BT has announced today that it will consider a nationwide project to roll-out fibre connections into homes and businesses - a project that, it had claimed in the past, wasn't necessary and would in any case be prohibitively expensive.
The high-cost project would see the copper 'last mile' ripped out of the ground and sold for scrap, and replaced with much more reliable fibre.
Tentative plans laid several years ago, when the global price of copper was at record highs, had suggested that such a project might even come close to paying for itself. New forecasts suggest that the global price of copper is set to surge - one factor that may be behind BT's change of attitude.
Another factor is that the UK risks getting left behind in the future with even countries like Iran looking to go all-fibre.
It comes on the same day that the company revealed that it would cut 4,000 jobs as part of a restructuring programme that, it suggested, will save it around £300m over two years, after it reported annual profits down by 19 per cent.
In its latest financial results, the telecoms giant filed profits of £2.4bn, but added that it had endured a challenging year.
Problems it faced include the £42m fine from regulator Ofcom for its failings around ‘deemed consent' in its Openreach division, as well as the subsequent £300m compensation bill.
BT's Italian business was also hit by a major accounting scandal too, which all have led to the company not handing bonuses to BT Group's chief executive Gavin Patterson, or to outgoing finance director Tony Chanmugam.
Patterson will miss out on a bonus of more than £3m, while Chanmugam would have received a bonus of about £1m, as he departed midway through the year.
The company claimed that a "cost transformation programme" will simplify its central group functions, its internal technology, and its service and operations unit, while the restructuring of BT Global Services will involve clarification of accountabilities, removal of duplication, and the removal of around 4,000 roles, mainly from managerial and back office areas.
"We anticipate these transformation programmes will save in total around £300m over two years, with a restructuring charge of around £300m over the next two years, with most of this being incurred in 2017/18," the company said.
"The cost savings will provide headroom to offset market and regulatory pressures and support increased investment in delivering great customer experience and leading networks," it added.
The company also announced a consultation for ways in which it could deliver universal broadband coverage.
It said that a separate consultation will look into the potential benefits and costs of a large-scale fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) deployment - something that the company had seemingly always been opposed to.
"We're ready to invest in the UK's digital infrastructure, in continued improvements in our customer service, and in new technologies to further enhance customer experience," said Patterson.
"To that end, Openreach has today announced that it is consulting with customers and industry stakeholders on the business case that could support better rural broadband and a large scale fibre-to-the-premises rollout across the UK," he said.
Computing's IT Leaders Forum 2017 is coming on 24 May 2017. The theme this year is "Going Digital: Why your most difficult customer is your best friend".
Attendance is free, but strictly limited to IT Leaders. To find out more and to apply for your place, check out the IT Leaders Forum website.
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