BT ready to up network spend if regulator decides against split

A man talks on his mobile telephone as he walks past a BT logo in London, February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Britain’s BT said it would increase investment in superfast broadband, including more fiber to the home, if regulator Ofcom decides against forcing a break-up of the company.

Ofcom is examining whether BT’s networks arm Openreach should remain part of the group, as part of a larger review of the British telecoms market. It will announce its findings on Thursday.

“There’s a significant investment that we are ready to make now in the next generation of technology, more fiber to the premise, (and) fiber to the cabinet,” Chief Executive Gavin Patterson said at the Mobile World Congress on Tuesday.

“That’s a big decision, we are ready to make it if we get some regulatory certainty coming out of the Ofcom review.”

Openreach, which sells capacity wholesale to rivals like TalkTalk, Sky and Vodafone, is managed at arm’s length, but critics say the structure allows BT to abuse its market position and has hampered investment.

Vodafone Chief Executive Vittorio Colao made a last-minute appeal to regulators to either split off Openreach or take a tougher line on network quality and prices on Monday.

In September, BT pledged to increase the speed and quality of its network, a plan that hinged on new technology called that squeezed faster speeds from copper connections, rather than fiber all the way to the premises.

Ofcom’s Chief Executive Sharon White said in December that preserving the status quo regarding Openreach was not an option, but analysts have said they doubt she will recommend a full break-up of the group.

Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by David Evans