Reshaping our networks for the future

2020 has been a year of tectonic shifts in the UK’s telecoms supply chain. In January this year the UK government announced proposals to limit use of Huawei to 35% of future fixed and radio access networks and exclude them from the core of the network.

These proposals were revised in July to encompass a complete removal of Huawei equipment from the UK’s 5G networks by 2027.

This proposed legislation clearly has an impact on all operators in the UK market. It would be easy to focus purely on the challenges presented by that decision.

But it’s also a powerful opportunity. A chance to reframe and reshape our networks for the future; to build the fast, flexible, stable and secure connectivity our customers want, and the country needs.

I’ve been hugely impressed by the positive, forward looking attitude of our network and procurement teams as they’ve stepped up to address that opportunity.

In the nine months since the initial decision, we’ve signed significant new deals with two of the world’s leading equipment vendors, Nokia and Ericsson, that will enable us not only to meet our commitments to the UK government, but to continue building out our award-winning 5G network across the UK and to consolidate our leading position in mobile.

Two deals may not sound like a lot, but the scale and complexities involved mean that getting these agreed in just nine months is a real testament to the hard work of hundreds of people across the business.

But it’s only the start.

Since March, with the advent and impact of Covid-19, BT’s networks have played a central, crucial role in the UK’s ability to function as a society. We’ve kept tens of millions connected to their loved ones, to emergency services and local community support, to their jobs and schools.

Our networks have never experienced greater demand. Daytime traffic on our core network more than doubled over the course of this year, with millions of people working from home, entertaining and educating their families, and relying on us to deliver the connectivity they need, day in, day out.

The performance of our networks in the face of these pressures has been incredible, but our ability to scale to meet the challenges of Covid-19 hasn’t been a fluke, or down to luck.

In the past five years, BT has invested, consistently, in building one of the world’s leading networks. Through the acquisition of EE, our investments in 5G and full fibre, our leading public Wifi coverage, and our cutting edge, highly scalable, software-defined core, we’ve been laying the foundations to deliver a truly 21st century connectivity platform for our customers, from consumers to global multinationals. We’re already a leader in many of the things that matter most to our customers – speed, reliability and security. But we’re not resting on our laurels.

There’s still lots of work to do. We’re building like fury to extend full fibre broadband and mobile coverage as widely as possible, including the rapid early deployment of 5G across 112 towns and cities, but those are multi-year programmes, as is our commitment to closing down our legacy network infrastructure, and moving to IP voice and data networks.

We have already laid the groundwork for one of the most modern, secure and capable communications infrastructures, not only in the UK, but globally. A benchmark against which other networks will be measured, a powerful differentiator for us as a business, and a powerful force for the UK’s post-Brexit economy and recovery from Covid-19. I'm looking forward to the next chapter.

- Howard Watson, Chief Technology and Information Officer


For more information about what we’re doing in response to Coronavirus, please visit:

BT Group: www.btplc.com/coronavirus

BT: www.bt.com/coronavirus

EE: www.ee.co.uk/coronavirus

Plusnet: www.plusnet.co.uk/coronavirus