Our network vision – one year in and smashing our targets

Howard Watson, CTO, BT                                                                                                                             

In the future, your calls should never drop and your journeys – however remote – are never out of reach of a connection. This was the premise of our network vision, launched a year ago, which outlined how we will get there:

  • By 2023, new smart core technology powering our network,
  • By 2025, 4,500 square miles of new rural mobile coverage,
  • And by 2028, a 5G connection possible anywhere in the UK.

Our vision remains one-of-its-kind, underpinned by BT’s unique ability to fuse the best of mobile, Wi-Fi and fibre through an intelligent single core. No other network has the combination of scale, pedigree, or expertise to achieve it.  

So how are we doing?

An unbeatable 5G network

We’ve smashed our first target on 5G, becoming the first operator to pass 50% of the UK’s population. We’re growing further, adding new sites every day while making sure that EE’s 5G has the mark of quality too. We’re also bolstering 5G in the nation’s busiest spaces: tourist hotspots, stadiums and university campuses. EE customers at Glastonbury took for granted their ability to upload their memories – but ask friends on other networks whether they had the same experience?

Lift the bonnet and you’ll see the real power of the network. Our new 5G core is now launched and will be fully live in 2023, as planned. We’ve successfully migrated the first customers on to it, a critical milestone. By embedding both our mobile and fixed core networks in BT’s private network cloud, we will deliver ever better customer experiences. These changes are critical to fusing the power of multiple networks and critical for the future launch of 5G standalone services.

Enhancing our award-winning 4G network

Want to coach table tennis over video? That’s just one of the thousands of ways that customers are innovating over our expanding 4G network.

4G is the bedrock of our current network and we’ll pass 90% of UK geography within a few years. We’re now at 86% and adding miles upon miles of it every month. In fact, we’ve expanded our coverage by more than 1,000 square miles over the past twelve months, through hundreds of new masts and over 4,000 upgraded sites. We’re partnering on many of these, working with national Governments to deliver 4G in places that have never before been connected. We’re on 27 of the 28 masts in Scotland’s 4G infill programme for example. And best of all, on any new site we build, other networks can apply to share it.

Industry leading fibre deployments

As a business, we’ll shortly update how many people are now able to take advantage of the £15bn investment we’re making into the gold standard of fixed connections - full fibre. Across the UK, demand for connectivity is rising: for access to it, for speed on it, for reliability within it and for performance over it. Fibre is the solution and we’re literally embedding our future connectivity throughout the highways and byways of Britain. Week in, week out. Best of all, expanding fibre strengthens our mobile network. Nearly 4,500 of our mobile sites now connect over 10Gb fibre connections, giving them ‘best in class’ performance, now and into the future.

Remaining the most reliable

Our customers want to know their phone will just work when they pick it up and that’s where we continue to lead the pack. Many networks are built to deliver peak speeds in a few areas. Ours is built to deliver peak performance more widely – delivering industry leading speeds to customers beyond just the busiest cities.

We’re resilient too. Last week, as the UK baked in record temperatures our infrastructure kept its cool. Our data centres, exchanges, routers and major mobile sites continued connecting customers’ calls - in some cases delivering life-saving connections – and our teams worked quickly to tackle any local issues where they arose. Like many, I’m concerned by our changing climate, but I’m also extremely proud of how BT’s infrastructure stood up to a fierce test.

No doubt we’ll face more challenges this year but we’ll always strive to keep everyone connected. Our eyes are on the promises we made last year, delivering a seamless connection wherever its needed, fueling innovation and being a major contributor to the UK’s economic growth.

We’re connecting for good and we’re just getting started.