the BT Consumer group.

BT's ambitions for the future are clear: "We want to be the leading converged services provider in the UK and the combination of BT's leading fibre network with EE's leading mobile network puts us in a very strong position," the company said.

For more:
- see the BT statement on investments
- see BT's results statement

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