Belfast Telegraph

BT is first to gain 4 million broadband subscribers

By Nic Fildes

BT has become the first broadband supplier in the UK to pass the four million customer mark, as the telecoms company continues to benefit from the rapid take-up of high-speed internet across the UK.

BT overtook Virgin Media as the UK's largest broadband supplier earlier this year and has further boosted its customer base through the acquisition of the smaller players Plusnet and Brightview, which runs the Waitrose and Madasafish service providers.

The customer growth comes despite intense competition from rivals including Carphone Warehouse and Orange, which have offered high-speed internet as a free add-on to subscribers of other services.

BT said that when it unveiled its plan to make broadband and IT services central to its growth strategy in June 2002, the company had only 172,000 customers. At that stage, the UK lagged behind other European countries in terms of broadband penetration.

However, over the past five years BT has added some 2,000 users a day to its broadband service, or one every 40 seconds. The company said that it added its last million customers in just 10 months. In contrast to 2002, the UK now only lags behind Canada in broadband penetration within the G8 countries.

Ian Livingston, head of BT Retail, described hitting the landmark total as a " great achievement in such a short time".

He said: " Broadband has proved to be one of the most popular new servicesever seen ... broadbandcan provide so many more services than just internet surfing, and it has become central to many people's lives and businesses."

The growth in broadband has helped to offset the impact of BT's declining residential voice revenue, with the company's traditional business under pressure from a raft of low-cost competitors.

BT has also grown its IT services division into the third-largest in the world, behind the US giants IBM and EDS. BT now derives more than half of its revenue from providing network-based IT services to large customers in the public and private sector.

However, the company has also moved to sharpen up its internal structure as it increasingly moves to a software-based model and plans to rapidly improve its customer service ability.

Belfast Telegraph