BT ramps up fast wi-fi and 5G as nation prepares for lockdown

Simon English
·1 min read

BT chief executive Philip Jansen said the nation is getting ready for a possible lockdown by ramping up home internet services.

While BT profit for the half year fell 20% to £1.06 billion and the lack of live sport nudged revenue down 8% to £10.6 billion, the business is positioned well for what may be coming.

“The government is in a tight spot,” he said. “If we need to do it, we need to do it. But the demand for our services has never been greater. Wi-fi in every room is flying off the shelves.”

At the moment, BT isn’t paying a dividend but that state of affairs seems temporary given the strength of the balance sheet. The shareholder payout should be restored next year and full year profits will beat City forecasts.

BT shares rallied more than 6% to 109p. They have halved in a year. The company is placing full fibre ultra-fast internet in 40,000 premises a week. It will stop selling the old, slower, copper wires by next September.

Jansen says 5G is now live in 112 towns and cities. Yesterday BT signed a deal to use Ericsson’s 5G radio antennas as part of the move away from Huawei following a government ban on the Chinese company’s products.

William Ryder at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “BT’s business customers are continuing to feel the pressure. Sports revenue is pretty unpleasant as fewer of us are in the pub with pals and roaming revenue is predictably poor. However, strong cost control and robust demand has given management the confidence to upgrade guidance.”