BT’s chief executive said its broadband network is now an “unstoppable machine” that will ultimately “end in tears” for many of its fiber optic competitors. “There is only going to be one national network,” Philip Jansen told the Financial Times. “Why do you need to have multiple providers?” BT said on Thursday that its networking division Openreach had laid fiber to 9.6M premises, with 29% of people in those areas opting to move over to its fiber optic connectivity offering.
BT has long provided the main wholesale network in Britain, giving access to TalkTalk and Sky among other OTT players. BT is ploughing billions of pounds into its network, extending its fiber offerings to 25M premises by end of 2026.
Competitors to Openreach, backed by billions in private capital, are racing to lay full fiber across the UK before the incumbent gets there. They include Virgin Media O2 and more than 100 alternative networks known as “altnets.”
Virgin Media O2 is seeking to upgrade its network to fiber by 2028 and has formed a joint venture between its owners, Spain’s Telefónica and Liberty Global, as well as infrastructure fund Infravia, to lay fiber to an additional 7M premises across the UK and offer wholesale access to other broadband providers. That’s in areas not already covered by the existing Virgin Media network. Industry insiders say network operators need to sign up about 40% of customers in any given location where they are building to make their business viable.
“Building is irrelevant — it’s how many people you’ve got on the network,” Jansen said. “No one else has got a machine anywhere near ours. It’s . . . unstoppable.” He said that the market would probably shake out to be just a “couple of big players” as well as a smattering of specialist providers for things like rural areas and multi-occupancy buildings — a process that would “end in tears” for many of the other operators. Jansen added that while BT had been spending large amounts of cash this year to fund its build efforts, once the construction phase ends he hopes the company will generate “a lot more cash” and could increase the dividend offered to shareholders.
“BT was on the back foot five years ago, we’re unquestionably on the front foot now,” he added. “Investors who own the company need a return.” BT maintained its full-year outlook on Thursday as it posted third-quarter revenue and earnings in line with analysts’ expectations. Revenue fell 3% in the third quarter compared with the same period in the previous year, to £5.2bn, which it attributed in part to lower sales in its global division and a loss of income from BT Sport following the completion of a joint venture with Warner Bros Discovery.
In November BT announced that it would increase its cost-savings target by £500mn to £3bn by 2025 as it sought to mitigate higher energy and inflation costs. As part of the cost-cutting drive, Jansen said there would be fewer people working at BT over the next five years, although he refused to be drawn on numbers. BT has already reduced its net headcount by 2,000 over the past two years, despite significant recruitment at Openreach. It has pushed ahead with inflation-linked price rises in 2023 for the majority of its consumer and wholesale customers in spite of cross-party calls for telecoms companies to reverse the decision during a cost of living crisis. “Right now the [capital expenditure] has to be paid for somehow,” Jansen said. “Hopefully inflation comes down and it won’t be so painful for everyone.”
BT and Ericsson have entered a new multi-million-pound joint partnership to provide commercial 5G private networks for the UK market – the first agreement of its kind. The multi-year contract will enable BT to sell 5G services to businesses and organizations in industries like manufacturing, defense, education, retail, healthcare, transport and logistics. It’s critically important to note that to be effective, a 5G private network requires a 5G Core which facilitates all the 5G features and essentials, e.g. network slicing, automation, MEC, security, etc.
The agreement comes just after BT confirmed it was investing close to £100m over the next three years to accelerate the development of customer solutions which integrate emerging technologies like 5G, IoT, Edge Compute, Cloud and AI.
5G Private Networks provide secure indoor and outdoor 5G cellular coverage, making them suitable for a range of uses – particularly in environments such as factories, education campuses and other large sites where security and ultra-low latency connectivity are important.
New innovative applications and IoT capabilities can be enabled through a private 5G network to improve productivity, optimise operations and drive cost savings, such as asset tracking, predictive maintenance, connected sensors, real-time data processing, automation and robotics.
According to a forecast from MarketResearch.com, 5G Private Networks are predicted to grow at an average rate of 40 per cent a year between 2021 and 2028, by which time the market will be worth $14bn (£10.7bn). Both BT and Ericsson believe there is significant demand from UK businesses looking to take advantage of the benefits the new technology can provide.
“Key market players are strategically building partnerships with industry giants to set up a private 5G network to provide high-speed secure connectivity to their customers. For instance, in Feb 2020, Nokia Corporation deployed a private 5G network infrastructure for Lufthansa Technik for virtual inspection of engine parts remotely for its civil aviation clients. Moreover, the rising demand for enhanced bandwidth connectivity for secured enterprise applications is anticipated to fuel the adoption of private 5G services globally.”
Marc Overton, BT’s Managing Director for Division X, Enterprise, said: “This UK-first we have signed with Ericsson is a huge milestone and will play a major role in enabling businesses’ transformation, ushering in a new era of hyper-connected spaces.
“We have combined our skill and expertise at building converged fixed and mobile networks with Ericsson’s leading, sustainable and secure 5G network equipment, to offer a pioneering new proposition that will be attractive to many industries. 5G private networks will also support smart factory processes and the advancement of Industry 4.0 which can realise significant cost savings and efficiencies for manufacturers.
“Unlike a public network, a private 5G network can be configured to a specific business’s needs, as well as by individual site or location. They also provide the foundation to overlay other innovative technologies such as IoT, AI, VR and AR, opening up a multitude of possibilities.”
Katherine Ainley, CEO Ericsson UK & Ireland said: “This ground-breaking agreement with BT means we are together taking a leading role in ensuring 5G has a transformative impact for the UK. The high quality, fast and secure connectivity provided by Ericsson Private 5G can help organisations make all-important efficiency gains that can create safer, more productive, and sustainable business operations and help the country build global leaders in the industries and technologies of the future.”
Case study: BT and Ericsson have already worked together on several major projects incorporating private 5G networks, including Belfast Harbour in Northern Ireland, as they accelerate its ambition to become the world’s best regional smart port.
The partners have installed a 5G private network across 35 acres of operational port. This is helping to drive operational efficiencies and accelerate its digital transformation through optimising processes across transport, logistics, supply chain and shipping, as well as boosting productivity through the smooth-running of the Port’s operations.
Every year more than 1.75 million people and over half a million freight vehicles arrive and depart through the Port every year. While 24 million tonnes of goods are managed and carried by ferries, container ships and cargo vessels.
“With activity on that scale you need smart technology that can really make a difference. And that’s what our standalone private 5G network is enabling at the Port,” added Marc Overton.
“We’re now into phase two of the project and this includes various use cases such as teleoperation of heavy plant machinery, artificial reality (AR) for remote maintenance, as well as enhanced video AI analytics and the use of drones for surveillance and inspections.”
The partnership is also exploring how 5G and other emerging technologies such as AI, IoT and Connected Autonomous Vehicles can be used together to enhance public safety, physical security, and address climate change across the Port and other parts of Belfast City.
Mike Dawson, Corporate Services Director, Belfast Harbour Commissioners, said: “Throughout 2021 and to the end of 2022, we will have completed the implementation of both Public and Private 5G Networks. These are the foundation for several Smart and Green port initiatives, including CCTV cameras, Air Quality Monitors, Drones, MiFi units to maximise operational efficiencies and a Digital Twin. The technologies have supported our data collection on the movement of people and things through our Road Traffic Screens, Wayfinding App and a Community App for Traffic.”
BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile telecommunications and related secure digital products, solutions and services. We also provide managed telecommunications, security and network and IT infrastructure services to customers across 180 countries.
BT Group consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer serves individuals and families in the UK; Enterprise and Global are our UK and international business-focused units respectively; Openreach is an independently governed, wholly owned subsidiary, which wholesales fixed access infrastructure services to its customers – over 650 communication providers across the UK.
British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
For more information, visit www.bt.com/about
The QSMN infrastructure will be able to connect numerous customers across London, helping them to secure the transmission of valuable data and information between multiple physical locations over standard fiber optic links using quantum key distribution (QKD).
QKD is an important technology, playing a fundamental role in protecting networks and data against the emerging threat of cyber-attack using quantum computing. The London network represents a critical step towards reaching the
The QSMN is a three-node London exchange fiber optic ring using commercially available QKD hardware from Toshiba. BT provided fiber connectivity and “quantum-enabled” local exchanges.
German based optical network vendor ADVA is also involved in the QSMN. For the dedicated QKD “access tails,” BT used a commercially available Optical Spectrum Access Filter Connect (OSA FC) solution from Openreach, the UK incumbent’s infrastructure arm. OSA FC was developed by ADVA.
Financial services firm EY, the network’s first commercial customer, will use the network to connect two of its sites in London, one in Canary Wharf, and one near London Bridge. It will demonstrate how data secured using QKD can move between sites and will showcase the benefits this network brings to its own customers.
BT is working with EY (a non paying customer) and others that want to try QSMN to work out which types of QKD services will be in demand and how the business case might pan out. That initiative will likely be done over a three-year period,
“It’s a commercial trial in the sense that it’s built on commercial kit,” Professor Tim Whitley, managing director at BT’s applied research division, told Light Reading.
“It’s also a commercial trial in the sense that, unlike many trials around, it is effectively integrated in and part of a national operator’s communications infrastructure. It is managed out of our national operations center at Adastral Park.”
BT and Toshiba in October 2021. BT will operate the network, providing a range of quantum-secured services including dedicated high bandwidth end-to-end encrypted links, delivered over Openreach’s private fibre networks, while Toshiba will provide quantum key distribution hardware and key management software. In the network, QKD keys will be combined with the in-built ethernet security, based on public-key based encryption, which will enable the resultant keys to be used to encrypt the data.
Some recent QKD history:
- BT and Toshiba have been conducting QKD trials since 2013, including a recent collaboration to provide a point-to-point QKD link in Bristol between the National Composites Centre and the Centre for Modelling & Simulation.
- In April 2020, Leo Lehman wrote an article about New ITU-T SG13 Recommendations related to IMT 2020 and Quantum Key Distribution.
- In September 2020, Verizon said it was trialing QKD for encryption over Fiber Optic Links.
Howard Watson, CTO, BT stated: “Quantum-enabled technologies are expected to have a profound impact on how society and business operates in the future, but they are remarkably complex to understand, develop and build: in particular, ensuring that the end-to-end service designs meet the stringent security requirements of the market. I’m incredibly proud that BT and Toshiba have successfully united to deliver this unique network, and with EY as our first trial customer, we are paving the way for further commercial explorations for quantum technologies and their use in commercial, and societal applications in the future.”
Shunsuke Okada, Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of Toshiba commented: “Both Toshiba and BT have demonstrated world-class technology development and leadership through decades of innovation and operation. Combining BT’s leadership in networks technologies and Toshiba’s leadership in quantum technologies has brought this network to life, allowing businesses across London to benefit from quantum secured communications for the first time.”
Preparation, technical deployment and testing for the network commenced in late 2021. This included equipment deployment in racks, adding security systems and resilience testing, and finally running and optimising the network. While Tuesday 26th April marked the official launch of the network, it has been running since early April, and will operate for an initial period of up to three years.
Praveen Shankar, EY UK & Ireland Managing Partner for Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT), commented: “Quantum technology creates new and significant opportunities for business, but presents potential risks. Quantum secure data transmission represents the next major leap forward in protecting data, an essential component of doing business in a digital economy. Our work with two of the world’s leading technology innovators will allow us to demonstrate the power of quantum to both EY and our clients.”
The UK Government’s “strategic intent” to develop a quantum-enabled economy was first published in 2020. It sets out a vision for the next 10 years in which quantum technologies will become an integral part of the UK’s digital backbone, unlock innovation to drive growth and help build a thriving and resilient economy, and contribute significant value to the UK’s prosperity and security.
The London network represents an important step to building a national network for quantum secured communications, which will stimulate the growth of a quantum ready economy in the UK.
Howard Watson continued: “This is a significant moment in the UK’s journey towards a quantum-enabled economy, but we’re not there yet. Further investment commitments will be required to broaden the study of quantum technologies that will contribute to this new economy, including quantum computing, quantum cryptography and quantum communications. We look forward to working with our government and industry partners to continue the momentum BT has started and shaping the UK’s quantum strategy.”
The technical collaboration for this network was conducted in BT’s Adastral Park labs in Suffolk, UK, and the Quantum technology Business Division of Toshiba, based in Tokyo, Japan and Cambridge, UK, where the quantum key distribution technology has been developed and is manufactured.
BT has announced a new distribution partner agreement with OneWeb for LEO satellite network and connectivity services. The agreement covers BT’s global footprint and supports the UK government’s National Space Strategy.
OneWeb will provide LEO satellite communication services across BT Group’s Global, Enterprise and Consumer divisions. The new agreement expands a MoU signed between the companies in July 2021. BT will test how LEO satellite technology can be integrated with its existing terrestrial capabilities to meet the communications needs of consumer and business customers. Once the network integration tests are completed successfully, BT expects to start live trials with customers in early-2022.
BT will test capabilities at its Bristol lab to show how LEO solutions can integrate with existing services. Due to the current capacity levels of OneWeb satellites, this will focus on the role of LEO as a supplementary, low latency backhaul solution to sites needing extra capacity or a back-up solution, as well as to provide business customers with improved resilience. Once the tests are complete, BT will start early adopter trials with UK and international customers. As the capacity of the OneWeb system expands, the future use cases could extend to include the use of satellite for IoT backhaul and fixed wireless access (FWA) in rural areas.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “I am thrilled to see the UK at the forefront of this emerging technology thanks to the Government’s investment in OneWeb – a crucial part of our plans to cement our status as a global science and technology superpower.”
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “The agreement between OneWeb and BT will help bring fast and reliable global connectivity, from the Highlands to the Himalayas. I’m delighted these two British companies have joined forces to research the technological benefits of working together, and I look forward to exploring how this could play a role in our mission to put hard-to-reach areas in the digital fast lane.”
Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of BT Group, said: “Space is an emerging and enormous digital opportunity, and this is an important step towards harnessing its potential for BT’s customers across the globe. We will put OneWeb’s technology through its paces in our UK labs with the goal of delivering live trials in early 2022. Delivered securely and at scale, satellite solutions will be an important part of our plans to expand connectivity throughout the UK and globally, and to further diversify the range of services we can offer our customers.”
OneWeb’s Chief Executive Officer Neil Masterson said: “BT has taken the lead in the recognition of LEO satellite’s advantage. We are delighted as this agreement with BT Group represents an important strategic partnership for OneWeb as we continue to make progress towards our operational launch. We are excited to be playing such a key role in improving the resilience of the overall telecom infrastructure in the UK. OneWeb’s connectivity platform will help bridge the last digital divides across the country and enhance the nation’s digital infrastructure.”
OneWeb is expected to deliver global coverage by June 2022 through a constellation of 648 LEO satellites and is poised to deliver services from the North Pole to the 50th parallel, covering the entire United Kingdom, later this year. The new partnership supports BT’s wider network ambition, set out in July this year, to deliver digital solutions across the entire UK by 2028, through a combination of an expanded network and ‘on demand,’ requestable solutions anywhere beyond. In building a converged, software-defined network, BT will leverage and integrate both terrestrial and non-terrestrial technologies to deliver on the goal of seamless, ubiquitous connectivity.
This agreement marks a clear path towards the first LEO solutions being available for customers within a year. As the next step, BT will test capabilities in its Bristol lab to demonstrate how they integrate with existing services. Current capacity levels within OneWeb satellites mean initial trials will focus on its role as a supplementary, low latency backhaul solution to sites where additional capacity or a back-up solution is required, and to deliver improved resilience for business customers. On successful completion, BT will begin early adopter trials for UK and international customers, expected early next year. As OneWeb grows their capacity, the list of future use cases could also widen, opening up the opportunity to explore the use of satellite for IoT backhaul and Fixed Wireless Access in rural areas.
The work with OneWeb shows the capabilities being developed by UK businesses in the pioneering area of space technology and follows the UK Government’s recently published National Space Strategy, which recognizes the enormous strategic opportunities on offer. BT, which boasts a heritage of nearly 60 years in space and satellite communication innovation, continues to explore a diverse range of partners across all its services, including space, to ensure the latest and best connectivity solutions are available for customers.
*The deal encompasses BT’s Enterprise, Consumer and Global units, serving UK and multinational organizations.
BT-owned mobile operator EE has launched a 5G test network in Canary Wharf, London ahead of a full commercial rollout next year. As the cUK’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, the launch by EE is a landmark moment in the UK’s path to 5G.
Fotis Karonis, 5G Technology Lead at BT Group, said:
“This is the latest milestone in our 5G rollout – a live test of our 5G network, in a hugely busy ‘hotspot’, where we know there’s going to be demand from customers for increased mobile capacity.
With constant upgrades to 4G, and laying the foundations for 5G, we’re working to always be able to deliver what our customers need – both consumers and the vertical industries that will make the greatest use of 5G.
We were UK pioneers with 4G and today we saw the UK’s first live connections on 5G – this is a huge step forward for our digital infrastructure.”
EE announced it would be launching the 5G network back in June, promising it to be the UK’s first proper test. Some expected mobile operator O2 to beat it after plans to launch its own test bed at the O2 Arena, but EE was first to market.
The current network covers Montgomery Square in Canary Wharf and was selected by EE for its high footfall and data usage. Some 150,000 people visit the square each day, providing a better test of how the network will perform in high traffic areas.
Mark Nallen, Head of Technology and Innovation at Canary Wharf Group, commented:
“Staying at the forefront of connectivity and new technologies is critical to our community, and that’s why we’re partnering with BT Group to support delivery of 5G.
The consumers who live and work here will benefit from being better connected, and the enterprises based here will have the chance to partner with BT Group to understand the full capabilities of 5G.”
The equipment at the site will also be hooked up to a lab core network, which functions as a replica of EE’s commercial core network, and will link up to other test sites as and when they come online. Walling it off also means that it’s possible to test 5G in whatever ways are necessary without having any impact on existing services.
Another testbed is set to launch in Shoreditch later this year, which will present different challenges to the Montgomery Square tests. Mainly because it isn’t as ‘clean’ an area. Exactly when it will happen isn’t clear yet.
EE is using network equipment by Huawei for its test; along with 3.4 GHz spectrum it won in regulator Ofcom’s auction earlier this year. The use of Huawei’s equipment continues to be a controversial subject.
In Europe, Huawei is relatively welcome and its highly-regarded equipment used by many operators. Australia, however, recently took the decision to follow the U.S. in banning the Chinese vendor’s equipment over national security concerns.
The U.S. and Australia are part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing partnership which also includes the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. The US is said to be pressuring its partners to follow suit.
Last month, Canadian security officials went on record to say the country has the necessary safeguards in place not to follow the bans of the US and Australia. Canada is attempting to make the case to its partners that excluding telecoms equipment manufacturers leads to an increased security risk. If a specific vendor’s equipment is compromised, it would represent a larger proportion of the network.
Rather than ban Huawei, the UK and Canada have both established labs where security officials test equipment for potential vulnerabilities.
Testing equipment rather than banning seems to be a more sensible approach. This week, India announced it would be testing Huawei 5G gear. Competition is good for prices and innovation, while bans would prevent companies such as EE from accessing potentially class-leading equipment.
The roll out of super fast broadband in the UK has increased revenues for businesses and created jobs, says a report by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sporttitled: “The Evaluation of the Economic Impact and Public Value of the Super fast Broadband Programme, covering 2012 to 2016.”
“We’ve also recently introduced a raft of lower wholesale prices to help drive higher take-up of faster fiber services which will help to further fuel the boost to the UK economy,” Openreach chief Clive Selley said.
From the FT (see reference below):